Monday, May 9, 2016

In Praise Of William Schallert



I heard earlier today that we lost the veteran character actor, William Schallert at the ripe old age of 93. Whether or not you know his name, anybody who grew up with TV from the 1960s and 70s will undoubtedly recognize that face, and probably his voice as well!

William Schallert will probably best be remembered in his dual roles as Martin Lane and twin brother Kenneth, fathers of twin cousins, Patty and Cathy respectively, on The Patty Duke Show. And it is a sad coincidence that we lost Patty Duke herself only this past March. Schallert can be seen in this show episode at the 4:45 mark:



But he was also a very familiar face appearing on countless TV series of the era in guest star roles, including Perry Mason, The Lucy Show, Mission: Impossible, The Wild Wild West, and the famous Star Trek episode, The Trouble With Tribbles. Get Smart fans will also fondly remember Schallert as the ancient Admiral Hargrade, the original Chief of Control.

Although he was usually cast as the easygoing, lanky and likeable gentleman and fatherly type, there were the rare occasions where he was cast against type as the villain. One of these roles had Schallert cast as a sharpshooting hired killer in the episode, The Empty Hours on the early police drama, 87th Precinct, based on the series of crime novels by Ed McBain (of which I am a huge fan!)

William Schallert was primarily a TV actor, but he did make a number of films as well. When I think back on it, I suspect that my introduction to him was when he played the gentle and understanding Professor Quigley in Disney's 1969 comedy, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. He was the foil to Joe Flynn's bombastic and frugal college head, Dean Higgins, where he championed the students' various causes against a highly reluctant college administration.


I mentioned earlier that TV viewers of that era would likely know William Schallert's voice, even when heard separately from his familiar image. That's because Schallert's pleasant, folksy voice was pitching numerous products on TV commercials throughout the 60s and 70s. There was one voiceover he did that I was not aware of as being him, though. One of the regular commercial assignments he had was as Milton the Toaster, the animated character on the Kellogg's Pop Tart ads. Here he affects a Brooklyn accent, so I didn't find out it was him until years later!



William Schallert was one of the last oldest surviving veterans of 1960's TV, so his passing really does make many of us sad and wistfully nostalgic for that innocent and vastly entertaining era. RIP William Schallert, and thanks for all the wonderful memories!

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