Jack Cassidy

March 5, 1927 – December 12, 1976

I never want to grow sick or old.


Jack Cassidy
Jack Cassidy


Be careful what you wish for.  Jack was an award winning Broadway, television and film actor through most of his life. He made his stage debut in Something For the Boys.  At the time of his death, he was better known as being the ex husband of Shirley Jones, and the father of dream boys David and Shaun Cassidy.



Shirley and Jack divorced, but seemingly still held a candle for each other.  In February of 1976, Jack gave an interview in which he said,

“Oh I still love Shirley…  If I had worked at the marriage, we wouldn’t be divorced today.”  
Shirley Jones said in a recent interview, ” He wanted to come back to me right up until the day he died,” she said. “And I wanted him. That’s the terrible part. Much as I love Marty (Ingels) and have a wonderful relationship – I’d say this is Marty were sitting here – I’m not sure if Jack were alive, I’d be married to him.”

Jack became a fixture television actor appearing in just about every 70’s program including Bewitched and Columbo.

His death brought him an unexpected new batch of fans.

Jack owned the building he lived in, in West Hollywood, which has the third largest gay population in the USA.  Jack’s maxi pad took up the entire top row of balconies in this building.




On December 12, 1976, after a hard night of partying – a Christmas party and bar hopping (with party animal Nanette Fabray no less) – he returned home.  He was probably fairly intoxicated.  Not wanting the night to end, my guess is that he made himself a drink and sat down on the sofa in front of the fireplace.  Around 5am he dozed off with a cigarette in his hand.  Next thing you know the building, and Jack, went up in flames.

The entire top floor was on fire, and the building had to be evacuated.  Neighbors were milling around the street like zombies.  Five Fire Department vehicles showed up to put out the blaze.  One woman had a heart attack in front of the place, and one firefighter had suffered smoke inhalation and was taken to the hospital.



The charred remains of one person was discovered just inside the door of the apartment.



Jack’s car was missing, so it was thought that he was possibly out of town and one of his friends was staying in the place, but dental records and an apparent signet ring and religious bracelet positively identified him as Jack.


Official autopsy findings:

At approximately 0600 hrs. 12 – 12 – 76, a private citizen called fire department that the 4th floor of building 1221 N. Kings Road, West Los Angeles, was on fire.

After the fire was controlled, decedent (Jack Cassidy) was discovered lying on the floor in the living room near the porch. Fire Dept. personnel pronounced death at 0615 hours. Decedent was charred.

It was surmised that fire was possibly caused by cigarette which started from the sofa in said living room. The whole unit was burned.

A co-tenant state to LASO investigator that he heard music coming from the scene at 0510 hours.

The scene is occupied by one Jack Cassidy, an actor and president of Richmond Hill Productions.

LASO Dep. Gleason will attempt to get dental chart of Mr. Cassidy.

Not known if decedent was drinking liquor but there is a liquor bar in said living room at scene.

His body was taken to the Coroner as John Doe 257

Toxicology puts his blood alcohol level at 0.12%


More details you probably wish you never read:  

The body is that of a completely charred male that weighs 131 pounds and measures approximately 69 inches in height.  The age of the body is difficult to assess but it appears to be muscular and appears to be about the stated age of 49 years old.  The bony structures of the head are those of a Caucasian male.  The scalp is completely burned.  The external plate of the skull is charred.  The ears are completely charred.  The eyes are also charred.  The nose is also charred.  The mouth is charred and some of the skin is noted.  The teeth show multiple post-line caps in front teeth.  THe upper teeth show a few caps on the premolar and molar teeth.  The chest shows complete charring of the skin but the ribs are well-preserved.  There is no traumatic injuries to the ribs or spine.  The upper extremities and the lower extremities show complete charring of the skin and muscles.  The abdominal wall shows complete charring with exposure of some of the small intestines which are also burned.

I thought I would check the digestive system to see if we could find out Jack’s last meal.  Nope.

“The mouth and pharynx shows a small amount of black soot.  The esophagus is clear.  The stomach contains approximately 5 cc. of light brown fluid.  The small intestine shows grossly normal architecture except for the hilum which is exposed through the burned surface of the abdomen.

The scalp is completely charred.  The external plate of the skull is charred and the internal plate remains.

“The comparison of the postmortem dental x-rays of John Doe 257 with the antimortem dental x-rays of Jack Cassidy supplied by Frank Greenbaum, D.D.S. confirms the positive match.  Therefore John Doe 257 is Jack Cassidy.

Since the carbon monoxide in his blood was less than 10% – not anywhere close to lethal, we can surmise that he was alive when the fire broke out.  He did breathe in smoke – but not a lethal amount.  He died very quickly from thermal burns and lack of oxygen.

Official cause of Death – Extensive Thermal Burns of Body”



One of the issues that possibly plagued Jack was the success of his sons. I don’t know this for a fact, but I understand he was very jealous of them.  Jack allegedly refused the role of Ted Baxter in The Mary Tyler Moore Show because he (this is gossip) didn’t want to be a regular on a female led show.  He later made a couple of guest appearances as Ted’s brother.  So the combination of these things, might have made him pretty miserable.  I spoke to Cloris Leachman recently and asked about Jack. She had a vague recollection about Jack refusing the role. When I asked about Jack’s disposition possibly being bitter, she looked at me like I was nuts.. She had nothing but praise for Jack, and I think she’d have been pretty honest if it weren’t true.

I was in the building that Jack died recently.  I couldn’t help but notice they are certainly prepared for a fire now.  It was almost funny.  Almost.



Starting with the elevator, up to the 4th floor, where a hose placed in front of Jack’s front door.



Structurally, the building is the same, and this picture of the charred ruins of Jack’s place, and the same room now, is completely recognizable.



The body of Jack Cassidy was taken to the Chapel of the Pines Crematory, and was scattered at sea.

400 people attended Jack’s funeral at Westwood Memorial Park, including Nanette Fabray, Milton Berle and Eileen Brennan.  Jack’s two former wives attended as well as his children.  At the funeral Shirley Jones spoke.



“He was an extraordinary man with an uncanny sense of humor and a gifted talent. He was one of a kind and the world suffers a great loss that he was taken from it so soon.”

He left behind about $150,000, noting specifically that ex wife Shirley and son David receive nothing, and a large portion going to the Motion Picture Country Home.  Shirley was named beneficiary of a life insurance policy.



There is talk that Jack haunts his former home.  He has made an appearance or two and always in a non-threatening way.  A psychic was consulted with regards to contacting Jack, and that person recommended leaving him be.  Things are fine now, but poking a spirit with a stick might not be a good thing.

Trivia:  Actress Leigh Taylor Young lived in the condo until early 1999.  She probably slept quite well.

FAD friend Jane communicated with Leigh about the alleged haunting.  Leigh responded, “I did live there for several years not knowing for some time of the circumstances of his death, and an awful one at that as it was in a consuming fire.  Once I knew, I had the apartment lovingly and prayerfully “cleared” and light sent to him …I never experienced his presence.  Leigh”

WE ACTUALLY GOT IN.  Crazy.  We also heard about a parnormal experience from the owner.


A 2010 renovation of Jack’s apartment included some construction that unveiled a few pieces of charred wood.



Update April 2010: My friend Darren Boakes recently saw a Shirley show in London.  Darren reports, “Shirley Jones did a week’s cabaret in the glittering West End unfortunately it only lasted for a few days due to her sore throat.  Rumour is that ticket sales were poor. Her voice did suck but not as much as her son Patrick Cassidy who did his own mini one man show in the middle. He talked how hard it was growing up being a Cassidy, and no one believing that he was straight.  We didn’t buy it.  The highlight was when he did a duet with his brother David, but the David he was singing to, was a cut out picture on a stick.  Yes.  On the piano were few mementos, one being a picture of Jack Cassidy. Shirley talked about him briefly when telling stories of her life but she didn’t mention the fire or the reading of the will.




Findadeath friend Jeff sends this:  You may have already seen this, but I thought I’d pass it your way, just in case you haven’t. I was watching an old episode of What’s My Line, from 1969, and Jack Cassidy was one of the panelists. Of all the people you feature on your site, I think his details rank among the most intriguing and gruesome. Anyway, here he is on What’s My Line, being introduced by another panelist. When he walks on stage at 1 min. 18 secs., just watch what he does.

Interesting, Jeff.  Thanks.  It’s also Jack with an “ACTORLAND” accent.  Jack, you were from New York.
Jonathon Harris (Dr. Smith from Lost in Space called they type of accent “affected.”



Jack’s Will and Probate file are available at Celebrity Collectables.


Jack Cassidy’s home is a location featured on the standard Dearly Departed Tour.


Thanks JC, C, and Coconn



23 thoughts on “Jack Cassidy

  • February 23, 2023 at 8:14 pm

    Always liked him on Columbo. Sadly was watching it last night and his character makes a point of smoking and looking for a gold lighter in order to set up a fake crime scene.

  • December 1, 2021 at 1:19 pm

    Loved Jack in Columbo, but his English accent, albeit limited to a line in the episode “Now You See Him” made Dick Van Dykes “Bert” in Mary Poppins seem almost sound like Laurence Olivier in its delivery.

  • October 12, 2021 at 6:18 am

    Correction to an earlier mistake concerning Jack Cassidy playing the role of Lionel Barrymore in a movie. It was indeed John Barrymore that he
    portrayed. The two names are synonymous with
    Finally, thoughts on any jealousy that Jack may have felt towards sons David and Shaun and their growing careers. If true, no matter how much existed, as unfortunate as David’s death had been several years ago, if having occurred before father, then his dad would’ve soon come to realize what a waste of precious time it had been to hold distanced envy. I can only guess that Jack would’ve silently eulogized his son til last day.

    Dan D.

  • October 12, 2021 at 5:00 am

    Despite Jack Cassidy’s flaws, and a possible diagnosed case of being bipolar, the facts remain that for the most part he was a talented actor and entertainer, with great confidence and steady stream of work. As for his personal life and choices, these were decided upon by a fully adult person, and whether fans or not, people could be graceful not to base judgements on preferences or unfortunate addictions, if any. After all, alcohol and tobacco have been ‘staples’ in societies for centuries. Did Jack dabble in other forms of drugs? Perhaps, but if so, this may very well have been done to help alleviate moodiness.
    In 1976, although understood, medical treatments for either bipolar or depression were not up to par as they are today. Again, this is not to say that Jack was plagued by either mental condition, but even if having mild forms
    and at awkward times of little control, that in itself could be considered a functional handicap when least expected.
    I can only imagine that pondering his separating from Shirley Jones must’ve weighed into now and again mild depression, with his possibly realizing he had other issues. Not easy at times. As for Jack’s acquired ‘English’ accent,
    it is done in such a way to not be over the top obvious, but seemingly adding mystique and old-fashioned gentlemanly qualities to person.

    The fact remains that he had asked ex-wife Shirley to go out with him the night before his early morning demise. She admitted this in a later interview, and quite possibly may regret not taking him up on it, not for romance, but that the later tragedy might’ve been averted.
    I’d say when things were good between them, it was great. They made for a handsome couple.
    Many people may not know that he’d finished making a movie not long before his death. In this film, he portrays Lionel Barrymore. I’ve yet to see the effort, but if Cassidy’s in it, you can bet much of it runs like a well-oiled machine.
    RIP, Jack Cassidy.
    From Dan D.

    • May 3, 2022 at 7:03 am

      Well Bob, considering you posted 3 comments in a row about Scott and “the gay stuff”, I think you might be trying to tell us something. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  • October 11, 2021 at 12:36 am

    Thats a terrible way to go. But in a way…to go in a penthouse, of his own building, knowing for sure that he ‘made it’ in his career…that part wouldnt be too bad.

  • May 3, 2021 at 10:33 pm

    You fail to mention the rumor that Sal Mineo’s family had him killed

      • May 3, 2022 at 7:06 am

        Holy shit Bob! First you leave the gay comments and now you’re commenting about your ass?? Just be yourself. We’ll accept you.

        P.S. I know it’s you Bob. Using the name “Bib” ain’t fooling anyone.

  • February 25, 2021 at 8:45 pm

    He was a real nut, look at that video of him talking in an English accent. What the hell, the guy grew up in New York.

    • April 17, 2023 at 6:30 am

      His mother was born in Germany and his father was born in Ireland. He was born in New York, but he was raised around two very strong European accents. I think that accent, while it may sound put on, was actually quite genuine.

  • January 24, 2021 at 12:40 am

    I’d declined to read this one until now, knowing beforhand the gruesome facts. By all accounts Jack was an accomplished, highly respected actor; but no longer the handsome young buck new to the scene – That vacancy having been filled by his teenybopper heartthrob sons, David & to a lesser extent Shaun. Nothing new, ageing Dads resenting maturing Sons. Film stars Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. & Jr. reportedly had the same family dynamics –

    Given the era think alcohol, cigarettes, generously prescribed prescription pills (usually touted with “no side effects”) & who knows what other substances, played a part in Jack’s life. If recall correctly, Jack’s place was a serious fire trap. No in-unit smoke detectors; wall-to-wall carpets, drapes & furniture fabrics most likely made with some plastic “miracle fibres” of the decade.

    The apartment was most likely an inferno before the relevant autopsy phrase stood out to me: “The mouth and pharynx shows a small amount of black soot.” Small amount of inhaled soot. Superheated air & toxic fumes must have almost immediately rendered him unconscious. A small mercy under the circumstances. He didn’t consciously suffer being burned to a crisp –

    Surprised you didn’t reference Jack’s Cole Porter crawl.

  • August 28, 2020 at 9:56 pm

    Jack’s car was noted as missing when he was found dead. Wikipedia says it had been borrowed by a friend, who later returned it (had Jack’s body already been identified?). Need to wrap up that loose end (the car) if you are not already doing so.

    • June 6, 2021 at 6:28 am

      Oh come on… about the rationalizations… If he fell asleep and burned to death, why was he body found in the hall, not in the couch. If he woke up because there was a fire, then he must have inhaled large amounts of suit. “Did inhale the smoke” in nowhere nearly enough. Nothing makes sense here. Is it a coincidence that his car was borrowed exactly just that evening? There are many little details that don’t just make sense and he was surrounded by people who certainly had motive to kill him: either emotional or financial or even both.

      • May 3, 2022 at 7:11 am

        First off, it’s “soot” not “suit”. Secondly, have you ever been in a fire? NUMEROUS things can kill you when everything around you is burning. Fire, heat, inhaling smoke, toxic as hell materials burning and inhaling the fumes, etc.. Not everything is a conspiracy you numbskulls.

  • August 25, 2020 at 10:11 pm

    This was a lot of great info, very detailed. I appreciate it! I actually watched him on COLUMBO.

    • February 25, 2021 at 8:46 pm

      LOL! That’s why I came here, I just saw him in the episode “Murder by the book” so I Googled him and ended up here when I read about the bizarre way he died.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.