Saturday, November 19, 2005

Harold J. Stone R.I.P.

Veteran character Harold Stone, whose career stretched from the forties to the eighties, has passed on. He was 92 years old. Although hardly famous, his face is probably recognisable to most people, having made guest appearances in over 150 TV show episodes, appeared as a regular in 5 TV shows, and movies ranging from Hollywood blockbusters to genre B movies.

Stone was born into a family of actors and made his debut at a young age on stage. He had considered going into medicine, even going so far as to get a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Buffalo's medical school. Instead of becoming a physician, however, Stone found himself drawn into the family business. Stone made his debut on Broadway in 1939 in The World We Make. He would appear in the next year in The Morning Star. Over the years Stone would appear on the Broadway stage several times, in such plays as A Bell for Adano (1944), Irma La Douce (1960), and a revival of Charley's Aunt (1972).

Stone made his movie debut in an uncredited part in The Blue Dahlia in 1946. Over the years he appeared in numerous movies. He appeared in such classics as The Wrong Man, The Harder They Fall, and Spartacus. A character actor through and through, he made his share of B movies: The Invisible Boy, Girl Happy (yes, that's right--an Elvis movie...), and X: the Man with the X Ray Eyes (the AIP classic).

Stone's biggst impact as an actor may well have been on television. He was seen regularly on the small screen throughout the Fifties, Sixties, and Seventies. He made guest appearances on such varied shows as You Are There, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, Have Gun Will Travel, Gilligan's Island, Hogan's Heroes, The Rockford Files, and Charlie's Angels. He was a regular on The Hartmans, The Goldbergs, The Walter Winchell File, The Grand Jury, My World and Welcome to It, and Bridget Loves Bernie. He earned an Emmy nomination for his guest appearance on the 1962 medical drama The Nurses.

I don't think it can be said that Harold Stone was a great actor. That having been said, he did seem to have a wide range. With a Romanesque nose and a strong jaw, his features naturally lent themselves to playing heavies, although he had his share of sympathetic parts as well. Over the years he played everything from con men to military officers to police officers to kindly grandparents. It was Stone's flexibility that allowed him to have a career that lasted over 40 years. As a familiar face from a number of movies and TV shows from my childhood, I must say I am saddened by his death.

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