Mr. Basehart, who starred as Admiral Nelson in the television series ”Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” narrated the closing ceremonies of the Olympics on Aug. 12 and suffered the first of several strokes hours afterward, his lawyer, Bruce Stiglitz, said yesterday. He died in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where he had been in a coma for several days, Mr. Stiglitz said.
Mr. Basehart was born Aug. 31, 1914, in Zanesville, Ohio, the son of Mae and Harry T. Basehart, a failed actor who became editor of the The Times-Signal of Zanesville. Before entering a stage career at the Hedgerow Theater in Philadelphia, he worked as a reporter on his father’s newspaper and as a radio announcer in Zanesville and Columbus, Ohio.
He made his Broadway debut in 1938, and in 1945 he won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for his portrayal of the dour and dying Scottish soldier Lachlen in John Patrick’s drama ”The Hasty Heart.” Film Debut in 1947
That triumph, which included his affecting a startlingly authentic Scottish burr, led Mr. Basehart to win a Hollywood contract. He made his film debut in 1947 in ”Cry Wolf.” The following year, he won critical praise for his starring role as a gangster, in ”He Walked By Night.”
Mr. Basehart was a discriminating actor and, he said some years ago, ”I did my best to choose a variety of roles, avoiding stereotyping at the expense of not amassing an impressive bank account.”
His movies in the years that followed included ”Roseanna McCoy,” ”Outside the Wall,” ”The House on Telegraph Hill,” ”Decision Before Dawn,” ”The Good Die Young,” ”The Brothers Karamazov,” ”Titanic,” and ”Being There.”
In 1951, in ”Fourteen Hours,” Mr. Basehart gave a tour-de-force performance as a young psychotic who stayed perched on a ledge, threatening suicide, for the length of the film.” Acting With Facial Muscles
”It was an actor’s dream, in which I hogged the camera lens, and the role called on me to act mostly with my eyes, lips and face muscles,” Mr. Basehart said in an interview. ”Actually I got so accustomed to this that I didn’t feel any real need for movement.”
”In the role of the ‘jumper’ Richard Basehart does a startling and poignant job within the limitations of one square foot of acting space,” wrote Bosley Crowther in The New York Times.
Mr. Basehart returned occasionally to the stage, in ”The Day the Money Stopped,” ”The Survivors,” and in the title role of ”Richard II” at the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Conn., in 1962.
He also made several films in Europe, starring as Ishmael in John Huston’s ”Moby Dick” in 1956 and as the poignant clown in ”La Strada” by Federico Fellini in 1954.’
Possessing a deep, resonant baritone voice and craggy good looks, Mr. Basehart stayed busy, commanding the respect of the critics and fellow actors. But it was not until 1964, when he began a four-year run in the popular television series ”Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” that he became popular with a mass audience.
In the fantasy-science fiction series, Mr. Basehart commanded the officers and men of the Seaview, a glass-nosed atomic submarine that roamed the seas fighting human and alien villains. Active for Social Causes
He also made many other appearances on television, including roles in ”Naked City” and ”Route 66,” as well as a short-lived series called ”W.E.B.” Last fall, he narrated ”Vietnam: A Television History” for the Public Broadcasting Service.
In recent years Mr. Basehart was active in working for human rights in Central America and he helped lobby the California Legislature for the protection of animals from experimental use.
- August, 31, 1914
- Zanesville, Ohio
- September, 17, 1984
- Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death
- Westwood Memorial Park
- Los Angeles, California