Ian Abercrombie passed on 26 January 2012 at the age of 77. The cause was kidney failure. He had been diagnosed with lymphoma.
Ian Abercrombie was born in Grays, Essex on 11 September 1934. He started out as a dancer and at age 17 migrated to the United States. He made his debut on stage in Stalag 17 in 1955. In 1957 he was drafted into the United States Army. He served in Special Services in Germany. After he was demobilised Mr. Abercrombie appeared on stage in the Los Angeles area. He made his feature film debut in an uncredited role in Von Ryan's Express in 1965. He made his television debut the same year in an episode of Amos Burke Secret Agent. For the remainder of the Sixties he appeared in the TV shows as Dragnet and Get Smart. He appeared in the movies Star! (1968), They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1968), and The Molly Maguires (1970).
In the Seventies Ian Abercrombie guest starred on the shows O'Hara U. S. Treasury, Search, Columbo, Barnaby Jones, Cannon, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, Battlestar Galactica, and The Life and Times of Eddie Roberts. He appeared in such movies as Wicked, Wicked (1973), Young Frankenstein (1974), Sextette (1978), The Prisoner of Zenda (1979), and Blood Beach (1980). In the Eighties he appeared in such TV shows as Quincy M.E., Knot's Landing, The Devlin Connection, Happy Days, Tucker's Witch, Three's Company, Airwolf, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Hotel, L. A. Law, Dynasty, Moonlighting, Tales From the Crypt, Twin Peaks, The Flash, and Alf. Mr. Abercrombie was a regular on the soap opera Santa Barbara. He appeared in such movies as Getting Even (1981), The Ice Pirates (1984), Last Resort (1986), Flicks (1987), and Warlock (1989).
In the Nineties he appeared in such movies as Zandalee (1991), Puppet Master 3: Toulon's Revenge (1991), Army of Darkness (1992), Addams Family Values (1993), Mousehunt (1997), and Wild Wild West (1999). He was a semi-regular on the sitcom Seinfeld. He guest starred on such shows as Coach, The Nanny, Murphy Brown, Northern Exposure, Cybil, Babylon 5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Star Trek: Voyager. In the Naughts he was a regular on ChromiumBlue.Com, Birds of Prey, and The Wizards of Waverly Place. He provided the voice of Chancellor Palpatine for the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars. He appeared on such shows as Crossing Jordan, The District, Nip/Tuck, Charmed, Summerland, Desperate Housewives, and How I Met Your Mother. He appeared in the films Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School (2005), Inland Empire (2006), and Based on a True Story (2008). He was the voice of Ambrose on Rango (2011).
Ian Abercrombie was the modern day equivalent of the great characters of old. He was very rarely cast in major roles in films and he was a regular on TV shows only a few times. Most of his career was spent in guest appearances on television programmes and small parts in movies. Despite this he was always memorable and his characters were memorable as a result. Although he was only on screen for a few minutes, he easily made an impression as the Wiseman in Army of Darkness. By the same token, he only appeared in seven episodes of Seinfeld as Elaine's boss Mr. Pitt, yet everyone remembers the character better than many who appeared more often on the show. Ian Abercrombie had a talent for creating believable characters in a very limited time on screen, a talent he put to good use throughout his career.