A masculine leading man on television and in the occasional feature during the late 1960s and 1970s, Chad Everett rose to fame as a young doctor on the popular drama "Medical Center" (CBS, 1969-1976) before enjoying a long career as a series lead and guest player on the small screen for over four decades. Everett left the Midwest in 1960 for Hollywood, where he enjoyed a minor career as a youthful romantic lead in modest features like "Made in Paris" (1966) and "The Singing Nun" (1966). "Medical Center," which partnered him with James Daly as surgeons at a Los Angeles university hospital, thrust him into stardom, but he never found a subsequent project that equaled its popularity. However, Everett remained a constant presence on television well into the new millennium, playing gracefully aging fathers, stern authority figures and even the occasionally mature romantic role. Though never a critical favorite nor highly lauded for his work, Chad Everett was a dependable performer, which granted him a rarity in show business - steady work for over a half-century.
Born Raymon Lee Cramton on June 11, 1936 in South Bend, IN, Chad Everett was the son of Harry Clyde Cramton and his wife, Virdeen Ruth. The family moved to Dearborn, MI, where Everett became interested in acting as a student at Fordson High School. After graduation, he attended Wayne State University, where he began performing with a Michigan repertory company, which he accompanied to India on a State Department-sponsored theatrical tour. Upon his return, Everett headed for Hollywood, where he was signed to a contract with Warner Bros. Agent Henry Willson, who helped to groom the career of many handsome young leading men during the 1950s and 1960s, spurred Everett to adopt his screen name, though the actor would later state that the moniker change was due to his weariness over having to explain the odd spelling of both names.
Everett's feature debut came in Gordon Douglas' "Claudelle Inglish" (1961) as a clean-cut young man who spurned Diane McBain's wanton title character. Steady work on television and in the occasional feature preceded his debut as a series regular on the Western drama "The Dakotas" (ABC, 1963), which was cancelled after just 18 episodes due to viewers' objections to a violent scene. Despite the program's failure, Everett was soon signed to a contract with MGM, where he was cast as romantic, occasionally brash leads in a variety of features, including the comedy "Made in Paris" (1966) with Ann-Margret and "The Singing Nun" (1966) with Debbie Reynolds in the title role. Few, if any, amounted to more than modest hits, and by 1968's "The Impossible Years," his career as a movie star was largely at an end. But within a year's time, Everett was back in the public eye with what would become his best-known role.
Richard Bradford played the role of youthful Dr. Joe Gannon in "U.M.C." (CBS, 1969), the pilot movie for "Medical Center," but was replaced by Everett for the subsequent series, which teamed him with James Daly as surgeons at a university hospital in Los Angeles. A sizable hit for the network during its lengthy run, it earned Everett Golden Globe nominations in 1971 and 1973 while establishing him as a dependable small screen leading man. When "Medical Center" left the air in 1976, it was tied with "Marcus Welby, M.D." (ABC, 1969-1976) as the longest-running medical drama on television then to date. Everett soon parlayed his TV fame into a series of guest appearances on high-profile projects like "In the Glitter Palace" (NBC, 1977) and "Centennial" (NBC, 1978-79). However, his return to series work with "Hagen" (CBS, 1980), with Everett as an outdoorsman who teamed with Arthur Hill's city-bred lawyer to fight crime, lasted less than a full season. Its follow-up, "The Rousters" (NBC, 1983), with Everett as a modern descendant of Wyatt Earp working for a traveling carnival, was widely touted by its network as competition for ratings champ "The Love Boat" (ABC, 1977-1984). It too lasted only 13 episodes.
Everett worked regularly throughout the 1980s and 1990s, balancing a steady diet of episodic television and TV movies with the occasional feature, including "Airplane II: The Sequel" (1982) and Richard Brooks' "Fever Pitch" (1985), which cast him as the main antagonist for Ryan O'Neal's journalist-turned-compulsive gambler. After successfully overcoming a long-standing battle with alcoholism in the 1990s, Everett returned briefly to series work with "McKenna" (ABC, 1994-95) as the patriarch of an outfitting business. He had greater success as a love interest to Cybill Shepherd on "Cybill" (CBS, 1995-98), which led to regular work on popular series like "Melrose Place" (Fox, 1992-99) as well as in the occasional feature like Gus Van Sant's reworking of "Psycho" (1998) and a brief return to series work on the offbeat "Manhattan, AZ" (USA, 2000) as a former Hollywood actor-turned-mayor of a small Southwestern town. The following year, he played Naomi Watts' audition partner in David Lynch's cult favorite "Mulholland Drive" (2001).
Everett remained exceptionally active in the new millennium, providing character turns and the occasional voiceover on numerous television series. The most notable of these was perhaps as an older version of Jared Padalecki's character, who experienced accelerated aging due to a magic spell, on "Supernatural" (The WB/The CW, 2005- ). In 2011, he was among the regular cast of "Chemistry," a short-lived, adult-themed drama on Cinemax. Everett made his final screen appearance in a 2012 episode of "Castle" (ABC, 2009- ) before succumbing to lung cancer on July 24 of that year. He had been battling the disease since 2011, the same year his wife of 45 years, actress Shelby Grant, died of a brain aneurysm.
By Paul Gaita