Before David Cassidy was squeaky-clean Keith Partridge, he was a convincing teen rebel

The memory of these early roles quickly faded once Keith Partridge found the spotlight.

In the 1970s, David Cassidy's surging talent overtook pop culture. As Keith Partridge on The Partridge Family, the young actor's ambition pushed him to convince producers that he should lead the TV family band. Although he was cast primarily for his good looks, he continually overdelivered, as one of only two members allowed to actually sing onscreen. He went on to release chart-topping records throughout the 1970s, cementing his legacy as one of the decade's biggest stars.

While the character that Cassidy is best known for has a more straight-laced image, his earliest roles on TV cast him against this stereotype. On shows like Ironside, Bonanza and The Mod Squad, Cassidy plays a liar, a rebel and a car thief. His eyes we're so accustomed to seeing crinkled up at the sides in happy-go-lucky song and dance routines shaped into a convincing glare, more like a young Clint Eastwood than the next Ricky Nelson.

His career kicked off in 1969 when he was cast among a crew of "student radicals" on the short-lived ABC soap opera The Survivors. On Ironside, he plays Danny Goodson, a misguided teen basketball player who gets caught up in a theft ring, in a 1970 episode called "Stolen On Demand." He even shows a little spite from the confines of a hospital bed on Marcus Welby, M.D., where he plays a diabetic who refuses his medicine to teach his dad a lesson for mistreating his mother. That's maybe our first glimpse of his transition to the noble Keith Partridge, who would do anything to protect his siblings.

On Adam-12 the same year, Cassidy plays a purse snatcher, and on The Mod Squad, this pattern of seeing the future pop star as a more convincing teen rebel continues as he's cast in a role where he's suspected of stealing a car from his cop father. That episode is called "The Loser" and features Cassidy across from a different famous TV mom, Happy Days' Marion Ross.

CBS Television DistributionDavid Cassidy and Marion Ross on 'The Mod Squad'

The range of Cassidy's early acting ability is perhaps best exhibited by his turn as Billy Burgess on Bonanza. In that role, he has a giant chip on his shoulder, frustrated and angry with his living situation, where his stepdad treats him unfairly and threatens abuse, and his mother does nothing to stop it. He takes his anger out on a schoolteacher, telling her he'll kill her, and the very next day, the teacher misses school because she's been murdered.

As the blame descends on Cassidy's character, Ben Cartwright is determined to defend the boy, even while Cassidy's confused character insists he is the killer. It's a thrilling, emotional performance, and an early signal of how much pure potential this young actor was working with. It also includes breathtaking views where Cassidy fits right in as a young, misunderstood rebel cowboy.

David Cassidy on 'Bonanza'

Of course, the memory of these early roles - which all aired before the premiere of The Partridge Family - quickly faded once Keith Partridge found the spotlight. Cassidy remained in that glow throughout his impressive, multi-faceted career.

Cassidy retired from acting earlier this year, and on November 21, David Cassidy passed away from kidney and liver failure at the age of 67.

People we have lost in 2017

  • Mary Tyler Moore
  • ADAM WEST, TV'S BELOVED BATMAN
  • Jim Nabors
  • MARTIN LANDAU, STAR OF 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE' AND 'SPACE: 1999'
  • BARBARA HALE OF 'PERRY MASON'
  • Roger Moore
  • DELLA REESE, STAR OF 'TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL'
  • David Cassidy
  • Don Rickles
  • Mike Connors, star of 'Mannix'
  • ROBERT GUILLAUME OF 'BENSON' AND 'SOAP'
  • GLEN CAMPBELL, THE COUNTRY LEGEND, RHINESTONE COWBOY AND VARIETY SHOW HOST
  • Jerry Lewis
  • ERIN MORAN OF 'HAPPY DAYS' AND 'JOANIE LOVES CHACHI'
  • RICHARD HATCH of 'BATTLESTAR GALACTICA'
  • DINA MERRILL, THE BILLIONAIRE HEIRESS WHO PLAYED BATMAN VILLAIN CALAMITY JAN
  • Chuck Barris, host of 'The Gong Show'
  • MICHAEL PARKS OF 'THEN CAME BRONSON' AND 'TWIN PEAKS'
  • Roger Smith of '77 Sunset Strip'
  • RICHARD ANDERSON OF 'THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN,' 'PERRY MASON' AND 'THE FUGITIVE'
  • JUDGE JOSEPH WAPNER OF 'THE PEOPLE'S COURT'
  • ELENA VERDUGO OF 'MARCUS WELBY, M.D.'
  • FILM HISTORIAN ROBERT OSBORNE
  • LAWRENCE MONTAIGNE OF 'STAR TREK'
  • LOLA ALBRIGHT OF 'PETER GUNN'
  • CHELSEA BROWN OF 'ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN'
  • R.I.P. JAY THOMAS OF 'CHEERS,' 'MORK & MINDY' AND 'MURPHY BROWN'
  • John Hillerman of 'Magnum, P.I.'
  • TY HARDIN, STAR OF THE TV WESTERN 'BRONCO'
  • BERNIE CASEY OF 'BRIAN'S SONG', STAR TREK AND THE FIRST BLACK FAMILY DRAMA ON TV
  • PETER HANSEN OF 'GENERAL HOSPITAL' AND 'GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C.'
  • JUNE FORAY, THE VOICE OF ROCKY THE FLYING SQUIRREL
  • RANCE HOWARD, ACTOR AND FATHER OF RON HOWARD
  • RED WEST, THE ELVIS PRESLEY BODYGUARD WHO PLAYED THE PERFECT TV TOUGH GUY
  • JOHN CYGAN OF 'THE COMMISH' AND 'BOB'
  • Monty Hall of 'Let's Make a Deal'
  • Dick Gautier, Hymie the Robot from 'Get Smart'
  • LEONARD LANDY, THE RED-HAIRED, FRECKLE-FACED MEMBER OF THE LITTLE RASCALS
  • QUINN O'HARA OF 'THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI'
  • MIGUEL FERRER, SON OF JOSÉ FERRER AND ROSEMARY CLOONEY
  • CURT LOWENS, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, WAR HERO AND 'HOGAN'S HEROES' ACTOR
  • Francine York, 'Batman' actress and 1960s star
  • BRUCE LANSBURY, BROTHER OF ANGELA, PRODUCER OF 'WONDER WOMAN' AND 'WILD WILD WEST'
  • JEFFREY HAYDEN, DIRECTOR OF ALL OF OUR FAVORITE TV EPISODES
  • ANNE JEFFREYS OF 'TOPPER,' 'DICK TRACY' AND 'GENERAL HOSPITAL'
  • ELIZABETH BAUR OF 'IRONSIDE' AND 'LANCER'
  • BEN BATES, JAMES ARNESS' LONGTIME STUNTMAN AND FORMER MARLBORO MAN
  • SHELLEY BERMAN, GRAMMY-WINNING COMEDIAN AND EMMY-NOMINATED TELEVISION VETERAN
  • HARVEY ATKIN, THE MUSTACHIOED ACTOR OF 'CAGNEY & LACEY'
  • Rose Marie
  • Mary Tyler Moore
  • ADAM WEST, TV'S BELOVED BATMAN
  • Jim Nabors
  • MARTIN LANDAU, STAR OF 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE' AND 'SPACE: 1999'
  • BARBARA HALE OF 'PERRY MASON'
  • Roger Moore
  • DELLA REESE, STAR OF 'TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL'
  • David Cassidy
  • Don Rickles
  • Mike Connors, star of 'Mannix'
  • ROBERT GUILLAUME OF 'BENSON' AND 'SOAP'
  • GLEN CAMPBELL, THE COUNTRY LEGEND, RHINESTONE COWBOY AND VARIETY SHOW HOST
  • Jerry Lewis
  • ERIN MORAN OF 'HAPPY DAYS' AND 'JOANIE LOVES CHACHI'
  • RICHARD HATCH of 'BATTLESTAR GALACTICA'
  • DINA MERRILL, THE BILLIONAIRE HEIRESS WHO PLAYED BATMAN VILLAIN CALAMITY JAN
  • Chuck Barris, host of 'The Gong Show'
  • MICHAEL PARKS OF 'THEN CAME BRONSON' AND 'TWIN PEAKS'
  • Roger Smith of '77 Sunset Strip'
  • RICHARD ANDERSON OF 'THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN,' 'PERRY MASON' AND 'THE FUGITIVE'
  • JUDGE JOSEPH WAPNER OF 'THE PEOPLE'S COURT'
  • ELENA VERDUGO OF 'MARCUS WELBY, M.D.'
  • FILM HISTORIAN ROBERT OSBORNE
  • LAWRENCE MONTAIGNE OF 'STAR TREK'
  • LOLA ALBRIGHT OF 'PETER GUNN'
  • CHELSEA BROWN OF 'ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN'
  • R.I.P. JAY THOMAS OF 'CHEERS,' 'MORK & MINDY' AND 'MURPHY BROWN'
  • John Hillerman of 'Magnum, P.I.'
  • TY HARDIN, STAR OF THE TV WESTERN 'BRONCO'
  • BERNIE CASEY OF 'BRIAN'S SONG', STAR TREK AND THE FIRST BLACK FAMILY DRAMA ON TV
  • PETER HANSEN OF 'GENERAL HOSPITAL' AND 'GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C.'
  • JUNE FORAY, THE VOICE OF ROCKY THE FLYING SQUIRREL
  • RANCE HOWARD, ACTOR AND FATHER OF RON HOWARD
  • RED WEST, THE ELVIS PRESLEY BODYGUARD WHO PLAYED THE PERFECT TV TOUGH GUY
  • JOHN CYGAN OF 'THE COMMISH' AND 'BOB'
  • Monty Hall of 'Let's Make a Deal'
  • Dick Gautier, Hymie the Robot from 'Get Smart'
  • LEONARD LANDY, THE RED-HAIRED, FRECKLE-FACED MEMBER OF THE LITTLE RASCALS
  • QUINN O'HARA OF 'THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI'
  • MIGUEL FERRER, SON OF JOSÉ FERRER AND ROSEMARY CLOONEY
  • CURT LOWENS, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, WAR HERO AND 'HOGAN'S HEROES' ACTOR
  • Francine York, 'Batman' actress and 1960s star
  • BRUCE LANSBURY, BROTHER OF ANGELA, PRODUCER OF 'WONDER WOMAN' AND 'WILD WILD WEST'
  • JEFFREY HAYDEN, DIRECTOR OF ALL OF OUR FAVORITE TV EPISODES
  • ANNE JEFFREYS OF 'TOPPER,' 'DICK TRACY' AND 'GENERAL HOSPITAL'
  • ELIZABETH BAUR OF 'IRONSIDE' AND 'LANCER'
  • BEN BATES, JAMES ARNESS' LONGTIME STUNTMAN AND FORMER MARLBORO MAN
  • SHELLEY BERMAN, GRAMMY-WINNING COMEDIAN AND EMMY-NOMINATED TELEVISION VETERAN
  • HARVEY ATKIN, THE MUSTACHIOED ACTOR OF 'CAGNEY & LACEY'
  • Rose Marie

Mary Tyler Moore

The television icon leaves behind a vast legacy. READ MORE

Image: The Everett Collection

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Image: The Everett Collection

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Image: AP Photo / Lennox McLendon

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Roger Smith of '77 Sunset Strip'

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The actor passed away at 91 after a long and varied career. READ MORE

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JUDGE JOSEPH WAPNER OF 'THE PEOPLE'S COURT'

The popular TV judge passed away at the age of 97. READ MORE

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ELENA VERDUGO OF 'MARCUS WELBY, M.D.'

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FILM HISTORIAN ROBERT OSBORNE

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LAWRENCE MONTAIGNE OF 'STAR TREK'

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LOLA ALBRIGHT OF 'PETER GUNN'

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Image: The Everett Collection

CHELSEA BROWN OF 'ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN'

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John Hillerman of 'Magnum, P.I.'

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TY HARDIN, STAR OF THE TV WESTERN 'BRONCO'

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BERNIE CASEY OF 'BRIAN'S SONG', STAR TREK AND THE FIRST BLACK FAMILY DRAMA ON TV

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PETER HANSEN OF 'GENERAL HOSPITAL' AND 'GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C.'

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JUNE FORAY, THE VOICE OF ROCKY THE FLYING SQUIRREL

The 99-year-old had voiced dozens of your favorite cartoons characters. READ MORE

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RANCE HOWARD, ACTOR AND FATHER OF RON HOWARD

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RED WEST, THE ELVIS PRESLEY BODYGUARD WHO PLAYED THE PERFECT TV TOUGH GUY

The "Memphis Mafia" member wrote hit pop songs and appeared in dozens of episodes of The Wild Wild West. READ MORE

JOHN CYGAN OF 'THE COMMISH' AND 'BOB'

Before his most famous role, Cygan was a regular cast member on the short-lived Bob Newhart sitcom Bob. READ MORE

Image: The Everett Collection

Monty Hall of 'Let's Make a Deal'

Former game show host Hall died after a long illness at age 96. 

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Dick Gautier, Hymie the Robot from 'Get Smart'

The actor also starred in 'Mr. Terrific' and provided voices for G.I. Joe and Transformers. READ MORE

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LEONARD LANDY, THE RED-HAIRED, FRECKLE-FACED MEMBER OF THE LITTLE RASCALS

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QUINN O'HARA OF 'THE GHOST IN THE INVISIBLE BIKINI'

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MIGUEL FERRER, SON OF JOSÉ FERRER AND ROSEMARY CLOONEY

Rosemary Clooney's eldest son gave us great characters in 'NCIS: Los Angeles,' 'Twin Peaks' and 'RoboCop.' READ MORE

CURT LOWENS, HOLOCAUST SURVIVOR, WAR HERO AND 'HOGAN'S HEROES' ACTOR

The fascinating actor known for playing German officers in film and on television passed away at 91. READ MORE

Image: The Everett Collection

Francine York, 'Batman' actress and 1960s star

She was the Bookworm's henchwoman — and much more. READ MORE

Image: The Everett Collection

BRUCE LANSBURY, BROTHER OF ANGELA, PRODUCER OF 'WONDER WOMAN' AND 'WILD WILD WEST'

Lansbury also created the Bill Bixby series The Magician. READ MORE

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JEFFREY HAYDEN, DIRECTOR OF ALL OF OUR FAVORITE TV EPISODES

The notable television director worked on everything from The Andy Griffith Show to Knight Rider. READ MORE

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ANNE JEFFREYS OF 'TOPPER,' 'DICK TRACY' AND 'GENERAL HOSPITAL'

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Image: The Everett Collection

ELIZABETH BAUR OF 'IRONSIDE' AND 'LANCER'

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HARVEY ATKIN, THE MUSTACHIOED ACTOR OF 'CAGNEY & LACEY'

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Image: The Everett Collection

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