Former SAG president William Schallert, best known as TV dad Martin Lane on “The Patty Duke Show,” died Sunday in Pacific Palisades, Calif. He was 93. His son Edwin confirmed his death.
His most memorable role was as beloved TV dad Martin Lane on “The Patty Duke Show” (1963-66). The performance still resonates: TV Guide slotted him at No. 39 on its list of Greatest TV Dads of All Time in 2004.
Schallert would be familiar to many for his memorable appearance on the famous “The Trouble With Tribbles” episode of the original “Star Trek” series: He played Nilz Baris, the agriculture undersecretary who is outraged to discover that the furry, endlessly reproducing aliens have devoured all the grain.
Schallert served as SAG president from 1979-81 and oversaw a three-month strike in 1980 that centered around rates and residuals for pay TV, videocassettes and videodiscs and included a successful boycott of the year’s primetime Emmy Awards. The strike’s failures were ascribed, fairly or not, to Schallert and other guild leaders, and Schallert responded by leading an effort to merge the union with AFTRA.
He also played a pivotal role in establishing the Committee for Performers with Disabilities in 1981.
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The actor made his bigscreen debut in an uncredited role in “The Foxes of Harrow” (1947), starring Rex Harrison. He subsequently appeared in small roles in “Mighty Joe Young” (1949), John Huston’s “The Red Badge of Courage” (1951) and “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952).
He also had roles in classic science fiction films of the 1950s including “The Man from Planet X” (1951), “Them!” (1954) and “The Incredible Shrinking Man” (1957).
Schallert’s film work led to TV appearances in shows ranging from episodic anthology series such as “Lux Video Theatre” and “Playhouse 90”; variety shows such as “The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show”; Westerns “The Adventures of Jim Bowie,” “Wagon Train,” “Rawhide”; as well as “Perry Mason,” “77 Sunset Strip” and “The Twilight Zone.”
He recurred on “Get Smart,” playing Admiral Harold Harmon Hargrade; guested on “Wild Wild West” as one of the replacements for Ross Martin after the latter’s heart attack.
Other shows on which he was a series regular included “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” (1959-62), as teacher Leander Pomfritt, and “The Nancy Drew Mysteries” (1977-78), as Carson Drew, Nancy’s father.
Schallert maintained a foot in the film realm during the 1960s, earning roles in “Lonely Are the Brave,” with Kirk Douglas and Walter Matthau; “In the Heat of the Night”; and Elvis Presley starrer “Speedway.”
Beginning in the late 1960s, voice work became Schallert’s bread and butter. For the next two decades, he lent his voice to thousands of commercials, animated series and radio spots, including providing the voice for Milton the Toaster for Pop-Tarts.
Schallert spent the 1970s and 1980s working prolifically in TV. He was a regular for Norman Lear’s short-lived “The Nancy Walker Show,” played another dad on “The New Gidget” and reprised roles in “Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis” and “The New Leave It to Beaver.” He also guested on series including “Little House on the Prairie,” “Highway to Heaven,” “Magnum P.I.” and “St. Elsewhere” and appeared in miniseries including “North and South, Book II.”
In 1980, Schallert drew a Daytime Emmy nom for outstanding individual achievement in religious programming for his performance in “The Stable Boy’s Christmas,” an episode in the long-running series “This Is the Life.”
During the 1990s, he was a regular on the series “The Torkelsons,” in which he played an elderly boarder. Patty Duke played his granddaughter in an episode. They reprised their father-daughter roles for 1999 telepic “The Patty Duke Show: Still Rockin’ in Brooklyn Heights.” He also turned in a wide array of guest performances for series ranging from comedy (“Murphy Brown”) to soap opera (“Santa Barbara”) to drama (“ER”).
Schallert’s numerous TV outings during the 2000s including guest gigs on “My Name Is Earl,” “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Medium” and “How I Met Your Mother.” He had a recurring role on “True Blood” as Mayor Norris, and for the TV movie “Recount” (2008), about the 2000 election, he played Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. In 2014 he guested, uncredited, on CBS sitcom “2 Broke Girls.”
Film roles in his later career included performances in “The Jerk” (1979), “Innerspace” (1987), with Dennis Quaid and Martin Short, and “House Party 2” (1991). He made his last bigscreen appearance in “Sweetzer” in 2007.
Schallert also acted in dozens of plays. In 1970-71, he won an Obie Award for his performance in the Off Broadway production of “The Trial of the Catonsville Nine.” He reprised his role for the 1972 film version, produced by Gregory Peck.
Schallert never envisioned himself as an actor. “Being an actor meant you were like Tyrone Power and Robert Taylor, and I didn’t look like that,” he said. “I didn’t understand how important good character actors were.”
A Los Angeles native, William Joseph Schallert grew up steeped in entertainment. He was the son of Los Angeles Times drama critic Edwin Schallert; his mother, Elza, wrote for movie magazines and did radio interviews during the 1930s.
He became interested in acting while a student at UCLA. After graduating and serving a stint in the Army, he returned to Los Angeles to work with a new group, the Circle Theater. In 1961, Theater Arts magazine described the Circle as the “beginning of making Los Angeles a theater town.”
The Hollywood division of the Screen Actors Guild awarded Schallert the Ralph Morgan Award in 1993.
Schallert described his career as a “volume business” and, to the end, he kept up a busy schedule of TV work as well as “Star Trek” convention appearances.
His wife, Rosemarie Diann Waggner, died last year. In addition to Edwin, he is survived by sons Joseph, Mark and Brendan and seven grandchildren.
“Bill Schallert’s remarkable career put him in the rare position of being able to understand actors at all levels of the business,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris in a statement. “He worked virtually every SAG contract, he appeared opposite movie stars and background performers, he was a series regular and an uncredited bit player. He turned this knowledge and experience into service for his fellow actors. Despite leading the union during a very difficult time, 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.”