Monday, 23 April 2012

The Late Great Garry Walberg

You might not recognise Garry Walberg's name, but if you have ever watched very many television shows made from the Fifties to the Eighties, chances are very good that you would recognise his face. Garry Walberg was a prolific character actor who was appeared as a regular or semi-regular on many shows and guest starred on many more. Among many other roles on various shows and in various films, he was Oscar's buddy Speed on The Odd Couple and Lt. Frank Monahan on Quincy M.E. Garry Walberg died 27 March 2012 at the age of 90. The causes were chronic pulmonary obstructive disease and congestive heart failure.

Garry Walberg was born in Buffalo, New York on 10 June 1921. He first studied acting in Buffalo before moving to New York City to study acting there. It was in 1952 that he made his television debut in 1953 in an episode of the classic sitcom Mister Peepers. In the Fifties he would appear on such shows as Richard Diamond Private Detective, Black Saddle, State Trooper, The Twilight Zone, Law of the Plainsman, Rawhide, The Rifleman, and Tales of Wells Fargo. He was a regular on the detective series Johnny Staccato, playing the role of Police Sgt. Sullivan. In 1959 he made his film debut in The Gangster Story.

In the Sixties Mr. Walberg was a regular on Peyton Place for three seasons, playing Sgt. Edward Goddard. He guest starred on such shows as Michael Shayne, Outlaws, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Perry MasonThe Detectives, Have Gun--Will Travel, The Real McCoys, Combat, Dr. Kildare, Ben Casey, The Virginian, Star Trek, The Fugitive, The Invaders, Lassie, Land of the Giants, Green Acres, Then Came Bronson, and Bonanza. He appeared in the movies Charro! (1969), The Maltese Bippy (1969), Tell Them Willie Boy is Here (1969), and They Call Me MISTER Tibbs! (1970).

Garry Walberg ended the Sixties and began the Seventies in one of his best known roles, that of Oscar's friend and poker buddy Speed on The Odd Couple. He was a semi-regular on the show from 1970 to 1974. It was in the late Seventies that he would play what may be his best known role, that of Lt. Frank Monahan on Quincy M.E. The series reunited him with old Odd Couple co-star Jack Klugman, who played the title role of Dr. Quincy M.E. Mr. Walberg began with the show when it debuted as one of the rotating elements of The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie in 1976 and remained with it from when it transitioned into its own series in 1977 and until it ended its run in 1983. In addition to his semi-regular role on The Odd Couple and his regular role on Quincy M.E., Mr. Walberg guest starred on such shows as Storefront Lawyers, Medical Centre, Columbo, Banacek, Search, Ironside, Love American Style, Kojak, Gunsmoke, The Waltons, and Mannix. He appeared in such feature films as The Organisation (1971), The Andromeda Strain (1971),  When the Legends Die (1972), Revenge of the Cheerleaders (1976), King Kong (1976), Two-Minute Warning (1976), and MacArthur (1977).

In the Eighties Garry Walberg appeared in the television movies Command 5 and The Spirit (a failed pilot based on the classic comic book character). He guest starred on Hardcastle and McCormick, Hotel, and Murder She Wrote. In 1993 he appeared on television in the reunion movie The Odd Couple: Together Again, reprising his role as Speed. It was his last appearance on screen.

If Garry Walberg appeared in so many television shows and movies over the years, it was perhaps because of his sheer versatility. He was as adept at playing comedy as he was drama. What is more, he could play nearly any role given him convincingly. One need no further than his two most famous roles, which was similar in some ways were in many ways quite different. He played the perpetually grumpy, often acerbic Speed on The Odd Couple. On Quincy M.E. he played  Lt. Monahan, who was initially sceptical of Quincy's theories and often exasperated with the medical examiner. His guest appearances on various shows could often be very different. On an episode of Land of the Giants, "Seven Little Indians," he played a rather sadistic guard. In the episode of Gunsmoke "The Buffalo Hunter" he played a buffalo skinner who helps Marshall Dillon bring his murderous boss to justice.

Throughout his career on television and in film Garry Walberg played everything from doctors to police officers to generals to lawyers to criminals. He was as convincing as a Starfleet officer on Star Trek as he was a cowboy on Outlaws. While there can be no doubt that he will be best remembered as Speed on The Odd Couple and Lt. Monahan on Quincy M.E., his career was filled with many more roles on various TV shows and in film, all of which he did well. 

2 comments:

Raquelle said...

When I discovered Quincy M.E. some months ago, I was happy to note that all of the major characters were still alive. Now Garry Walberg was the first to pass away. I'm so sad. He was a wonderful actor. While he was great in The Odd Couple, I really loved his Quincy M.E. character LT. Monahan. Godspeed Garry!

Thanks so much Terry for writing this wonderful Eulogy!

Enzyte Bob said...

I found this site after watching a "Green Acres" episode. I love the way he articulated his lines.