Marvin Kaplan, Character Actor Known for ‘Alice’ and ‘Top Cat,’ Dies at 89

Marvin Kaplan Dead

Marvin Kaplan, a character actor known for the sitcom “Alice” and his voice-over work as Choo-Choo on the animated series “Top Cat,” has died. He was 89.

He died of natural causes on Wednesday in his home in Burbank, Calif., according to a statement released by Theatre West.

Apart from “Top Cat,” Kaplan was well-known for his recurring role on the CBS series “Alice” as Henry Beesmeyer, a phone company employee named who often visited Mel’s Diner. He also appeared in small roles in films such as “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World,” “The Great Race” and “A New Kind of Love.” He played Uncle Pooch in David Lynch’s 1990 “Wild at Heart.”

“It is with a sad and heavy heart to inform you our very own Marvin Kaplan passed away today at 5 a.m. in his sleep,” the statement reads. “We loved Marvin. He will truly be missed.”

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Kaplan was discovered when Katharine Hepburn saw him in a theater production of Moliere, and he made his film debut in 1949’s “Adam’s Rib” starring  Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. Known for his sarcastic and deadpan delivery, Kaplan was featured in a variety of films, TV shows and animated series throughout his 60-plus year career, including “I Dream of Jeannie,” “Love, American Style,” “Petticoat Junction,” “Gidget” and “My Three Sons.” He did voiceover work for animated shows including “Wait Til Your Father Gets Home,” “The Smurfs” and “Johnny Bravo.”

SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said, “Marvin was the face that everyone recognized. He was your kindly neighbor; your favorite uncle or, as he was on the sitcom Alice, a ‘regular guy’ phone company employee and the favorite coffee shop customer. Marvin was one of the most recognizable character actors of his generation, and he was a proud union activist and leader. We are forever grateful for the gift of his work and his service to our members.”

In addition to acting, Kaplan served as AFTRA Los Angeles local president for eight years and Performers’ Governor on the Television Academy. He was also a member of the California Artists Radio Theatre, Motion Picture Academy and the Academy of New Musical Theatre.

A memorial service has been planned at Theatre West in Los Angeles. A date and time has yet to be announced.

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  1. John Luckett says:


  2. Jean Staidle says:

    Marvin Kaplan, hail and farewell! He was a substitute teacher for a few days for us in high school-Los Angeles, Belmont or Eagle Rock-don’t remember which. He was very intelligent, funny, and we did not want our regular teacher to come back. Hah! 1950’s.

  3. George Simms says:

    I had the great pleasure of meeting Mr. Kaplan many years ago when we both appeared on the same episode of “The Joe Franklin Show.” I was lucky that a friend took a photo of the two of us standing together in the Green Room.
    He was remarkably kind and unassuming, and had a warm smile that made everyone feel good. Rest in peace, you dear, funny man.

  4. Steven Brown says:

    My father, ten years senior, was first cousins with Marvin, also from Brooklyn, and accompanied him to one of his first auditions. I’ve followed his career my entire life. In the days before VCR’s, all household activities would STOP and even be scheduled around an appearance of Marvin on TV–whether it was an appearance opposite Sally Field in “Gidget”, an Alka-Selzer commercial, or being a hapless contestant on “The Dating Game”, he always brought joy. In later years, I learned to appreciate him from afar in many other dimensions — an intelligent writer, director, educator, and a most beloved and cherished, highly nurturing member of the theatre community. I am so very, very proud to have shared genes with this mensch!

  5. William B. Warfield says:

    I’ve always enjoyed “Top Cat” (I have both the entire series DVD box set and a “Top Cat” vinyl album from 1962 that features two TV soundtracks, as well as another from 1965 where Top Cat does “Robin Hood”), but having grown up in the 70’s, I’ll always remember Marvin Kaplan as Henry on “Alice.” He was one reason that show was always funny.

    Another great talent has gone. Mr. Kaplan, rest in peace.

  6. JAG GAYNOR says:

    I first remember Marvin Kaplan from an early ’50s sitcom, starring Elena Verdugo, called “Meet Millie.” I later got to know Marvin casually from sitting at the counter of Paty’s Coffee Shop in Toluca Lake, one block out of Burbank. Paty’s is where actors and craftsman went to ‘schmooze’ and eat after work…very casual place. This of course was near NBC, Universal, Warner Bros., Columbia, Disney and all sorts of other major production companies. He was a quiet, unassuming and very nice guy. Marvin, R.I.P. You were a good actor and a funny guy!!!

  7. His voice was so distinctive, and he seemed a sweet guy, great sympathy to his family, we share your loss.

  8. Byron Warner says:

    Rest in Peace, Marvin. Thank you from all of us here in Nashville, for your kindness and thoughtful work in helping us establish our Screen Actors Guild local here.

  9. Good night, old friend. Godspeed on your journey home.

  10. BillUSA says:

    God bless you Marvin. Thank you for the voice-over work on Top Cat – a series I enjoyed a long time ago as a very young boy. Peace be with you and yours.

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