William Schallert, 93, one of the most recognizable character actors in television for more than half a decade and active in union issues, has died, according to SAG-AFTRA, the big- and small screen-artists union.
Schallert was probably best known for his featured role as Martin Lane, Patty Lane's (Duke's) father on The Patty Duke Show. And like Duke, who died recently, he was a former president of the Screen Actor's Guild before its merger with AFTRA.
Lane's career spanned 65 years and included films (In the Heat of the Night, Red Badge of Courage), television (including voice-over work), and the stage.
His hundreds of TV credits, mostly in guest and various recurring roles, included The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Gunsmoke, Twilight Zone, Hawaii Five-O, Get Smart,Star Trek (The Trouble With Tribbles), The Waltons, Medium, How I Met Your Mother, Desperate Housewives, and True Blood, but that list hardly scratches the surface.
“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 enjoyed working with 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.”
On receiving an award from the guild's Hollywood division in 1993, Schallert said: “There are three essential requirements for this award: You have to serve long enough to get noticed, you have to quit before they fire you and you have to stay alive until they decide to give it to you.”
Schallert served in World War II and was SAG president from 1979-81.
He is survived by four sons and seven grandchildren.