Best Guests of the Past

Some favorite TV series guest stars, no longer with us. One shots, recurring or long story arcs. Eclectic. Alphabetical.
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1.
John Anderson
Actor, Psycho
A tall, sinewy, austere-looking character actor with silver hair, rugged features and a distinctive voice, John Robert Anderson left an impressive legacy of literally hundreds of film and TV credits. Immensely versatile, he was at his best submerging himself in the role of historical figures (he impersonated Abraham Lincoln three times and twice baseball commissioner Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis...
 
2.
Martin Balsam
Martin Henry Balsam was born on November 4, 1919 in the Bronx, New York City, to Lillian (Weinstein) and Albert Balsam, a manufacturer of women's sportswear. He was the first-born child. His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant, and his mother was born in New York, to Russian Jewish parents. Martin caught the acting bug in high school where he participated in the drama club...
 
3.
Ed Begley
Charismatic character star Edward James Begley was born in Hartford, Connecticut of Irish parents and educated at St.Patrick's school. His interest in acting first surfaced at the age of nine, when he performed amateur theatricals at the Hartford Globe Theatre. Determined to make his own way, he left home aged eleven and drifted from job to job...
 
4.
Charles Bronson
The archetypal screen tough guy with weatherbeaten features--one film critic described his rugged looks as "a Clark Gable who had been left out in the sun too long"--Charles Bronson was born Charles Buchinsky, one of 15 children of struggling parents in Pennsylvania. His mother, Mary (Valinsky)...
 
5.
Geraldine Brooks
Actress, Possessed
A resolute, blue-eyed brunette with attractive, slightly pinched features, Geraldine Brooks was born to a Dutch couple on October 29, 1925, in New York City. Her parents had a theater-based background -- father, James Stroock, owned a top costume company and mother, Bianca, was a costume designer and stylist...
 
7.
James Coburn
Lanky, charismatic and versatile actor with an amazing grin that put everyone at ease, James Coburn studied acting at UCLA, and then moved to New York to study under noted acting coach Stella Adler. After being noticed in several stage productions, Coburn appeared in a handful of minor westerns before being cast as the knife-throwing...
 
8.
Michael Conrad
Michael Conrad was a stalwart American character actor who appeared frequently on television, best known for his recurring role as the desk sergeant Phil Esterhaus on Hill Street Blues, for which he won twice Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Emmy Awards, in 1981-1982. Conrad died from urethral cancer during the shooting of the police drama's fourth season...
 
9.
Gladys Cooper
Actress, My Fair Lady
Gladys Cooper was the daughter of journalist William Frederick Cooper and his wife Mabel Barnett. As a child she was very striking and was used as a photographic model beginning at six years old. She wanted to become an actress and started on that road in 1905 after being discovered by Seymour Hicks to tour with his company in "Bluebell in Fairyland"...
 
10.
Ellen Corby
Actress, The Waltons
Ellen Corby was born Ellen Hansen on June 3, 1911, in Racine, Wisconsin. She began her career as a bit player in the film Speed Limited in 1940. Ellen would not be seen on the big screen again until 1945 in Cornered. In 1946, she appeared in 14 films, although mostly in small, minor roles. One of them was in the Christmas classic It's a Wonderful Life...
 
11.
Robert Culp
Tall, slim and exceedingly good-looking American leading man Robert Culp, a former cartoonist in his teen years, appeared off-Broadway in the 1950s before settling into polished, clean-cut film leads and "other man" supports a decade later. Hitting the popular TV boards in the hip, racially ground-breaking espionage program I Spy...
 
12.
Ted de Corsia
A big, brawny villain of many 1940s and 1950s films, Ted de Corsia was an actor in touring companies and on radio before making a memorable film debut as the killer in The Lady from Shanghai. Although he occasionally played such sympathetic roles as a judge or prison warden, de Corsia's imposing size, tough New York street demeanor...
 
13.
John Dehner
Unlike many actors, John Dehner's career didn't begin on the stage or on radio. He started out as an animator for Walt Disney Studios, then worked as a disc jockey and a professional pianist. He made his film debut in the 1940s, and has appeared in dozens of films. A tall and distinguished looking man with a rich voice and somewhat flamboyant demeanor...
 
14.
Cyril Delevanti
Seasoned London-born character actor, who had a lengthy career in American films and on television. The son of an Anglo-Italian music professor, Cyril also had a secondary career in Hollywood as a respected drama coach, engaged by Douglas Fairbanks, James Craig, and others. He appears to have divided the remainder of his time between films and the stage...
 
15.
William Demarest
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, William Demarest was a prolific actor in movies and TV, making more than 140 films. Demarest started his acting career in vaudeville and made his way to Broadway. His most famous role was in My Three Sons, replacing a very sick William Frawley. Demarest was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting role in the real-life biography...
 
18.
Anne Francis
Anne Francis got into show business quite early in life. She was born Ann Marvak on September 16, 1930 in Ossining, New York (which is near Sing Sing prison), the only child of Phillip Marvak, a businessman/salesman, and the former Edith Francis. A natural little beauty, she became a John Robert Powers model at age 6(!) and swiftly moved into radio soap work and television in New York...
 
19.
Jack Gilford
Actor, Cocoon
Jack Gilford was born in Brooklyn, New York, as Yankel Gellman. He began his career in the Amateur Nights of the 1930s moving on to nightclubs as an innovative comedian doing satire and pantomime. He was a regular at the Greenwich Village nightspot, Cafe Society and hosted shows featuring Zero Mostel...
 
20.
George Grizzard
In retrospect, he was considered an actor's actor to be sure. Renowned theater performer George Grizzard would make his biggest impact under the Tony-winning Broadway lights in a career spanning over five decades. Born an only child on April 1, 1928, in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, George Cooper Grizzard...
 
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22.
Cecil Kellaway
Though a native of South Africa, Cecil Kellaway spent many years as an actor, author and director in the Australian film industry until he tried his luck in Hollywood in the 1930s. Finding he could get only gangster bit parts, he got discouraged and returned to Australia. Then William Wyler called and offered him a part in Wuthering Heights...
 
23.
Robert Lansing
Robert Lansing was an actor whose tall stature, tough looks and commanding manner belied an often thoughtful and introspective screen personality. Not that acting had necessarily been his only choice - there was jazz. As a youngster, he played drums with various dance bands and was bitten by the acting bug after performing in and directing high school plays...
 
24.
John Larch
Instantly recognizable American character actor with bulbous nose and heavily lined face, who could convey integrity or menace to equal effect. He first came to prominence on radio as (Captain) Starr of Space (1953), using ray guns to combat Martians and alien queens. Beginning in 1953, Larch accumulated an impressive resume of TV series credits...
 
26.
Celia Lovsky
Actress, Soylent Green
Daughter of Bretislav Lvovsky (1857-1910), a minor Czech opera composer, Celia was born in Vienna where she trained at the Royal Academy of Arts and Music. She was a rising stage star in Vienna and Berlin in 1929, when she met future husband Peter Lorre. Celia accompanied the Jewish Lorre when he fled Hitler's Berlin to Vienna in 1933...
 
27.
Lee Marvin
Actor, M Squad
Prematurely white-haired character star who began as a supporting player of generally vicious demeanor, then metamorphosed into a star of both action and drama projects, Lee Marvin was born in New York City to Lamont Waltman Marvin, an advertising executive, and his wife Courtenay Washington Davidge...
 
28.
Darren McGavin
A remarkably seasoned actor of stage, screen and television, Darren McGavin has notched in excess of 200 performances; however, he is most fondly remembered by cult TV fans as heroic newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak in the classic but short-lived horror TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker. In a long and varied career...
 
29.
Burgess Meredith
Actor, Rocky
One of the truly great and gifted performers of the century who often suffered lesser roles, Burgess Meredith was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1907 and educated in Amherst College in Massachusetts before joining Eva Le Gallienne's stage company in New York City in 1933. He became a favorite of dramatist Maxwell Anderson...
 
30.
Agnes Moorehead
Actress, Bewitched
Of Irish/English ancestry, Agnes was born near Boston, the daughter of a Presbyterian minister (her mother was a mezzo-soprano) who encouraged her to perform in church pageants. Aged three, she sang 'The Lord is my Shepherd' on a public stage and seven years later joined the St. Louis Municipal Opera as a dancer and singer for four years...
 
31.
Harry Morgan
Actor, M*A*S*H
Harry Morgan was a prolific character actor who starred in over 100 films and was a stage performer. Known to a younger generation of fans as "Col. Sherman T. Potter" on M*A*S*H. Also known for his commanding personality throughout his career, he tackled movies and television in a way no other actor would do it...
 
32.
Lloyd Nolan
Actor, Julia
It would no doubt be a real shock to most people to discover that the rich baritone Bronx-like accent of great veteran character actor Lloyd Nolan was a product of the San Francisco streets--not the urban jungle of New York City. Nolan was born in the City by the Bay, and his father, James Nolan, was a successful shoe manufacturer of hard-working Irish stock...
 
33.
Warren Oates
Warren Oates was an American character actor of the 1960s and 1970s and early 1980s whose distinctive style and intensity brought him to offbeat leading roles. Oates was born in Depoy, a very small Kentucky town. He was the son of Sarah Alice (Mercer) and Bayless Earle Oates, a general store owner...
 
34.
Arthur O'Connell
Though veteran character actor Arthur O'Connell was born in New York City in 1908, he looked as countrified as apple pie, looking ever more comfy in overalls than he ever did in a suit. He made his stage debut in the mid 1930s and came into contact with Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre. As a result, he earned the bit role of a reporter in the final scenes of Citizen Kane (1941)...
 
35.
Dan O'Herlihy
Actor, RoboCop
Irish-born Dan O'Herlihy decided not to follow in his father's footsteps, forsaking the life of an architect in favour of the acting profession. The tall, distinguished-looking university graduate boasted a rich, resonant voice, which enabled him to easily find work in radio plays, as well on the stage...
 
36.
J. Pat O'Malley
J. Pat had a warm smile, twinkling eyes, and an Irish name. He was born in Burnley, England, and began his acting career in British musical halls. J. Pat came to the USA at the outbreak of World War II, and his film debut was Lassie Come Home. He also worked on the Broadway stage during the 1940s and 1950s...
 
38.
Donald Pleasence
Actor, Halloween
Balding, quietly-spoken, of slight build and possessed of piercing blue eyes -- often peering out from behind round, steel-rimmed glasses -- Donald Pleasence had the necessary physical attributes which make a great screen villain. In the course of his lengthy career, he relished playing the obsessed...
 
39.
John Ritter
Jonathan Southworth Ritter was born in Burbank, California, on September 17, 1948. He was the son of legendary country singer/actor Tex Ritter and his wife, actress Dorothy Fay. The couple married in 1941 and had their first child, Tom Ritter, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. John was destined to follow in his parents footsteps...
 
40.
Cliff Robertson
Actor, Spider-Man
A serious and talented actor, at his best playing somewhat troubled characters, Cliff Robertson has been a fairly successful leading man through most of his career without ever becoming a major star. Following strong stage and television experience, he made an interesting film debut in a supporting role in Picnic...
 
41.
Albert Salmi
Actor, Caddyshack
"Finland's Favorite Son" was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1927 to Finnish immigrants Svante and Ida Salmi. They lived in a Finnish community, and Albert's parents only spoke Finnish around the home. Whereas some kids might enjoy playing hooky, when Albert reported for his first day of school, his teacher told him to come back when he could speak English...
 
42.
Vincent Schiavelli
Vincent Schiavelli, selected in 1997 by Vanity Fair as one of the best character actors in America, had made over 120 film and television appearances. He studied acting at NYU's Theatre Program. Aside from his acting career, Vincent was the author of three cookbooks, and has written numerous articles on food for magazines and newspapers. In 2001, he received the James Beard Journalism Award.
 
43.
Joseph Schildkraut
An imposing Austrian import-turned-matinée idol on the silent screen, Hollywood actor Joseph Schildkraut went on to conquer talking films as well -- with Oscar-winning results. Inclined towards smooth, cunning villainy, his Oscar came instead for his sympathetic portrayal of Captain Alfred Dreyfus in The Life of Emile Zola...
 
44.
Frank Silvera
He was a highly successful black actor/director in the 1950s and 1960s who - because of his light-skinned appearance - transcended race and ethnicity in his performances. In motion pictures, Frank Silvera was cast as black, Latino, Polynesian and "white"/racially indeterminate (due to black + white film stock's lack of discernment when rendering light-skinned African-Americans)...
 
45.
Inger Stevens
As a child she moved to Manhattan, Kansas, where she lived all the way through high school. When her father moved away, she moved in with a friend and stayed. She took dance classes at Kansas State University, then moved to Kansas City, where she taught dance and first got into modeling.
 
46.
Ernest Truex
The ultimate milquetoast and ineffectual boss in comedy outings, meek character actor Ernest Truex was a small (5'3"), adenoidal, very well-dressed fellow, a popular avuncular type in later years who enjoyed a seven-decade-long career. He was born September 19, 1889, in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of a physician...
 
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48.
Jack Warden
Jack Warden was born John Warden Lebzelter, Jr. on September 18, 1920 in Newark, New Jersey, to Laura M. (Costello) and John Warden Lebzelter. His father was of German and Irish descent, and his mother was of Irish ancestry. Raised in Louisville, Kentucky, at the age of seventeen, young Jack Lebzelter was expelled from Louisville's DuPont Manual High School for repeatedly fighting...
 
49.
Jane Wyatt
Born in Campgaw, New Jersey, Jane Waddington Wyatt came from a New York family of social distinction (her father was a Wall Street investment banker and her mother was a drama critic). Jane was raised from the age of three months in New York City and attended the fashionable Chapin School and later Barnard College...
 
50.
Ed Wynn
Long-time star comedian in vaudeville who, at the urging of his actor son, Keenan Wynn, would late in life take up acting, both light and serious. He is especially remembered for his role in the Playhouse 90 television drama "Requiem for a Heavyweight" and in the film Mary Poppins.