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Colonel Sanders, Back from the Dead?

Kentucky Fried Chicken introduces a series of commercials featuring a founder-look-alike

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You can say one thing for Kentucky Fried Chicken: It does resurrections right. A series of new commercials for the fast-food chain, featuring black-and-white footage of someone who appears to be founding father Colonel Sanders, has had many viewers wondering whether the Colonel is still alive and well. He isn’t. The poultry king, who died at age 90 in December 1980, is played by Henderson Forsythe, a New York actor who was plucked from more than 200 competitors for the role. ”We have no interest in deceiving people and saying that it really is him,” says Peter Foulds, KFC’s vice president of advertising, ”but it was created to get that effect.”

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To capture the character, Forsythe studied old film footage of the Colonel and read all of his books. The Colonel’s widow, Claudia Sanders, was significantly impressed by the dead ringer. ”She was extremely moved by the commercial,” Foulds says. ”The Colonel is probably smiling down on us right now, proud that the legacy he left is being continued.” But why not use the original footage of the Colonel? ”We wanted to use the truisms the Colonel said over the last 30 to 40 years,” explains Foulds, ”but he never said [them] in short sentences. He had a long-winded way of saying things.”