But by then, Forsythe, a family man, wanted parts that would keep him closer to home. In 1943, he had married singer-actress Julie Warren, and they had daughters Page and Brooke, in addition to his son, Dall, from a brief marriage to actress Parker McCormick.

In 1957, he switched to television with "Bachelor Father," an amiable family show that also starred Noreen Corcoran as his niece and Sammee Tong as their houseboy. The show endured for five years.

"The real joke is not that I, a bachelor, am the girl's father," he told TV Guide in 1960. "The funny part is that Sammee Tong behaves in all our family crises as if he were her mother."

"The John Forsythe Show," another situation comedy, soon followed. He considered the one-season show a forgettable disaster.

He kept his hand in films, including "Kitten With a Whip" opposite Ann-Margret as a teenage delinquent, "Madame X" with Lana Turner and the 1967 dramatization of Truman Capote's chilling book, "In Cold Blood," in which Forsythe played a detective.

Also, in 1964, he made a bit of TV history by starring in NBC's "See How They Run," billed as the first made-for-TV movie.

He was back in a TV series in 1969 with "To Rome With Love," another take on bachelor fatherhood, this time as a widowed college professor with three daughters who teaches in Italy.

In 1976, he took the role of the avuncular Charlie Townsend -- the disembodied voice in the hit ABC series that began with his saying: "Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the police academy. . . ." The show made a star of Farrah Fawcett and also featured Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd, among other actresses.

Before "Charlie's Angels" ended in 1981 after five seasons, Forsythe was ensconced in ABC's "Dynasty," with its larger-than-life characters and plot lines.

He modeled Carrington on then-MCA Chairman Lew Wasserman, who was "strong and tough, but a man of great integrity," Forsythe told The Times in 1991.

Though Forsythe had a long and respectable career, he told the newspaper in 1992: "I've had an interesting life for a guy who stumbled into the whole acting business."

For many years, Forsythe was deeply involved in horse racing and owned and bred horses at his ranch north of Santa Barbara. He was the national spokesman for the Breeders' Cup and on the board at Hollywood Park for several years.

Forsythe's wife Julie died in 1994 after more than 50 years of marriage. In 2002, he married Nicole Carter, who survives him, as do his son, Dall; daughters, Page Courtemanche and Brooke Forsythe; six grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.

news.obits@latimes.com

Luther is a former Times staff writer.