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Norman Lloyd, Actor in ‘St. Elsewhere’ and Hitchcock’s ‘Saboteur,’ Dies at 106

Norman Lloyd
AP Photo/George Brich

Actor, producer and director Norman Lloyd, best known for his title role in Hitchcock’s “Saboteur” and as Dr. Daniel Auschlander on NBC’s “St. Elsewhere” and famously associated with Orson Welles’ Mercury Theater, died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 106.

His friend, producer Dean Hargrove, confirmed his death and said “His third act was really the best time of his life,” referring to the many historical Hollywood retrospectives and events Lloyd had participated in over the past few decades. Lloyd often said his secret to his long and mostly illness-free life was “avoiding disagreeable people,” Hargrove recounted.

Lloyd was hand-picked by Alfred Hitchcock to play the title character and villain in 1942’s “Saboteur,” and it was his character who tumbled to his death from the top of the Statue of Liberty in the pic’s iconic conclusion.

But the hard-working multihyphenate gained his highest profile only in his late 60s and 70s when he appeared as the wise physician Dr. Auschlander on NBC’s prestige medical drama “St. Elsewhere” from 1982-88.

Lloyd began his eight-decade showbiz career in theater, appearing first with Eva Le Galienne’s Civic Repertory Theater, then joining the original company of the Orson Welles-John Houseman Mercury Theater. In addition to Welles and Houseman, the Mercury players included actors such as Joseph Cotten, Vincent Price and Agnes Moorehead.

The troupe’s first effort was a controversial staging of “Julius Caesar,” written by Welles and set in fascist Italy. Lloyd’s small but critical role as Cinna the Poet in the 1937 production won him critical acclaim.

In 1938, Welles, already a radio performer, created “Mercury Theater on the Air,” a series of hourlong dramas featuring his troupe. Lloyd’s work with the Mercury Theater led to further radio performances, including on Norman Corwin’s “The Undecided Molecule.”

When Welles merged the theater and radio components of the Mercury Theater and moved the troupe to Hollywood in 1940, Lloyd joined them in order to act in Welles’ version of “Heart of Darkness.” The project ended before filming began.

Rather than participating in Welles’ next film, “Citizen Kane,” Lloyd initiated a long-lasting professional relationship with Alfred Hitchcock when the director cast the actor in “Saboteur.” Lloyd also had a supporting role in Hitchcock’s classic “Spellbound.”

Lloyd’s first introduction to behind-the-scenes work was as an assistant on Lewis Milestone’s “Arch of Triumph” (1948), which starred Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer and Charles Laughton.

For the TV anthology “Omnibus” (1952-53), he directed an acclaimed five-part miniseries about Abraham Lincoln, “Mr. Lincoln.” On the first installment, a young Stanley Kubrick was second unit director.

In 1957, Hitchcock insisted on hiring Lloyd as associate producer for his TV series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” a move that Lloyd would later credit with saving him from the blacklist. He went on to exec produce “The Hitchcock Hour” and directed several episodes of both series. He also acted in a number of episodes.

From the 1960s until the early 1980s, Lloyd produced and directed for TV, working on series including “Columbo.” “The Name of the Game” drew the best drama series Emmy 1970, and he shared the award with the other producers. In 1972, he began working as a producer with KCET’s Hollywood Television Theater, reviving plays for TV audiences. He was nominated for an Emmy in 1974 for outstanding special — comedy or drama for “Steambath,” which he exec produced through the Hollywood Television Theater and also helmed stage adaptations for television including Clifford Odets’ “Awake and Sing” in 1972 and the musical “Philemon” in 1976.

After his early stage work, Lloyd returned to direct several Broadway productions, including “Madam, Will You Walk” (with Hume Cronyn) (1953-54), “The Golden Apple” (1957) and “The Taming of the Shrew” (1957). He also staged the first American production of Brecht’s “Galileo,” starring Charles Laughton (1947).

Lloyd’s acting work in films included appearances in Jean Renoir’s “The Southerner” and Charlie Chaplin’s “Limelight.” Other credits included “A Walk in the Sun,” “Scene of the Crime,” “Reign of Terror” and the remake of Fritz Lang’s “M.”

Later films included Scorsese’s “The Age of Innocence,” Peter Weir’s “Dead Poet’s Society” and, in 2005, “In Her Shoes” with Cameron Diaz and Shirley MacLaine.

But Lloyd was an even busier actor on TV. He participated in an early experiment in the medium, appearing in 1939 in NBC’s “The Streets of New York,” directed by Anthony Mann and also featuring Jennifer Jones (then Phyllis Isley).

He worked steadily in television beginning with 1956 outings on “The United States Steel Hour” and “Kraft Theatre,” but he was best known for his role as Daniel Auschlander on NBC’s “St. Elsewhere” from 1982-88.

Late in his career, he made guest appearances on TV shows “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “Wings” and “The Practice.” He was a regular on the show “Seven Days” and appeared in an episode of ABC’s “Modern Family” in 2010.

Born Nov. 8, 1914 in Jersey City, N.J., Lloyd graduated from NYU.

A 2007 documentary about his life, “Who Is Norman Lloyd?,” directed by Matthew Sussman, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

He remained a busy performer to the end, appearing on film panels, at festivals, in student films, and in his own one-man show at the Colony Theatre in Burbank in 2010.

Lloyd’s autobiography, “Stages,” was published in 1993.

The actor was interviewed by Leonard Maltin before a screening of “The Lady Vanishes” at the TCM Classic Film Festival in 2013.

His wife, Peggy Craven Lloyd, a Broadway actress to whom he was married for 75 years, died in 2011. She was 98.

He is survived by two children.