Friday, August 19, 2016

Godspeed Jack Riley

Jack Riley, who played Dr. Hartley's overly neurotic, cynical, and selfish patient Elliot Carlin on The Bob Newhart Show, was a regular on the short-lived Sixties series Occasional Wife, and provided the voice of Stu Pickles on the animated shows Rugrats and its spinoff All Grown Up, died today at the age of 80. The cause was pneumonia.

Jack Riley was born on December 30 1935 in Cleveland, Ohio. He attended John Carroll University in University Heights, Ohio. He served in the United States Army before becoming a radio personality in his native Cleveland. With Jeff Baxter he had his own show, The Baxter & Riley Show, that aired on the radio station WERE.

It was in 1962 that he made his film debut in an uncredited part in Days of Wine and Roses. He made his television debut as a regular on the sitcom Occasional Wife in 1966, playing lead character Peter Christopher's office rival Wally Frick. In the Sixties he guest starred on the shows Gomer Pyle: USMC; The Flying Nun; I Dream of Jeannie; Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, Bracken's World, Pat Paulsen's Half a Comedy Hour; Love, American Style; The Partridge Family, Hogan's Heroes; and The Red Skelton Hour. He appeared in the film Catch-22 (1970).

It was in 1972 that Jack Riley first appeared as Elliot Carlin, Dr. Hartley's cynical and overly neurotic patient on The Bob Newhart Show. Elliot proved to be one of the most popular of the patients on the show, and Jack Riley continued to appear in the role until the show ended its run in 1978. He was a regular on The Tim Conway Show. During the Seventies Jack Riley also guest starred on The Red Skelton Show, The Good Life, Getting Together, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cannon, Columbo, The Girl With Something Extra, Kung Fu, The Snoop Sisters, Happy Days, Police Woman, Barnaby Jones, Harry O, Alice, The Rockford Files, Barney Miller, and Too Close for Comfort. Surprisingly given how often he was on television, Jack Riley also found time to appear in several movies in the Seventies. He appeared in two films directed  by Mel Brooks during the decade: Silent Movie (1976) and High Anxiety (1977). He would appear in more films made by the director in the coming decade. He also appeared in the films The Todd Killings (1971), The Thief Who Came to Dinner (1973), The Long Goodbye (1973), California Split (1974), The World's Greatest Lover (1977), Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! (1978), and Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (1979).

In the Eighties Jack Riley was a regular on the short lived show Roxie. He guest starred on such shows as Fantasy Island, Simon & Simon, Romance Theatre, One Day at a Time, The Love Boat, Riptide, Diff'rent Strokes, St. Elsewhere (reprising his role as Elliot Carlin), Blacke's Magic, ALF (on which he reprised his role of Elliot Carlin), Charles in Charge, Newhart (playing a very similar role in Elliott Carlin), My Two Dads, and Night Court. He appeared in the films History of the World: Part I (1981), Frances (1982), To Be or Not to Be (1983), Finders Keepers (1984), Night Patrol (1984), Spaceballs (1987), Rented Lips (1988), and Payback (1990).

It was in 1992 that Jack Riley began providing the voice of Stu Pickles on the long-running animated series Rugrats. He was a regular on the series Son of the Beach. He guest starred on such shows as Night Court, Babes, Harry and the Hendersons, Civil Wars, Family Matters, Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, Married with Children, Dave's World, Friends, Coach, Seinfeld, George & Leo, Baywatch, The Drew Carey Show, and Touched by an Angel. He appeared in the films A Dangerous Woman (1993), Theodore Rex (1995), Venus Envy (1997), Boogie Nights (1997), and Chairman of the Board (1998).

In the Naughts Jack Riley continued to provide the voice of Stu Pickles on Rugrats and reprised the role on its spinoff All Grown Up!. He guest starred on the shows Lucky; That 70's Show; Yes, Dear; and Easy to Assemble. He appeared in the films Burl's (2003), Room 6 (2006), Papa's Bag (2007), and Nora Falls (2009).

I think there can be no doubt that Jack Riley will always be remembered as Elliot Carlin on The Bob Newhart Show. He was easily one of the most popular patients on the show, and I think easily one of the greatest supporting characters on television. In fact, the character was so successful that Jack Riley often found himself playing similar characters in guest shots on TV and in small parts in films. That having been said, Jack Riley was immensely talented and capable of playing a wide variety of roles. Indeed, Stu Pickles on Rugrats couldn't be any further from Elliot Carlin. Easy going and absent minded, he seemed unaffected by the sort of anxieties that plagued Elliot daily. He played a wide variety of small roles in films: an executive in Silent Movie, a desk clerk in High Anxiety, Dobish in To Be or Not To Be, and so on. Throughout his career he made frequent guest appearances on television. On Night Court alone he guest starred in the roles of Emil Dutton, Warren Wilson, Dr. Flick, Beepo the Clown, and Jim Wimberly. Jack Riley was a very prolific actor and it was all because he was so very talented.

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