Actor Bill Macy attends the premiere of the movie “Surviving Christmas” the Hollywood in 2004. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

Actor Bill Macy attends the premiere of the movie “Surviving Christmas” the Hollywood in 2004. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

‘Maude’ co-star, character actor Bill Macy dies

The stint on the CBS sitcom was his highest-profile in a long stage, film and TV career.

  • Friday, October 18, 2019 12:47pm
  • Life

By Lynn Elber / Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Bill Macy, the character actor whose hangdog expression was a perfect match for his role as the long-suffering foil to Bea Arthur’s unyielding feminist on the daring 1970s sitcom “Maude,” has died. He was 97.

Macy died Thursday night in Los Angeles, his friend Matt Beckoff said Friday. Further details weren’t immediately available from Beckoff or Macy’s wife, Samantha Harper Macy.

The stint as Walter Findlay on the CBS sitcom that aired from 1972-78 was Macy’s highest-profile in a long stage, film and TV career. He made dozens of guest appearances in series including “Seinfeld,” ”How I Met Your Mother” and “ER.”

“Maude” was a spinoff to the landmark sitcom “All in the Family” from producers Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin. Staunch liberal Maude’s sharp exchanges with conservative Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) were so entertaining that Lear fashioned a series around her.

In a 1998 interview for the TV academy foundation’s archive, Lear said he cast Macy as Maude Findlay’s husband based on his work in an off-Broadway play. In it, his character had a prolonged scene of choking to death on a chicken bone.

It was an unforgettable “tour de force” performance, Lear said.

Macy was born Wolf Garber on May 18, 1922, to Michael and Mollie Garber in Revere, Massachusetts. He had a long career in the theater and film before “Maude,” including as an original cast member of the 1969-72 New York stage sensation “Oh! Calcutta!” that featured fully nude actors. He was in the 1972 movie version of the musical about sexual mores.

Among Macy’s other movie credits are 2006’s “The Holiday”; 1999’s “Analyze This”; the 1979 Steve Martin comedy “The Jerk,” and 1982’s “My Favorite Year” starring Peter O’Toole, an affectionate behind-the-scenes look at a 1950s TV variety series.

Macy, as head comedy writer for temperamental star King Kaiser (Joseph Bologna), used his gifts to great effect, as he later would while playing spouse to demanding Maude.

Among them: his distinctively puffy-eyed, beset-upon expression of suffering, and an ability to slide deftly into explosive frustration.

“Maude” also gave Macy the chance to turn serious. In one story line he descended into alcoholism and struck Maude; in another he offered tender support in a provocative episode when she decided to end an unexpected, late-in-life pregnancy.

In real life, strangers would call him “Mr. Maude” and, presuming that he and Walter really were the same people, console him for having such a difficult wife.

“I used to tell them that people like that really existed,” Macy once explained.

Talk to us

More in Life

Pandemic brings the Adventure-O-Meter to an all-time low

From near-misses with crow poop to scoring bleach at the pharmacy, this is what passes for excitement.

Unusually large flocks of swifts visiting Monroe this summer

Vaux’s swifts, which migrate in spring and fall, are roosting at the Wagner chimney after gorging on insects, a local expert says.

Wild Goose in British Columbia tops Cascadia judging again

It’s the third time in four years that the winery topped the annual showcase of Pacific Northwest wines.

Ice pops and cream pops make an easy, cool summer snack

You need only fruit juice, or iced tea, and whatever fresh or frozen fruit you have on hand.

Celebrate Bastille Day with this delicious mussels dish

You’ll want a loaf of good French bread to soak up the delicious broth the mussels cook in.

2020 Toyota RAV4 TRD Off-Road gives lineup extra trail cred

The newest model to join Toyota’s compact SUV family builds on the existing RAV4 Adventure model.

Arlington brewery celebrates Super Saturday, community benefits

In The Shadows Brewing in Arlington opens its taproom for fundraisers to benefit the Arlington Community Food Bank and other charities.

Life after ‘Hoarders’: 2 years, 250 tons lighter in Marysville

Andy and Becky Otter got a resurgence of fame when the AE reality TV show was picked up by Netflix.

Rick Steves’ memories of fado, the mournful blues of Lisbon

For an authentic experience, you have to seek out the city’s rustic neighborhoods after dark.

Most Read