When Starsky met Hutch

Family, friends and fans are mourning the loss of actor David Soul, who died at the age of 80, following a long battle with lung disease.

The Chicago-born star rocketed to fame in 1975, when he won the role of detective Kenneth “Hutch” Hutchinson in the police drama series Starsky and Hutch.

© United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Soul’s former co-star in the long-running show, Paul Michael Glaser, also 80, led the tributes to his old friend following his death on 4th January in a London hospital, describing him as a “brother, a friend and a caring man”, and adding, “We shall never see his like again.”

Early years

Soul was born in August 1943. His father Richard, a Lutherian minister, was the Lutheran Church in America’s director of higher education and a professor of history and political science.

His mother June was a teacher, and both of his grandfathers were evangelists who preached God’s word. Soul’s brother Daniel followed in the family tradition, becoming a Lutherian pastor.

The family moved around due to his father’s work and Soul attended Washington High School in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, followed by the University of the Americas in Mexico City.

Initially, he planned a career in the diplomatic services, as he was a good scholar and spoke Spanish and German fluently. However, he began a music career “by accident”, according to his biography, after becoming friends with students in a group called Mexico for Mexicans at university. They gave Soul a guitar and taught him indigenous Mexican songs, as their aim was to free Mexico from the influence of big US corporations.

After returning to the Midwest, he needed money, so he auditioned as a folk singer in a coffee house, the Ten O’clock Scholar, at the University of Minnesota, which led to a career in entertainment.

His first professional role was playing Pugnacious Collier in Firehouse Theatre’s production of Sergeant Musgrave’s Dance in Minneapolis.

Theatre success led to TV roles in the American series, Flipper, in 1966, followed by an appearance on the Merv Griffin Show the following year.

He was spotted by a talent scout from Columbia studios, which led to him joining the New Talent Programme and appearing in the series I Dream of Jeannie.

Starsky and Hutch TV series

Soul enjoyed a successful acting career for almost a decade, before his big break came in 1975, when he auditioned for a new police drama show set in California. When Starsky met Hutch, it was the start of a lifelong friendship between Soul and his co-star Glaser, who played Hutch’s crime-fighting partner, David Starsky.

The tale of the two detectives ran until 1979 on primetime US and UK television, spanning four series and 93 episodes. Both characters became heartthrobs for female fans, which turned Soul and Glaser into superstars.

Dark haired Starsky was an intense, streetwise, Brooklyn native and military veteran. Hutch, from Minnesota, looked more like a surfer with his blond hair and blue eyes. He was calmer and more reserved than Starsky, taking an intellectual approach to solving crimes. Starsky was the muscle, while Hutch was the brains of the team.

The show was deemed revolutionary and way ahead of its time. In the 1970s, US police dramas featured emotionally restrained body language and the lead characters had a typically macho image.

While Starsky and Hutch were undeniably tough, they also showed their vulnerable side, demonstrating brotherly affection and creating a scenario of “us against the world”. This type of attitude and relationship between male characters didn’t become prevalent until two decades later in the 1990s.

The show was as popular in the UK as it was in the US. According to a YouGov poll, it was voted the 57th most popular TV series of all time in Britain.

Both Starsky and Hutch actors achieved fame as a result of the show. After its four-year run finally ended in May 1979, it was sold into syndication and was still being shown regularly on television on various networks until 2016.

David Soul Silver Lady

As well as being a celebrated actor, Soul also enjoyed a career as a pop singer – well, he sure brought out the love in my eyes! His debut single, Don’t Give Up on Us, was number one for four weeks in the UK in January and February 1977.

The romantic ballad also topped the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in April 1977 and the singles charts in Canada, New Zealand and Ireland.

Soul had four more top ten hits in the UK, including his second number one, Silver Lady, in October 1977, which was top of the singles charts for three weeks.

The song was also on the soundtrack of the 2013 film, Filth, which featured Soul in his final movie role.

In a complete turnaround from his role as a detective, he played a punter who was kerb-crawling in a red-light area. He is miming the song to himself as he drives round at night.

Later life

Soul and Glaser remained friends for almost five decades. They always kept in touch and even if their careers kept them apart, they would often speak on the phone.

Soul went on to star in various television shows and films including Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, In the Line of Duty: The FBI Murders, The Hanoi Hilton, Homeward Bound, World War III and many more.

He moved to the UK in the mid-1990s, launching a new career on stage in the West End. He was the Narrator in the musical Blood Brothers and Chandler Tate in Comic Potential.

Soul also starred as Alan Fletcher in the BBC hospital drama Holby City in 2001 and 2002. He appeared in Little Britain, Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Death on the Nile and Top Gear.

In 2004, Soul and Glaser were reunited at the age of 60 on the big screen, when they appeared in cameo roles in the movie version of Starsky and Hutch.

Glaser went on to star in TV series such as Ray Donovan and in the 2003 film Something’s Gotta Give.

He became more well-known as the director of cult movie The Running Man and of various television series, such as Robbery Homicide Division and Miami Vice.

Health issues

Although the cause of his death hasn’t been released, Soul was known to have suffered serious health issues: he had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which causes breathing problems. He had also lost one lung to cancer.

Paying tribute to his friend of five decades, Glaser said it seemed like “only yesterday” that they were “sharing loving insults on the phone”.

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