‘Devil in a Blue Dress’ Actor Mel Winkler Dies at 78

Mel Winkler Variety Obit
Courtesy of Mel Winkler Family

Actor Mel Winkler, known for his work across film, TV, theater and voice acting, died in his sleep on Thursday of unknown causes. He was 78.

Most notably, Winkler played Joppy, the best friend of Denzel Washington’s character Easy Rawlins in the 1995 thriller “Devil in a Blue Dress.” He also held minor roles in films such as “Doc Hollywood” in 1991 and 2005’s “Coach Carter.”

Winkler was born in St. Louis, Mo., on Oct. 23, 1941, and served as a captain in the U.S. Army prior to becoming an actor. Winkler began his career in 1969 on the TV show “The Doctors,” appearing in a total of 68 episodes. He also had guest roles on series like “American Playhouse,” “As the World Turns,” “The Cosby Show,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “ER” and “NYPD Blue.”

Besides acting in film and TV, Winkler voiced several animated characters, including that of Lucius Fox in “The New Batman Adventures” from 1997 to 1998, and Johnny Snowman in “Oswald” from 2001 to 2003. He was also the voice of the mask Aku Aku in four editions of the “Crash Bandicoot” video games, which were released between 1998 and 2003. Winkler acted on stage as well, appearing on Broadway in August Wilson’s 1988 play “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” and Neil Simon’s “Proposals” from 1997 to 1998. Winkler’s last role was in the film “The Disciple” in 2008.

“Mel was a consummate professional … always willing to share his knowledge and wisdom on any given subject,” Courtney Benson, a spokesperson for Winkler’s family, said in a statement. “His infectious smile and love for family will forever be missed. He was a giant amongst many.”

Winkler is survived by his two children, Maury and Mark Winkler, as well as his four granddaughters.