He was born David John Stollery III in Los Angeles. Dave's paternal grandfather and namesake had immigrated to the US from England in 1904, becoming a land developer in San Mateo, California. His father first worked as a bank clerk after graduating from Stanford, then took a job as a radio announcer in Portland, Oregon. There he met his future wife, Estelaine G. Woolfenden, who had worked her way up from stenographer at the radio station, to being a performer with her own show, using the stage name Dolly Davidson. Around 1940, the young couple decided to try their luck in Southern California. Dave's father began working for an insurance company, while Dave's mom adopted a new stage name, Mitzi Lamarr, but couldn't find work in films.
After David was born, his mom sublimated her own ambitions to starting a performing career for her son. Somehow Dave landed a part in a 1948 touring production of Medea starring Judith Anderson, then got an uncredited extra spot in the film A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1949). He would have uncredited bits in three more films over the next two years, until finally getting his name on the bill for a low-budget flick called Tales of Robin Hood (1951).
Miss Baker's Dozen
|Dave then got a big boost with a feature role in Darling, How Could You! (1951). The following year he made Jack and the Beanstalk and a short subject for Warner Brothers, and appeared in episodes of Dragnet and I Love Lucy, the latter with Sammy Ogg. Dave returned to the stage, from February through April 1953, for the role of Pud in a Broadway revival of On Borrowed Time. It was a large part, and won him a child actor of the year award for his performance. Afterwards, he did stock theatre in La Jolla, Palm Springs, and Laguna Beach.
(MGM, 1954, aka Her Twelve Men
), was an important picture for Dave. It was not only a large role, it also introduced him to Tim Considine
, who would be primarily responsible for bringing him to Disney. Also featured in this picture were several other future Disney serial actors, including Dale Hartleben, Patrick Miller, and Donald MacDonald. Just before starting work at Disney, Dave appeared in an episode of Hallmark Hall of Fame
, and made a tense film noir called Storm Fear
(1955) with Cornel Wilde.
Tim Considine was auditioned in April 1955 for the role of rich kid Martin Markham for The Adventures of Spin and Marty, but having played similar roles in Miss Baker's Dozen and The Private War of Major Benson (1955), decided he'd rather play cool kid Spin Evans. He has said that he thinks he may have suggested Dave for the role of Marty. However, Dorothy Burr, mother of Lonnie Burr who had also read for the role of Marty, remembered many years later calling Mitzi Stollery and suggesting she have Dave tryout for the part. David was called in for a private audition in May 1955, and by the end of the month, was signed to a contract for $400 a week.
Sent to riding school for six weeks, Dave joined thirteen other boys in mid July 1955 to begin filming the Mickey Mouse Club's
most popular serial. Dave was small and cute for fourteen, but almost immediately began to grow taller. He had lengthened considerably by the time he did a Disneyland
episode promoting the re-release of Song of the South
, playing a young Joel Chandler Harris. Dave's popularity soared with the broadcast of Spin and Marty
in November 1955. He had a starring role in the Disney live-action picture Westward Ho, the Wagons
(1956), filmed in spring 1956, probably the peak of his acting career.
Along with other Spin and Marty
actors, Dave appeared briefly with the Mouseketeers in a classroom scene for the opening episode of Adventure in Dairyland
. Jay-Jay Solari
later remarked: "I met David Stollery once in the schoolroom where he was with us for a day. He seemed to have more on the ball than all us Mouseketeers put together." Dave himself, however, modestly disclaimed any notions of mature self-awareness at this point in his life. He told Disney archivist Dave Smith in an interview during the nineties that he did whatever was asked of him as a child actor without thinking.
For the summer of 1956 Dave again co-starred with Tim Considine in Further Adventures of Spin and Marty
. Dave was now taller and broader than Tim, and had lost some of his little boy cuteness. For the first time he seemed slightly self-conscious on screen, as if his added inches and changed features were awakening him to the realization that acting was his parent's ambition, not his own. Following the second Spin and Marty
serial, Dave did voice-over work for Boys of the Western Sea
, but was otherwise not used anywhere near as much during the second season as his friend and co-star Tim. This enabled him to play a minor role in his last non-Disney project, a film for United Artists called Drango
For the third season of the Mickey Mouse Club
, Dave would be employed on two serials. However, he first filmed Youth Takes Over the Atom
, a four-part newsreel special that he hosted. Dave seemed quite comfortable with this technical feature, somewhat less so with The New Adventures of Spin and Marty
that followed it. Dave did a cameo appearance on a Disneyland
episode with the Mouseketeers entitled The Fourth Anniversary Show
, in September 1957. For the final Mickey Mouse Club
, Dave was cast as Annette Funicello's
love interest, a slightly strained pairing.
By the time the Mickey Mouse Club completed filming in October 1957, Dave already knew he wouldn't stay with acting. Though he would have a small part in one more Disney film, Ten Who Dared (1960), Dave was already planning a career in design. He graduated from the Art Center in Pasadena, California, with a bachelor's degree in Industrial Design, then spent a year in Italy studying furniture design and working for Opel.
David married Carol Underwood around 1970, when he was working as an automotive designer for the Chevrolet division of General Motors. He later went to work for Toyota, and was the lead designer for the 1978 Celica model. Dave told interviewers in the seventies, that while meeting his foreign clients in public places, complete strangers would approach and begin talking to him about Spin and Marty
. His puzzled clients would later be astounded to learn that he had been a famous child actor.
After many years of working for others, Dave founded his own company, Industrial Design Research
, in Southern California. His company is focused on designing the AREX sports car, but also builds more mundane products such as fiberglass lifeguard towers. In the early nineties, Dave started making himself available for interviews and appearances on his acting career at Disney. He remains friends with Tim Considine, and in 2005 took part with him in filming a bonus feature for the Spin & Marty DVD