David Cassidy appeared as the golden boy of the 70s, hired on to play Keith Partridge because of his acting skills, only to find his career take off because of his singing skills. He sang about love, and girls of all ages were in love with him. Yet, his childhood was quite dark, as he sought love from his father, actor Jack Cassidy. Who was David Cassidy’s father? What sort of relationship did David have with his dad, actor Jack Cassidy?
Jack Cassidy was born to an alcoholic and womanizer and a “mother who routinely beat him.” Jack did the very same thing to David, his son from his first marriage to the beautiful actress Evelyn Ward. His drinking and womanizing was legendary.
The talented actor of stage and screen was known to physically and mentally harm his oldest son, showing a dark side behind his charming facade. This was no secret, as Shirley Jones later recalled.
“When David was nine or so, I’d often see him crying in the corner because of something Jack had said or done to him.”
One of the reasons that the relationship was so turbulent was because they were so alike, explained Shirley Jones. The Daily Mail quoted the actress who portrayed Shirley Partridge, as she weighed in on the similarities between her first husband and her stepson, and Partridge Family costar.
“It’s clear to me that David is extremely like Jack. David has his charm, but also his dark side”
This common trait was clear to the entire family that Jack and David each shared a dark side. Younger step-brother Shaun acknowledged this similarity.
“The trait David and our father shared is the acknowledged self-destructive streak.”
By all reports, Jack Cassidy’s abuse did not deter young David from loving his father. In fact, he wanted to emulate him, deciding before he turned four that he wanted to become an actor, inspired by watching his talented father on the Broadway stage.
Yet, although David followed in his footsteps, Jack was not impressed.
“My father didn’t seem satisfied with anything I did. He criticised everything about me.”
Despite Jack Cassidy’s famed charm and talent, he struggled with the fact that both his wife Shirley Jones and his oldest son, David Cassidy achieved fame faster than he did.
Jack Cassidy was a well-respected actor who did theatre and television, instantly elevating the talent. Jack can still be seen as brilliantly portraying the murderer on several different episodes of Columbo, the reruns currently airing on the Hallmark Mystery and Movies Channel. His cat and mouse dialogue with Peter Falk was legendary.
Jack Cassidy was also the inspiration for Ted Baxter, the weatherman on the Mary Tyler Moore Show, but he did take the role, as he chose not to play a “hammy buffoon.” This is quite unfortunate, as this role would have been a tremendous career boost like that experienced by both his son and his wife. Yet, eventually, he guest-starred on the show, playing Ted’s brother Hal. Did Jack Cassidy regret his decision?
Jack Cassidy died in 1976 at the age of 49 when he fell asleep while smoking. He allegedly got very drunk that evening and they believe he passed out out while holding the cigarette in his hand. His charred remains were found at his Hollywood apartment.
At the time of Jack Cassidys death, the relationship between father and his oldest son was fractured. Jack had cut David out of the will, with only the children from his marriage to Shirley Jones inheriting.
According to The Guardian, David spent the next five years “gaining perspective.” Later in life, David reflected warmly and with a great deal of admiration of his father.
“My dad was incredible. He was a manic depressive and you never knew who you were going to get, but when he was “on,” anyone who met him would remember him and tell you stories about him. He could write, sculpt, he had magnificent handwriting. He was made up of so many contradictions.”
His father’s death haunted David Cassidy all of his life, and his mother’s dementia and death brought back the painful memories of his fractured relationship with his father, Jack Cassidy.
Had Jack Cassidy lived, he would have seen his once popular son struggle to find his place after the worldwide success of The Partridge Family. Like many iconic television stars of this era, finding new acting work was a challenge.
According to The AV Club, “after the success of his Emmy-nominated appearance in an episode of Police Story,” David Cassidy had filmed a pilot for a new show called David Cassidy: Man Undercover. The series plot compared to 21 Jump Street, the show that launched Johnny Depp’s career, with “baby-faced Cassidy posing as an adult cop going undercover into a high school to try to break up a drug ring.”
Unfortunately, the highly anticipated pilot failed, but the former Partridge Family star never gave up, eventually finding success at his dad’s old stomping ground, the theatre, and on television once again.
Yet, tragically, David Cassidy was never able to obtain the love and approval he always sought from his father.
[Featured Image by DFS/AP Images]