Delos V. Smith Jr. Biography
Born in 1906, Delos grew up in Hutchinson, Kansas. His stage career actually began at the age of five, when Delos played a piano accompaniment for a whistler in front of fellow first-grade students. At the University of Kansas, he pursued a degree in political science, graduating in 1928. He also attended Harvard University and studied at the Sorbonne in France. Delos even had the opportunity to travel around the world as a teenager and visited countries such as New Zealand, South America and Africa.
Following college, graduate school, and his travels, Delos began his career in the 1930’s. Delos appeared in Hollywood films and went on to perform on Broadway. Delos appeared on television in “WKRP in Cincinnati,” ”Emergency,” “Brave New World,” “Kojak,” and many other television productions. He additionally toured with national companies in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” with Ben Gazzara, “Skin of Our Teeth” with Anne Bancroft, and “Caesar and Cleopatra” with Susan Strasberg. Some will recall seeing Delos in commercials promoting Wrangler Jeans, Hidden Valley Ranch Salad Dressing, Forty Winks Waterbeds, and Schlitz Malt Liquor. Delos also managed a 1930’s radio show for General Motors.
Delos appeared in thirteen Hollywood movie productions, sixteen television shows, and twenty-one Broadway and off-Broadway productions. He was voted “Best Actor” by the Kansas Film Commission in 1986. In addition to his varied stage and film roles, the list of his performances and accomplishments goes on to include acting roles in London stage productions, radio, opera, and the Iron Curtain Theatre in Russia.
Delos was personally acquainted with a number of actors and Hollywood movie stars, including Jane Fonda, Ronald Reagan, George C. Scott, and Marilyn Monroe. Delos became friends with Susan Strasberg during the production of the movie “Picnic,” filmed on location near Hutchinson in 1955. Following the completion of the movie, Susan’s father, Lee Strasberg, invited Delos to attend his acting class in New York. It was here that Delos met Marilyn Monroe, and would soon become her confidant, escort, and housemate. Delos assisted Marilyn in getting to class and the studio on time. He also had the opportunity to accompany Marilyn to New York to sing at President Kennedy’s birthday celebration.
Delos eventually returned to Hutchinson in the late 1970’s. For those who knew him, Delos was rather eccentric, bold, and unforgettable. Delos usually donned sweatpants and T-shirts with four-letter words for his normal, daily attire. He was well-traveled and could speak a variety of languages. Delos had a wealth of experience and interests, including politics, botany, and ornithology, in addition to his multiple acting talents. At one time, Delos lectured to drama and English classes at Hutchinson Community College.
During his last years, Delos was remembered with long, gray hair, and a bushy, gray beard. The look resembled his previous portrayal of the psychiatric patient “Scanlon” in “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” Delos made five theatrical appearances as “Scanlon” in “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest:” twice on Broadway, twice in Chicago Theatre, and once on stage at the Huntington Hartford Theatre in Hollywood, California.
Upon his death in September of 1997, Delos V. Smith, Jr. bequeathed his estate to the Delos V. Smith Senior Citizens Foundation. His intention—a lasting legacy to impact the lives of senior citizens in Hutchinson and Reno County, as well as to promote educational and cultural programs, and support the performing arts.