Canary, who played Adam and Stuart on AMC, and also Steve on Another World, died November 16 of natural causes, according to the Bulletin of Wilton, Connecticut.
Canary was born in Elwood, Indiana, but grew up in Massillon, Ohio. He starred as an end on both offense and defense at Massillon Washington High School, where he graduated in 1956. The school honored him as a Distinguished Citizen thirty-five years later in 1991. He earned a football scholarship to the University of Cincinnati, where he was a three-year letterman from 1957 to 1959 and the recipient of the John Pease Award as the program’s best lineman in his junior and senior years.
Canary trained as a singer at the university’s College of Arts and Sciences and received his bachelor’s degree in music in 1960. He was picked by the Denver Broncos in the inaugural 1960 American Football League (AFL) draft. Commenting on the selection in a 2004 interview for the Archive of American Television, he said, “I thought they were out of their minds. I was 172 pounds, I wasn’t very fast, and I couldn’t catch a pass. They called me stone fingers.”
Instead of signing with the Broncos, he opted to head to New York City to become an actor. He served two years in the United States Army where he entered an All-Army Entertainment Contest in 1963. After ending his service, Canary moved to Los Angeles to continue his acting career.
After a semi-regular role as Russ Gehring in the prime time serial Peyton Place, Canary came to international prominence in 1967 on the Western series Bonanza. In 1967, he appeared in the now-classic western movie Hombre, in which he was featured with Paul Newman, Richard Boone, and Cameron Mitchell. Canary guest starred in a two-part episode of CBS’s Gunsmoke entitled “Nitro”, played a mobster with Jason Robards in the film The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and appeared on the short-lived CBS western Dundee and the Culhane.
A contract dispute that year between Leonard Nimoy and the producers of Star Trek forced Herb Solow, Robert H. Justman, and Gene Roddenberry to compile a list of candidates for consideration to take over the role of Mr. Spock. As revealed in Solow’s and Justman’s book, Star Trek – The Inside Story, Canary was one of the “A List” candidates.
When David Dortort (Bonanza, The High Chaparral, The Cowboys creator/producer), was looking for a new foreman for the Ponderosa Ranch, he saw Canary in Hombre and cast him in the role because Canary was “the kind of kid who comes on and suddenly there’s nobody else on the screen”. Canary left Bonanza in June 1970 after a contract dispute. He returned after Dan Blocker’s death in May 1972. Canary said that he loved Bonanza, except for filming in Nevada in 100-degree heat.
Canary appeared on Broadway with Colleen Dewhurst in Great Day In The Morning and with Geraldine Page in Tennessee Williams’s Clothes for a Summer Hotel. He did numerous musical/stage roles in shows such as Kismet, Man Of La Mancha, and The Fantasticks, as well as dramatic performances in The Seagull and Macbeth.
David’s first daytime television role was on Search for Tomorrow where he played the short-term role of Liza Walton’s agent. He had two short stints on The Doctors as Far Wind, a Jim-Jones- like cult leader who took the hospital staff hostage, killing the character of Melissa Dancy (Dorian Lo Pinto) in the process. In 1981, he assumed the role of Steve Frame on the soap opera Another World. However, the effort to revive the Steve/Alice/Rachel triangle was largely unsuccessful and he left the show in 1983 after the character of Steve Frame was killed off in a car crash.
On New Year’s Eve 1983, he joined the cast of All My Children in the role of the cunning Adam Chandler. That following year, he was also cast as Adam’s meek twin brother, Stuart whom everybody at first (including the audience) believed was Adam. The actor brought several facets to the twins, portraying the impeccably dressed Adam as a cutthroat businessman and the big-hearted, guileless Stuart (who was originally deranged and attempted to kill Palmer Cortlandt after falsely believing that he had caused their sister to commit suicide) appearing with mussed hair, loud sweaters, hiked pants, and the occasional droopy sock. One familiar publicity shot of the character shows him with one shirt collar under his sweater and the other over the sweater.
In May 2009, Adam accidentally shot and killed Stuart while using prescribed narcotics. Canary retired from full-time acting and departed from All My Children in 2010 (last taping in late March and last airing April 23, 2010). Adam left Pine Valley to regain both his health and the love of Brooke English (Julia Barr), an ex-wife.
Other prime-time television guest appearances include: Law & Order, Touched by an Angel, S.W.A.T., Primas, Alias Smith and Jones, Police Story, Kung-Fu, Hawaii Five-O, Remember WENN, and Cimarron Strip. The actor also appeared as the locomotive engineer in the movie Atomic Train. In 2004, he appeared as mathematical genius Robert in a well-reviewed production of David Auburn’s Proof in Canton, Ohio, near his hometown of Massillon.
Canary had been known to be most affable and accessible to fans of both All My Children and Bonanza. At Disney resorts, he did “meet and greet” appearances signing autographs for AMC fans. He also made several appearances at the Lake Tahoe site of the Ponderosa ranch, a tourist attraction from 1967-2004. His last appearance at the Ponderosa ranch, as Candy, was in 2002 for a PAX-TV (now ION) special. When Canary departed the soap, he had stated he intended to return to AMC occasionally. Canary returned to All My Children to reprise both of his roles as Adam and Stuart Chandler for several days before its September 23, 2011, finale on ABC.
In 2013, he returned to the role of Adam when the show began to produce online episodes. It was announced in March 2012 that David would replace the ailing ninety-year-old Jack Klugman in a limited-run production of Twelve Angry Men in New Brunswick, New Jersey for that month.
Canary was married to actress Maureen Maloney, with whom he had a son, Chris, and a daughter, Kate. He was the middle son of Hilary and Lorena Canary. His brothers are actor John Canary, who once had a role on All My Children and writer H. Glenn Canary (1934–2008). The brothers are great-great-nephews of Martha Jane Canary, a.k.a. Calamity Jane. Canary’s favorite stage performance was Tennessee Williams’ Broadway production of Clothes for a Summer Hotel with Geraldine Page.
Canary died on November 16, 2015, of natural causes in Wilton, Connecticut at the age of 77. The family indicated that they would like memorial donations to be made to the Alzheimer’s Association in lieu of flowers.