Haggerty (original name Gene Jajonski) was born in Pound, Wisconsin. He grew up in a family that owned and operated a small wild animal attraction. There he helped raise wild animals, including a black bear that performed tricks. After high school, he moved to southern California to pursue acting.
Early on, Haggerty was cast in a small non-speaking role as a bodybuilder in the 1964 film Muscle Beach Party and also as a bodybuilder in Girl Happy, starring Elvis Presley. These were followed by appearances in various biker and wildlife films such as Easy Rider, Angels Die Hard, The Adventures of Frontier Fremont and Terror Out of the Sky.
His experience with animals also brought him work as an animal trainer and handler in films produced by Walt Disney Studios. Additionally, Haggerty also worked as astuntman on the television series Tarzan, and as set builder on various other projects. He directed white tigers, wolverines, eagles and wild boar in When the North Wind Blows and worked with bears, foxes and hawks in the 1997 film Grizzly Mountain.
Haggerty is best known for portraying the character Grizzly Adams in the title role of the 1974 Sunn Classic Pictures feature, The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams. From this feature film evolved the NBC television series which ran from 1977 to 1978, and Haggerty became known to movie-goers for his portrayal of nature-loving James Capen “Grizzly” Adams.
Haggerty appeared briefly in David Carradine‘s film, Americana and provided a fighting dog for the production. In the film, he not only played the role of the dog’s trainer but also assisted in set design and the restoration of a broken down carousel, which figured prominently in the film. He assisted in building the motorcycles featured in the film Easy Rider, and had a bit part as a “hippie” in that film, as well as stunt work and supporting roles in numerous low-budget biker films of the era. He also starred in the 1989 film “Spirit of the Eagle”.
Haggerty continued to work as both an actor and infomercial spokesman. One of his endorsements was for the Pap-Ion Magnetic Inductor (PAP-IMI), a device alleged to have health benefits. He had only been hired as a spokesperson and was found not to be part of the fraud that later embroiled the manufacturer.
Haggerty was the lead role in the movies – Repo Jake (1990), Elves (1990), Grizzly Mountain (1995), and Escape to Grizzly Mountain (2000). He was also featured as a character in Al Franken‘s novel, Why Not Me?.
Haggerty starred in the TV miniseries Condominium (1980), which also starred Barbara Eden, Ralph Bellamy and Stuart Whitman. Haggerty played a hydraulics expert trying to warn residents that their Florida condos were about to be demolished in a forthcoming hurricane. He guest starred on The Love Boat in 1983 (“World’s Greatest Kisser”). He cameoed as an attorney in Terror Night (1987) with John Ireland andCameron Mitchell, starred in Night Wars (1988) as a Vietnam veteran who is a psychologist dealing with nightmares of his fellow veterans, and appeared in horror films such as Elves and the Linda Blair film The Chilling in 1989. In Big Stan (2007), he played Tubby, and appeared as a lumberjack foreman in Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan (2013). He has also appeared on the American reality TV show American Pickers. Haggerty has also done several voice-overs and can also be seen in music videos by Hank Williams, Jr. and Rogues of the Empire.
Haggerty’s wife of over 20 years, Samantha Haggerty, died after a motorcycle accident on August 10, 2008.
Haggerty died of cancer on January 15, 2016.
- Muscle Beach Party (1964)
- Easy Rider (1969)
- Angels Die Hard (1970)
- The Tender Warrior (1971)
- Chrome and Hot Leather (1971)
- Bury Me an Angel (1972)
- Pink Angels (1972)
- Superchick (1973)
- Hex (1973)
- When the North Wind Blows (1974)
- The Adventures of Frontier Fremont (1976)
- Terror Out of the Sky (1978)
- King of the Mountain (1981)
- Americana (1983)
- Ladies Night (1983)
- Terror Night (1987)
- Night Wars (1988)
- Elves (1989)
- The Chilling (1989)
- Repo Jake (1990)
- Chance (1990)
- Spirit Of The Eagle (1991)
- Sign of the Otter – The Little Patriot (1995)
- Grizzly Mountain (1997)
- Escape to Grizzly Mountain (2000)
- An Ordinary Killer (2004)
- Motocross Kids (2004)
- Big Stan (2007)
- Dead in 5 Heartbeats (as Merle) (2013)
- Axe Giant: The Wrath of Paul Bunyan (2013)
- Received a “Star” on Hollywood Boulevard in 1994.
- Awarded the Dove Foundation’s “Diamond Seal of Approval” for over 1 million family videos sold.
- Awarded the Harley-Davidson “Humanitarian of the Year” Award in 1986.
- Awarded “The People’s Choice Award” for most popular actor in 1980.
- Awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship from the Rotary Foundation of Rotary International
- Awarded a “Star” in Kanab, Utah — “Hollywood of the West” in 2009
- New York Times
- “Dan Haggerty”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
- Barris, George; Fetherston, David (2008-12-16). Barris Cars of the Stars. MotorBooks International. pp. 78–. ISBN 9780760332221. Retrieved 1 June 2012.
- Carradine, David. Endless Highway. (1995) Journey Publishing.
- “Hollywood Star Walk: Dan Haggerty”. Los Angeles Times. June 9, 2010.
- “Miracle Machines: The 21st-Century Snake Oil”. The Seattle Times. December 26, 2008.
- Van Gelder, Lawrence (1997-10-31). “Grizzly Mountain (1997) FILM REVIEW; Time Out to Stop the Bad Guys From Paving a Mountain Paradise”. The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-01-15.
- “Grizzly Adams Star’s Wife Dies After Motorbike Tragedy”. IMDb. August 21, 2008.
- Actor Dan Haggerty Has Died At 74