David Healy (1931-1995)

David Healy was born in New York on 15th May 1931 but brought up in Texas, one of four children of an Australian immigrant and a Texan schoolteacher. He read drama at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, financing his degree with an all-night radio show that rivalled that of his mother, Meg, one of the most popular local broadcasters. Healy joined the United States Air Force and was posted to England during the Second World War becoming an entertainments officer. It was here that he met and married Peggy Walsh who ran the Ham polo stables with her father. Healy left the military in 1954 and moved to London where he soon found work in the theatre appearing in the West End versions of the Broadway hits, Deathtrap and On The Twentieth Century.

In 1966, Healy made his debut in a Gerry Anderson series as the voice of Major Brooks in the Captain Scarlet And The Mysterons episode Point 783. He continued to provide guest character voices throughout the series, most notably as Jason Smith in Fire At Rig 15, President Roberts in The Launching, the Lunar Controller in Lunarville 7, Commodore Goddard in The Trap and Colgan in The Inquisition. Healy subsequently became a regular contributor to the Anderson series, voicing the regular character of W.I.N. chief Shane Weston in Joe 90 before returning to guest character roles on The Secret Service where he was the Dreisenberg Ambassador in A Case For The Bishop, De Groot in The Feathered Spiesand Sakov in The Cure, among many others. He went on to appear in person as SHADO missile technician Joe Franklin in the UFO episode Ordeal.

In 1967, Healy joined the Royal Shakespeare Company to appear in Jules Feiffer’s Little Murders and went on to appear with the RSC in Julius Caesar, The Merry Wives Of Windsor and Arthur Kopifs The Indians. He also acted on the fringe in early London productions of John McGrath’s Bakke’s Night Of Fame, Michael Weller’s Cancer and Terrence McNally’s Next. Throughout the Sixties and Seventies, Healy made numerous television appearances, guesting in most of the ITC action series. He appeared as the gangster ghost Bugsy Spanio in the Randall And Hopkirk (Deceased) episode Murder Ain’t What It Used To Be!, Ramon in the Department S episode The Treasure Ol The Costa Del Sol, Colonel Adler in The Persuaders! episode Element Of Risk, secret agent Drakin in the Jason King episode Flamingoes Only Fly On Tuesdays, and also appeared in The Saint (Simon And Delilah], The Baron, Strange Report (Report No 3906: Covergirls – Last Year’s Model) and Return Of The Saint (The Arrangement). He guest starred on American television in Harry O, Dallas, Vegas, Hunter, Charlie’s Angels and the highly-acclaimed mini-series Washington: Behind Closed Doors.

On the big screen, Healy was seen in the Dick Emery film Ooh, You Are Awful, Lust For A Vampire, Twilight’s Last Gleaming, Patton, Stardust, Endless Night, Supergirl, Haunted Honeymoon and the James Bond films You Only Live Twice and Diamonds Are Forever. But it was on the musical stage that Healy came into his own, appearing as the lone American with Gemma Craven in Julian More and Monty Norman’s Songbook (1979) and as one of Keith Michell’s sidekicks in On The Twentieth Century (1980). In 1982, he played Nicely-Nicely Johnson, sidekick to New York crapshooter Nathan Detroit, in Richard Eyre’s National Theatre revival of Guys And Dolls for which he won an Olivier Award as Actor of the Year in a Supporting Role. He stayed with the production when it moved to the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1985, eliciting five encores on the opening night for his performance of Sit Down, You’re Rocking The Boat. His next West End musical was the 1987 Cameron Mackintosh-Mike Ockrent production of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies at the Shaftesbury Theatre. Playing Buddy Plummer, an Arizona real estate salesman with a 23-year-old mistress, Healy remained in the show for its entire 16-month run and was noted for his performance of two of Sondheim’s most difficult numbers back-to-back in the second act: The Right Girl and Buddy’s Blues.

Healy had previously co-starred with Diana Rigg in the West End production of Wildfire (1986), and went on to star opposite Jerry Hall and Shaun Cassidy in Bus Stop at the Lyric, Shaftesbury Avenue (1989). In 1992, he appeared on the New York stage as the critic Birdboot in the Roundabout Theatre revival of Tom Stoppard’s The Real Inspector Hound, but he was back on the West End stage in 1993, appearing in Arthur Miller’s The Last Yankee, first at the Young Vic and then at the Duke of York’s. Throughout this time, Healy’s distinctive voice could be heard both on radio and in television commercials for Red Rock Cider, Heineken, Adidas and McDonalds. He made regular contributions to Radio 2’s recent series of Broadway musical productions (including Call Me Madam, Finian’s Rainbow, Kismet and The Music Man), appeared in a Radio 4 adaptation of John Le Carre’s The Russia House and co-starred with Ed Bishop in a two-part adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Winter Of Our Discontent. In 1994,

Healy made his final appearance in a Gerry Anderson production, providing the voice for Armand Loyster in the Space Precinct episode Protect And Survive. In this capacity, Healy was one of only three actors to transfer to the series from the original Space Police pilot film made in 1986, for which he voiced Officer Tom. Also in 1994, he made a notable television appearance as evangelist Jacob LeRoy in ITV’s Frank Stubbs and early in 1995 he appeared as Hobbs in a BBC dramatisation of Little Lord Fauntleroy.

Aside from his career and his family, Healy’s greatest passions were for polo and fly-fishing. He assisted his wife with the stables and in his spare time he could be found with rod and line on the banks of the River Kennet in Berkshire or the River Test in Hampshire. Healy’s final stage appearance was last summer in concert performances of the musical Take Me Along as part of the Barbican’s Discover the Lost Musicals series. At the time of his death, he had just been cast in a new play at the RSC, Slaughter City by American playwright Naomi Wallace.

In an interview, Healy compared life as an American actor in England to that of “a big fish in a little pond. In the States, there are 20 guys who look exactly like you and are probably more talented.” Aged 64, he died in London on October 25th, 1995, following a heart operation.

Originally published in FAB 23.