Martin Milner, Star of ‘Adam-12,’ ‘Route 66,’ Dies at 83

Martin Milner Dead
Courtesy of NBC

Martin Milner, who starred on TV on “Adam-12” with Kent McCord and, earlier, on “Route 66” with George Maharis, died Sunday night, Diana Downing, a representative for his fan page, confirmed. He was 83.

Milner was also known for his roles as a jazz guitarist in the brilliant 1957 film “Sweet Smell of Success” and in the 1967 camp classic “Valley of the Dolls.”

Milner began acting in movies while a teen, after his father got him an agent, first appearing in the 1947 classic “Life With Father.” The film starred William Powell and Irene Dunne, and thus Milner, along with his co-star Elizabeth Taylor, bridged the generations in Hollywood between the golden age and contemporary era.

He appeared as Officer Pete Malloy alongside Kent McCord’s Officer Jim Reed in NBC’s “Adam-12” from 1968-75. Malloy was the seasoned, savvy veteran bringing along Reed who was, at first, a rookie.

The innovative series had a more realistic quality than previous cop shows: The partners, on which the show narrowly focused, would patrol with no idea what they would encounter through the course of the day, and viewers got to witness the highs and lows in their lives.

Milner had a long association with Jack Webb, whose Mark VII Ltd. produced “Adam-12” and had produced “Dragnet” since 1951. After Webb and Milner met on the set of the movie “Halls of Montezuma” in 1950, Webb cast Milner in various roles on “Dragnet” in the early ’50s, first on radio and then when the crime drama transitioned to TV, where Milner appeared in six episodes of “Dragnet” from 1952-55.

Milner even appeared as a drummer in the Webb-directed 1955 feature “Pete Kelly’s Blues.” (The actor did not know how to play the guitar, so he was not really playing in “Sweet Smell of Success.”)

Webb later chose Milner to star in “Adam-12” and directed the pilot episode; as a producer, Webb liked to do crossover episodes between his various series for promotional purposes; Officers Molloy and Reed were introduced on episodes of “Dragnet” and also appeared on episodes of the brief Mark VII show “The D.A.,” starring Robert Conrad, as well as on “Emergency.”

“Route 66” ran on CBS from 1960-64, about a decade before “Adam-12” and resolutely not produced by Webb: Written and lensed across North America and inspired by the spirit of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” the series followed Milner’s Tod Stiles and George Maharis’ Buz Murdock as they traveled from town to town in a Corvette, exploring social issues and the changing cultural landscape.

As “Adam-12” ended in 1975, Milner transitioned smoothly to the Irwin Allen-produced series “Swiss Family Robinson,” in which he played the paterfamilias. When that series proved short lived, Milner went on to appear in a variety of TV movies; there was also a guest spot on “Police Story.”

In the 1989 TV movie “Nashville Beat,” Kent McCord (who had a story credit) and Milner reunited onscreen, with McCord as a cop from L.A. who visits Milner, a onetime LAPD officer who moved to Nashville and rose to captain. Together they fight a man behind increasing gang activity.

Also in the ’80s Milner guested on “Fantasy Island,” “Airwolf” and “MacGyver” (playing MacGyver’s father), among other shows. On “Murder, She Wrote” he appeared in five different roles between 1985 and 1996.

After his last visit with Jessica Fletcher, the actor appeared on “Diagnosis Murder” in 1997 and thereupon retired from the screen.

Back at the beginning of his career, the young, clean-cut Milner appeared in a number of war movies, including two with John Wayne, “Sands of Iwo Jima” and “Operation Pacific,” and one with Richard Widmark, “Halls of Montezuma.” (The actor did a sizable number of war movies, of varying quality, over the course of his film career.) But Milner also did a teen-centered comedy and a teencentric social-issues drama.

He got his start in television early in his career and early in the history of the medium, guesting on “The Lone Ranger” in 1950 and recurring on eight episodes of “The Stu Erwin Show” in 1950-51.

Milner moved between film and TV throughout the 1950s.

In 1951’s “I Want You,” starring Dana Andrews, Dorothy McGuire and Farley Granger, Milner’s character has been drafted for service in the Korean War, and his father pleads with Milner’s employer to declare the kid “indispensable,” which would mean he could continue working and avoid the fight. Milner’s employer, played by Andrews, refuses, and Milner’s character is later killed in action. Milner had not yet made it: Though his role (if not, perhaps, his performance) is central to the film, the New York Times did not mention him by name in its review.

The actor appeared in the film noir “The Captive City”; the comic fantasy “My Wife’s Best Friend,” starring Anne Baxter; and the Western “Springfield Rifle,” with Gary Cooper, to give a sense of the miscellany of assignments Milner was drawing in the early ’50s.

In 1955 he appeared in a small role in”Mister Roberts,” starring Henry Fonda, James Cagney and William Powell.

By 1956 the tide had turned for Milner: He was now doing more television than film, perhaps frustrated that he was still relegated to little more than bit parts in A pictures and had to rely on B pictures for somewhat more substantive supporting roles. Still, he had a couple of his most memorable film roles ahead of him.

In 1957 he appeared in two pictures starring Burt Lancaster. The first was “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral,” in which Milner played James, the youngest of the four Earp brothers (at least in the movie). The second was “Sweet Smell of Success,” a very different film in which Lancaster played a caustic New York columnist who’s inappropriately possessive of his sister, who becomes romantically involved with Milner’s jazz guitarist; Lancaster’s character stops at nothing to destroy this relationship. Milner finally turned in an impressive performance in an A picture, and even got his mention in the New York Times: “Marty Milner is sincere and believable as her indomitable romantic vis-a-vis.”

He subsequently had decent supporting roles in A pictures “Marjorie Morningstar,” starring Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly, and “Compulson,” starring Orson Welles, Dean Stockwell and Bradford Dillman. Reviewing the latter, the Times said, “Mention should be made, too, of Martin Milner’s restrained depiction of her fiancé.”

Despite the success these newest film roles represented Milner was spending more and more of his time guesting on various TV series, and he seemed to decide that exploitation films would afford him more exposure. In 1960 he made two very silly, very bad movies with Mamie Van Doren and the horror film “13 Ghosts,” produced by William Castle. He was prominently featured in all of these.

But then “Route 66” changed the course of his career.

Martin Sam Milner was born in Detroit. Both his parents were in showbiz: His father was a film distributor, his mother a dancer.

Milner was a man of various interests. He tried Broadway in 1967 in brief-running “The Ninety Day Mistress.”

After he stopped acting, he co-hosted a radio show in Southern California, “Let’s Talk HookUp,” about freshwater and saltwater fishing, for a number of years. In the early 1970s he bought a 24-acre avocado farm where he lived with his family.

Survivors include Milner’s wife, Judith Bess “Judy” Jones, a former singer and actress to whom he had been married since 1957; daughter Molly; and sons Stuart and Andrew. Daughter Amy, who appeared in an episode of “Adam-12,” died of acute myeloid leukemia in 2004.

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  1. NBC Fan says:

    I meant big screen.

  2. NBC Fan says:

    It’s time that Adam-12 came to the bug screen as a comedy flick. BTW, R.I.P. Double M.

  3. Ric says:

    I too was hooked on his acting style, lack of drama in his life, roles he was continuously able to get and develop and his finally cable gig, a sportsman’s show about fishing which named “Let’s get hooked up.” He never lost his humor or confidence. In 2009, I bought a former police car at auction. The key ring fob says, “A211” hence “1 A 12.” His passing was a shaker.

  4. scott says:

    So saddened to learn of Martin’s passing. The ultimate entertainer! Got hooked on his style growing up with Rt. 66! A genuine class act! Always knew whatever you were about to watch…if it had Mr. Milner in…it was going to be good! So sad for his wife of so many years. Had to be sole mates! That’s his most admired and impressive accomplishment! A traditional husband and family man in a business where those traits are hard to find! His respectability will be his legacy!

  5. Ken Feraru says:

    The streets of Heaven are now patrolled by Officer Pete Malloy in a 1968 Plymouth. We’ll miss ya, Marty.


  7. Chris says:

    I just found out about Milners passing. In hit me hard. I still watch re-runs of Route 66 and Adam 12.
    He will always have a spot in me that when I think of what he did will make me happy. Thanks Tod, Kent.

  8. Fred says:

    I read an interview with him, 30 years? ago.
    Martin said: I an not a star, I am a working actor.
    I really enjoyed him on every show I saw him on. Thanks for the memorys
    Martin, you were great.

  9. The show was a great show,showing how police work is dangerous,how these great brave souls,put their lives on the line to protect us,from all misery.God bless them all.

  10. Michael Patrick Flynn says:

    Great human being and he was a great influence on my llife He was the motovating infuence why I became a cop. Thanks Marty.

  11. Robert Wynn says:

    When i was little my father put me up on his shoulders and we watch Martin Milner filming route 66 downtown Phoenix. I will never forget that.

  12. CJ wood says:

    Rest In Peace Martin Milner! I will always REMEMBER You in Route 66 & Adam 12!

  13. scottwil says:

    You shouldn’t confuse his career with what you remember most, if you’re “young”. His big trademark, identity-making show was Route 66. When Adam-12 was on, you always knew that’s Martin Milner from Route 66.

  14. jamie h. says:

    RIP Mr. Milner
    Prayer to your wife and family.

  15. Never to be replicated, Adam 12 will always be the defining police show for me of all time. What they projected to the audience was genuine and impossible to find like so many things anymore. Thank you Martin Milner, you will always be the savvy officer Pete Malloy in my memory, glad I got to see you in such a noble role.

  16. Darwins Myth says:

    I watch Adam-12 nearly every day on retro TV. I know that everyone passes to the other side, eventually, but that didn’t make this news any less shocking. It’d be nice to know his political and religious views, and not just his acting, but I guess, if we watch enough of his videos, we might get a slim idea. I hope to see him… RIP.

  17. I grew up watching Adam 12, My brother and I both became interested in law enforcement because of it. I don’t know why, but Martin Milner’s passing really got to me. I just had to say that. RIP Martin Milner.

  18. Rich Redfern says:

    I loved him in Marjorie Morningstar, opposite Natalie Woods and Gene Kelly. I’ll always remember that role, which in my opinion, was one of his best.

  19. Well, it may not have been a LOD death, but he certainly gave his all in “Adam-12” and inspired a whole generation to consider law enforcement as a career. He will be greatly missed.

    1-Adam-12. . . . . 1-Adam-12. . . . . 1-Adam-12. . . . . 1-Adam-12 10-7 End of Watch – 9/6/2015

  20. David says:

    His character in Mr. Roberts as the befuddled, shore patrol officer from Alabama reporting to Henry Fonda the outrageous antics of the sailors on liberty was priceless. Every time I watch Mr. Roberts, I can’t wait to see Milner’s scene. It was so funny and memorable.

  21. Frank T says:

    R.I.P Pete Malloy — You earned your 10-7 ..JOB WELL DONE!

  22. Luis Toledo Valdés says:

    Desde Chile; una pena que haya muerto este gran actor, siempre lo recordaremos como el Oficial Pete Malloy, esta partiendo la gente buena. Un saludo a sus familiares.

  23. Dodie says:

    My deepest condolences to the Milner family.. Loved him in life with father as well as in the old horror classic “Thirteen Ghosts” many prayers for all who held him close to their hearts…

  24. Paul says:

    Sorry to hear about Marty Milner…met him on Route 66 in Maryland with my brother George Maharis…God Bless.

  25. G Scher says:

    I am sure he also was in the show “The Life of Riley” with William Bendix. He played the boyfriend of Riley’s daughter. Am I correct?

  26. It is a rare thing to cry when someone like a celebrity passes, someone you technically don’t even know. But when I heard of his passing, I cried. Maybe that’s because we all did know him. His kindness, his genuine nature, it was there for all of us to see, and it effected us all as well. We didn’t watch Adam 12 because it was such a great show, it was such a great show because of him and Kent. Some of you may recall Kent chided him and called him the “Strawberry Fox”…on the show. God speed strawberry fox, and thank you for everything. It is a debt we cannot hope to repay.

    • Fred says:

      Part of our sadness is the fact that we got older with him. We aren’t far behind him.
      God Bless all of you reading this. Martin was a great stable actor.

  27. Bev says:

    My children and I loved to watch adam12..didn’t miss an episode.May he rip.

  28. Ric Sart says:

    Having lived a life during this performers career. I could not possibly count the number of hours that he had been a part of the escape entertainment should always strive to be. I for one know that today the glitz has given away to the bling. SAG members are being measured often for their ability as diversified corporate entities as much as the ability to take an audience out their individual daily lives. But I always had enjoyed the story and performances in the works of this neighbor and was never distracted by his politics or court appearances. May he rest in Peace

  29. he was always underrated as an actor. I liked him in whatever I saw. Prayers for his wife of 58 years (amazing in Hollywood!) and his children.

  30. Yolanda says:

    I’m very sad to hear this news as well! Like A I had a crush on him too and continue to watch everythineverything he worked in. Adam 12 and Route 66 were and are my favorites.
    My love and prayers are with his lovely family

  31. Diane sixta says:

    I am so sad to hear this!!!!! I just loved watching Mr. MILNER and Mr. McCORD in ADAM12. . I would rush home from school to see them on the reruns. I loved MARTIN in that silly movie 13 GHOSTS. and on the episode of TWLIGHT ZONE. HE WILL BE MISSED😢😢😢😢😢😢😢

  32. How did he die? RIP Martin Miliner

  33. Neil says:

    Wow. Just saw him last night in a “Colombo” rerun on ME-TV. Always loved his style, be it “Sweet Smell of Success” or the laconic, drawling Shore Patrol sailor bringing Henry Fonda up to date on the doings of his brawling shore-leave crew in “Mister Roberts.” What a loss.

  34. .So sad to see another actor that I use to watch die..R.I..P,, Martin Milner you were and awesome actor

  35. S.A. Hand says:

    One of those who may have influenced a couple of kids to get into law enforcement! Sorry to hear the sad news.

  36. A says:

    I had the biggest crush on him. I watched everything I could find of his. I loved his smile,eyes and face. God bless you my love. May you protect us in heaven.l7

  37. Robert says:

    He will be greatly missed in our family. Grew up watching Adam-12, route 66.

  38. Mjkbk says:

    Wow, no mention of Mr. Milner’s two years of Army service, nor his two years away from the industry while recovering from polio?

    That biographical info is widely available, but writer Carmel Dagan seems to have ignored it. In fact, her obituary has some telling episodes of sneering, belittling tone.

    I don’t see that much to deride in Mr. Milner’s early output. He was extraordinarily fortunate to be involved in a quite a few well-regarded projects before his 30th birthday.

    But Ms. Dagan goes out of her way to tell us we REALLY didn’t hear him playing guitar in one movie (so what?), then offers her REVIEWS (“very bad, very silly”) of a few lesser efforts in his resume (who doesn’t have THOSE?). She even claims that Mr. Milner “seemed to have decided” that exploitation films were the way to further his career.

    She thought the man’s OBITUARY was a good place to practice her ‘mind-reading’ skills?

    And to think another commenter here wondered why his passing was reported to celebrity gossip site TMZ, instead of a “reputable” outlet. Well, at least the TMZ writer didn’t try to ‘imagine’ Martin Milner’s thoughts.

    Mr. Milner, I always enjoyed your many projects, from the first time I saw your work. I also was pleased to see that you were a good man. The two–enjoyable output by a good person–don’t always go hand-in-hand. May you rest in peace, dear sir. My condolences go out to your family, friends, and fans.

  39. Phil Dambach says:

    My wife went to school with Amy and she graduated from Fallbrook High School in 1975. Living in Fallbrook back then its not surprising that they lived there and with the Avocado Farm it was the Avocado capital of the area with Calavo being the producer. He was a great actor and I really enjoyed his films but Adam-12 was the one I enjoyed the most growing up.

  40. David Joseph DeMarco, In Tucson, AZ. Age 56 says:

    I watched your show Adam 12 since, I was a little boy, growing up in Ohio. You and Kent. McCord were my hero’s! But my fondest memories of your earliest years, was when you were the young recruit just meeting “The Duke” in the 1948 War Film Sands of Iwo Jima as Cpl. Mike. McCue from Cedar Rapids, IA, to see that this war got ended in a hurry. You died on the side of that Hill in Iwo Jima, with your pocket full of books, “Our Hearts were young and gay”. *Back when the term meant happy go lucky. Sir you will be sadly missed! Thank You for your contribution to all the films & show’s. Good-Bye from your biggest fan

  41. ric2008 says:

    An excellent actor…always the kool demeanor..will be missed!

  42. Cynthia Kester says:

    My best friend and neighbor would spend Friday evenings watching Route 66. Todd Stiles was my favorite. It was so good to see him on Murder She Wrote. Always enjoyable.

  43. Lynne Marton says:

    WOW!!! I also grew up watching Route 66 and then grown up with Adam-12. I have seen many of the films and also most of the other TV shows he was in. He always was a favourite of mine – no matter what kind of a role it was!!
    My sincere condolences to his wife Judy and his whole family.
    Rest In Peace, Martin Milner – you deserve it. You always were special, and you’ll be missed!!!

  44. Dennis Cooley says:

    I grew up watching Adam-12 and loved the show. Their AMC Ambassador was cool. Great actors, they portrayed policemen professionally. Sorry to hear that Officer Malloy has passed. I need to watch Adam-12 again.

  45. Rick VanSice says:

    I watched Adam-12 religiously and that series was the biggest reason I became a Police Officer. He portrayed the “senior partner” and wise-man that rookies looked to for guidance and mentor-ship…and lived up to that in my eyes, R.I.P. Ofc Malloy / Martin Milner You may have been an actor, but in reality you were really a mentor and idol in the eyes of many who became Police Officers in real life.

  46. My condolences to the Milner family. I know Andy Miller through my brother Wally Passet my heart goes out to him and the whole family. Martin was a great actor, & he looked like a very kind man although I never met him. I just love Andy and my prayer are with him and the Milner Family.
    Sincerely Maggie Passet Nichols.

    • Mike Sindelar says:

      Adam 12 influenced me to pursue a career as a deputy sheriff in Southern California in 1973 and 42 years later I am still a deputy at a sheriff’s office in New Mexico. Pete Malloy was the kind of cop that I always wanted to be and hopefully now that I am older and wiser (maybe) I am close to that standard. God rest his soul and give his family joy at his memory.

  47. wishinwell says:

    One of my Father’s favorite show and mine,Adam-12,still watch on a classic TV channel, remember him in ‘sweet smell of success’ which they still give on TCM, thanks for the entertainment,Condolences to his wife and children.

  48. Carol Scott says:

    Sorry for the loss. My condolences to the survivors; prayer offered for the family.

  49. p grave says:

    Fine actor Route 66 and watching my dream cars

  50. Ric Carver says:

    How sad to hear about “Marty”. I was in the US Army and stationed at Ft. Ord, CA. in 1953. He was attached to “Special Services”. and I was in the Band. Got to know him along with “David Jannsen” another Actor who starred in ” The Fugitive”. Marty was a great fun loving guy and always had a lot of stories to tell about his career in Hollywood. Saw him several times in Los Angeles when I was discharged and followed his Movie & TV Career for many years. My condolences to his family.
    Ric Carver

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