Thursday, February 17, 2011

Actor Kennth Mars Passes On

Actor Kenneth Mars, who played the deranged German playwright in The Producers (1968) and Police Inspector Kemp in Young Frankenstein (1974), passed on 12 February, 2011 at the age of 75. The cause was pancreatic cancer.

Kenneth Mars was born on 4 April, 1935 in Chicago. By 1962 he had made his debut on Broadway in The Affair. He would appear on Broadway two more times, in Any Wednesday and The Best Laid Plans. He made his television debut providing additional voices for The Jetsons. He guest starred on Car 54 Where Are You?, Gunsmoke, and Get Smart before being a regular on the short lived series He & She. He would finish out the Sixties with a guest appearance on Mannix, The Debbie Reynolds Show, Room 222, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and That Girl. He made his movie debut as playwright and Nazi buff Franz Liebkind in The Producers. He finished out the Sixties appearing in the film Viva Max (1969).

In the Seventies Mr. Mars appeared in such films as Desperate Characters (1971), What's Up, Doc? (1972), The Parallax View (1974), Young Frankenstein (1970), Night Moves (1975), and The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979). He was a regular on the series Fernwood Tonight. I watched such shows as McMillan and Wife, Ironside, Love American Style, The Bob Crane Show, Harry-O, Wonder Woman, Good Heavens, Barney Miller, Black Sheep Squadron, Supertrain, and Barnaby Jones. He provided voices on the animated series M-U-S-H.

In the Eighties Kenneth Mars appeared in the films Full Moon High (1981), Yellowbeard (1983), Protocol (1984), Fletch (1985), Beer (1985), Prince Jack (1985), Radio Days (1987), For Keeps (1988), Illegally Yours (1988), and Rented Lips (1988). He appeared on such shows as Alice, Cagney and Lacey, Trapper John M. D., Mangum P.I., Remington Steele, The Twilight Zone, and Hardcastle and McCormick. He provided voices for several animated series and the voice of Triton in the Disney feature film The Little Mermaid.

From the Nineties into the Naughts, Mr. Mars appeared on such shows as A Different World, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, L. A. Law, Diagnosis Murder, Party of Five, The Drew Carey Show, The Pretender, Will and Grace, and Oliver Beene. He was  regular on the series Malcolm in the Middle. He provided voices for animated series including Darkwing Duck, The Pirates of Dark Water, Little Mermaid, and Fievel's American Tales. He appeared in the films Shadows and Fog (1991) and Citizen Ruth (1996). He provided voices for the animated feature We're Back: A Dinosaur's Story (1993) and several films in the Land Before Time franchise.

Kenneth Mars was an incredible comedic actor. He had a gift for playing characters who were a good deal left of centre. He also had a gift for voices, making him very much in demand as a voice artist for animated shows, and movies. Perhaps only Kenneth Mars could have played Nazi buff and playwright Franz Liebkind and made him quite so funny.

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