British-born actor Ian Abercrombie, who memorably played Mr. Pitt, Elaine’s wealthy, persnickety boss, on “Seinfeld,” died Thursday, Jan. 26, in Los Angeles from complications of kidney failure. He was 77 and recently had been diagnosed with lymphoma.
In recent years Abercrombie had recurred as an 800-year-old wizard on Disney Channel’s “The Wizards of Waverly Place,” did voicework for “Star Wars: Clone Wars” as Chancellor Palpatine and Darth Sidious and was a series regular on “Birds of Prey” (as Alfred Pennyworth, Batman’s butler). But while he was a near-constant presence on the smallscreen since the late 1960s — with 127 TV credits, according to the IMDb — and appeared in dozens of films, Abercrombie considered himself a stage actor first and foremost.
Born in Grays, Essex, Abercrombie began his showbiz career as a dancer onstage during WWII. Later he made his U.S. stage debut in a 1955 production of “Stalag 17” with Jason Robards and performed in plays in summer stock, regional and Off Broadway venues.
Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1957, he served in Special Services stationed in Germany, directing a production of “Separate Tables” and appearing with Olivia de Havilland in her touring show.
The actor settled in California after his Army stint.
Stage credits over the past four decades include “Mary Stuart,” with Marsha Mason; “Crucifer of Blood,” with Charlton Heston; “The Wrong Box,” with Bill Hutton; “Bent”; “The Vortex,” with Rupert Everett; “Lettice and Lovage”; “Sweet Prince,” with Keir Dullea; “A Doll’s House,” with Linda Purl; and “The Arcata Promise” opposite Anthony Hopkins. The actor drew acclaim for the one-man show “Jean Cocteau — A Mirror Image” and played Alfie Doolittle in “My Fair Lady.”
After making his smallscreen debut in 1965 on “Burke’s Law,” Abercrombie went on to make guest appearances on “Dragnet” and “Get Smart”; on “Columbo,” “Barnaby Jones,” “Cannon” and “The Six Million Dollar Man”; and, during the 1980s, on shows including “Quincy,” “Happy Days,” “Fantasy Island,” “Three’s Company,” “L.A. Law” and “Moonlighting.” During the decade he also had a recurring role on the NBC soap “Santa Barbara,” and he guested on primetime sudsers including “Falcon Crest” and “Dynasty,” while later he appeared on “General Hospital” and “Days of Our Lives.”
During the 1990s he appeared on “The Nanny,” “Murphy Brown,” “Northern Exposure,” “Blossom,” “Touched by an Angel” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” to name just a few. Recent credits included “Desperate Housewives” and “How I Met Your Mother.”
Abercrombie’s film credits include “Army of Darkness” (in which he played Wiseman), “Wild Wild West,” “Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School” and David Lynch’s “Inland Empire,” and he did voicework on animated pics including “Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties” and last year’s “Rango.”
The actor was a founding member and former board member of BAFTA-LA as well as a board member for the Actors Fund.
Abercrombie is survived by three brothers.