Film and television actor Steve Franken, who starred in 1960s TV series “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” and memorably appeared as the drunken waiter in the Peter Sellers film “The Party,” died Aug. 24 after a battle with cancer. He was 80.
On “Dobie Gillis” Franken played rich teen Chatsworth Osborne Jr., antagonist to the title character, played by Dwayne Hickman. (Franken reprised the role in the 1988 telepic “Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis.”)
Franken also had a lead role on the brief 1964 series “Tom, Dick and Mary” but the character actor spent most of his career in guest roles on a wide variety of TV series and in supporting parts in more than three dozen movies.
On TV he guested on series ranging from “Bewitched” (where he appeared in a number of different roles), “My Favorite Martian,” “The Wild Wild West,” “Love, American Style” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” to “Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island,” “Seinfeld” and “Murphy Brown.”
Assessing the feature comedy classic “The Party,” on its 40th anniversary, one journalist wrote of Franken: “Rivaling Sellers with one of ‘The Party’s’ stand-out performances: Steve Franken as the increasingly inebriated butler, slathering on a layer of slapstick to the proceedings with his incontinent antics. Franken’s interaction with his vexed supervisor, his drunken stroll through the shallow indoor pool, his struggle to rescue the roast chicken perched precariously atop a bewigged socialite’s bouffant hairdo: all comedy gold.”
Franken appeared in Neil LaBute’s “Nurse Betty” in 2000 and as Cardinal Colbert in the 2009 feature thriller “Angels and Demons,” and he recently shot a role in the film “Reach,” set for release next year.
He guested on a 2005 episode of “The King of Queens.” In addition, Franken did voicework for animated series and several videogames, and he also appeared onstage.
Stephen Robert Franken was born in Brooklyn, the son of a press agent, and first appeared on TV and in film in the late 1950s. Other films credits include “Westworld,” “The Missouri Breaks” and “The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu” and “The Curse of the Pink Panther.”
He is survived by his wife Jean and three daughters.
A public memorial is scheduled for Sept. 22 at Theatre West in Los Angeles.