Actor Frank Aletter, who starred in the sitcom It's About Time and appeared in many others, passed on May 13 at the age of 83. The cause was cancer.
Frank Aletter was born on January 14, 1926 in Queens, New York. He served in a Special Services Unit in the United States Army in Germany from 1946 to 1948. After leaving the service he studied at the Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, New York. He appeared on Broadway in Wish You Were Here from 1952 to 1953. His film debut was in Mister Roberts in 1955, playing the role of Gerhart. He made his television debut the following year on The Alcoa Hour in 1956. That same year he appeared in the play Time Limit and later Bells Are Ringing on Broadway. In 1959 he appeared on The United States Steel Hour.
The Sixties would see Frank Aletter leave the Broadway stage. While he would appear in a few movies, most of his career would be spent on television. Indeed, his first appearance on a sitcom was also his first starring role on a TV show. Frank Aletter played Buddy Flower on the 1960-1961 sitcom Bringing Up Buddy. Buddy Flower was a stockbroker and bachelor whose prospects for romance were somewhat hampered by the overprotective aunts who raised him. Unfortunately, in lasting only a season Bringing Up Buddy was a sign of things to come for Aletter with regards to situation comedies.
For the next few years Frank Aletter made guest appearances on several shows, including Target: The Corrupters, The Lucy Show, The Twilight Zone, My Favourite Martian, and Perry Mason. The 1964-1965 season would see Aletter in his second lead role in a sitcom, playing opposite Cara Williams in The Cara Williams Show. The two of them played Frank and Cara Bridges, a couple who work at the same business, but must keep their marriage a secret because of the company's rules against married couples working together. It was no more successful than Bringing Up Buddy. It lasted only 20 episodes.
The following season Frank Aletter guest starred on The Fugitive, Twelve O' Clock High, and Ben Casey. It was in 1966 that he appeared in what may be his most famous role, that of the astronaut Mac on the Sherwood Schwartz series It's About Time. The series centred on two astronauts who are thrown back in time to the Stone Age, where they must live with a family of cavemen. Unfortunately, CBS scheduled It's About Time against Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Colour, then a top rated show. After a change of format (in which the astronauts return to the 20th century, taking the cavemen with them) and hence some small changes in the cast, It's About Time ended after one season. Unlike Bringing Up Buddy and The Cara Williams Show, however, It's About Time. would be remembered. Although it has rarely been rerun, let alone released on DVD, the show forms the fond memories of many younger Baby Boomers and older Gen Xers.
During the Sixties Frank Aletter also appeared in the movie A Tiger Walks. He would later appear in the films Tora! Tora! Tora!, Now You See Him, Now You Don't, Run, Cougar, Run, and Private School. Like his earlier career, however, his later career would be spent mostly on television. Aletter appeared on such shows as Petticoat Junction, The Name of the Game, Love American Style, Maude, Ironside, M*A*S*H, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Mannix, Kojak, Cannon, All in the Family, Three's Company, Murder She Wrote, Dallas, and 1st and Ten. Throughout his career, Frank Aletter appeared in over 100 shows.
Aletter was on the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild for many years and was at one time its vice president.
Frank Aletter's career consisted primarily on guest appearances on television shows. As an actor he was very much in demand. In fact, his career could have been much more successful than it was. After all, he did something few actors ever do--he starred in three different sitcoms. Unfortunately, Bringing Up Buddy, The Cara Williams Show, and It's About Time would not be hits. The failure of none of these shows was Aletter's fault (and in the case of It's About Time, it was almost certainly its timeslot) and it is possible that without him they might not have even survived as long as they did. Frank Aletter was charming and possessed a gift for comedy. His timing was impeccable. While he had a great career, making many memorable appearances on various TV shows, one was wonders what it could have been if one of his shows had been a success.
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