Obituary: not just ‘Hutch’ — credits wide-ranging in long showbiz career

Star of stage, screen and the airwaves, David Soul sits in a radio studio to broadcast an...
Star of stage, screen and the airwaves, David Soul sits in a radio studio to broadcast an interview in 1976, at the height of his popularity. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Actor, singer


Perhaps the coolest cop to put on a badge and strap on a gun, David Soul — a.k.a. Detective Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson — was a ’70s superstar.

Starsky and Hutch made David Soul a star, but the actor, singer and director assembled a diverse range of credits in his long showbiz career.

Born David Solberg in Chicago in 1943 and of Norwegian descent, Soul learned to play guitar while a student in Mexico City, where his history professor father was teaching.

He then moved to Minneapolis and joined the avant-garde Firehouse Theatre in Minnesota.

In 1967 Soul made his television debut in an episode of Flipper, before signing a contract with Columbia and landing parts in shows as diverse as Star Trek and Here Come The Brides.

"Law enforcement" was beckoning though, and after appearances in The Streets of San Francisco and opposite Clint Eastwood in the film Magnum Force, Soul landed his signature role of Hutch in co-producer Aaron Spelling’s new cop buddy show.

The show’s two handsome stars cruised around the fictitious Bay City, California in their two-door Ford Gran Torino, met many beautiful women, but somehow managed to also solve major crimes. Starsky and Hutch was wildly successful but also somewhat controversial, the show at times copping criticism for excessive violence.

Soul was alway adamant that while police work and crime were the subject of the show, which ran for four seasons, that its essence was the relationship between his character and his crime-fighting partner, David Starsky.

The show’s success was helped considerably by the fact there was a genuine chemistry between Soul and his co-star Paul Michael Glaser. The men remained firm friends even after the show ended and needed little persuasion to make cameo appearances in a 2004 feature film revival, where Owen Wilson reprised the role Soul had made famous.

In the midst of the show’s run Soul’s parallel career as a singer suddenly caught fire. In 1976 his easy-listening single Don’t Give Up on Us was a world-wide chart topper, and was followed up with hits such as Going in With My Eyes Open and Silver Lady.

Paul Michael Glaser (left) and David Soul prior to their cameo appearances in a new Starsky &...
Paul Michael Glaser (left) and David Soul prior to their cameo appearances in a new Starsky & Hutch movie. PHOTO: LOS ANGELES TIMES, CARLOS CHAVEZ
Soul never hit such heights again, but he was seldom without work for the rest of a busy career. Screen appearances included roles in Salem’s LotThe Key To Rebecca and The Hanoi Hilton.

In the 1990s Soul moved to England and successfully relaunched his career on the back of roles such as The Narrator in the musical Blood Brothers. His British credits ranged from Holby City and Little Britain (as himself) to Poirot and Dalziel and Pascoe.

He also made a memorable appearance on Top Gear, where he demonstrated all the car chases he had filmed in his career had taught him something: he recorded one of the fastest laps ever in the star in a reasonably priced car segment, despite wrecking the vehicle’s gearbox.

Soul also was a director, whose credits included several episodes of Starsky & Hutch, episodes of Miami Vice and In the Heat of the Night, and a documentary film The Fighting Ministers.

Soul’s last major role was in the unlikely stage hit Jerry Springer — The Opera, in which he took over the lead role partway through its West End run.

Soul had six children (including singer-songwriter China Soul) and was married five times, including to actresses Mim Russeth, Karen Carlson and Julia Nickson. In 2010, he married Helen Snell, who survives him. 

However, his personal life was at times turbulent, and while married to Patti Carnel-Sherman a court ordered Soul to attend therapy classes for alcoholism and anger management after he attacked her. 

A contrite Soul did not shy away from his anger and addiction issues and later spoke out about domestic violence, visited prisons and assisted charities working to rehabilitate former inmates.

In 2004 he became a British citizen, saying he did so in tribute to his British wife.

A three-pack-a-day smoker for 50 years, Soul quit in 2014 but had to have a lung removed due to cancer.

David Soul died on January 4 aged 80. — Agencies.