William Schallert, the prolific character actor known for his many authority-figure roles — especially his paternal parts on The Patty Duke Show, died Sunday in Pacific Palisades. The 93-year-old’s son, Edwin, confirmed the news with multiple outlets on Monday, but a cause was not reported.
Schallert had built a body of work that spanned nearly seven decades; resulted in close to 380 credits; and included TV, film, commercial, voice-over, and stage work. The L.A. native’s career began in the late ’40s, after he served in World War II and shifted the focus of his collegiate studies from composing to acting. Before making his showbiz debut with 1947’s The Foxes of Harrow, Schallert worked with other college students in L.A. to found Hollywood’s storied Circle Theater, a move that allowed him to hone his skills in more than two dozen plays — once, according to the New York Times, in the company of Charlie Chaplin, who directed him in W. Somerset Maugham’s Rain.
Aside from his turns as Martin and Kenneth Lane on The Patty Duke Show, Schallert went on to make notable appearances on Leave It to Beaver, The Twilight Zone, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, the original Star Trek, Get Smart, Hawaii Five-O, The Torkelsons, Melrose Place, Desperate Housewives, and How I Met Your Mother, among several other TV series; he also graced the big screen in such films as In the Heat of the Night, Innerspace, Gremlins, House Party 2, The Trial of the Catonsville Nine, and The Incredible Shrinking Man.
From 1979 to 1981, Schallert was the Screen Actors Guild’s president. “He worked virtually every SAG contract, he appeared opposite movie stars and background performers, he was a series regular and an uncredited bit player,” SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement. “He turned this knowledge and experience into service for his fellow actors. Despite leading the union during [the actors’ strike over pay], Bill maintained his integrity and commitment, a commitment that extended into many more years of board service. I am especially pleased that Bill lived long enough to see the SAG-AFTRA merger become a reality as he was one of the pioneers of that effort.” For his service to the union, he won the Ralph Morgan Award in 1993.
More than a decade later, in 2004, Schallert made TV Guide’s list of 50 Greatest TV Dads for his Patty Duke years. Below, in a 2012 Archive of American Television interview, Schallert reacts to the honor and reflects on why the Martin Lane character resonated with audiences:
Schallert continued acting into his 80s and 90s, appearing recently in 2 Broke Girls, the Bag of Bones mini-series, and True Blood. Schallert’s TV daughter, Patty Duke, predeceased him in March, and his real-life wife, Leah Waggner (née Rosemarie Diann Waggner), died last year. He is survived by their four sons and seven grandchildren.
This post has been updated throughout.