The Bristol Press – PRIME TIME: A Bristol builder goes to Hollywood


The following is a “Builders of Bristol” biography on David J. McMahon (1911-1972), written in March 2022 by Eleanor Wilson.

Originally from Bristol, David grew up on George Street, Bristol, CT and attended South Side and St. Joseph’s High Schools. He then graduated from Bristol High School.

At one time he was employed at New Departure and was well known for his rich baritone voice and his appearance in many theater productions in Bristol. He never imagined it would take him to Hollywood.

David entered the US Army shortly after the start of World War II forgetting all about his singing and entertainment. While on duty at the KP, one day, peeling potatoes, he began to sing. An officer told him he had an excellent voice and arranged for him to take singing lessons.

As a result, he was featured in Army entertainment programs. During this time, he met Dick Powell, a well-known Hollywood actor, and they quickly became friends. Upon his discharge from the military, David left for California to embark on his acting career with small roles at the Pasadena Playhouse. In the meantime, he was sales manager for Tilden Tool Mfg.

David reconnected with Powell and appeared in two of Powell’s films, “Pitfall” and “Mrs. Mike.” During one of his visits to his home, he told a Bristol Press reporter that he wanted to give some advice to those young people aspiring to be movie stars and was quoted:

“It takes a lot of luck to get recognized in Hollywood and a person has no chance in the world to do so without first securing the services of an agent.”

When he visited in September 1949, the Bristol Theater feature was ‘I Was a Male War Bride’, starring Cary Grant and Ann Sheriden with David as a chaplain.

His career took off as a character actor appearing in twenty films, such as “Storm Warning” and television appearances in “Wagon Train”, “Cross Roads” and other westerns. He also had a starring role in NBC’s “Pete Kelly’s Blues,” directed by Jack Webb, who later starred in “Dragnet.”

In April 1959 David returned to Bristol for the wedding of his niece (Patricia McCarthy and Joseph Tracy) as soloist at St. Joseph’s Church.

Married to Dorothea McMenamin, they were parents of eight children. Although he is known as a character actor, his greatest love was singing. He had a large collection of Irish folksongs and was a soloist at St. Elizabeth’s Church in Altadena, a suburb of Hollywood.

The January 29, 1972, issue of Bristol Press published David’s obituary. He was 61 and is survived by his wife, Dorothea, five sons, three daughters and three sisters: Mrs. Donald Brannan and Mrs. Marie (J.Howard) McCarthy, both of Bristol, and Mrs. Anne McCue of Centerport. , NY

Contact Bob Montgomery at [email protected] or by calling 860-583-5132.

Published in The Bristol Press, Bristol on Sunday, April 10, 2022 6:16 PM. Update: Sunday April 10, 2022 6:18 PM.
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