Friday, February 1, 2019

The Late Great Dick Miller

Dick Miller, the famous character actor who appeared in such films as A Bucket of Blood (1959), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Big Bad Mama (1974), and Gremlins (1984), died on January 30 2019 at the age of 90.

Dick Miller was born on December 25 1928 in the Bronx. He served in the United States Navy and then attended the City College of New York and Columbia University. He worked at the Bellevue Hospital Mental Hygiene Clinic and the psychiatric department of Queens General Hospital.

It was in 1952 that Mr. Miller moved to California. He made his film debut in 1955 in the movie Apache Woman. Over the next few years he appeared in such films as The Oklahoma Woman (1956), Gunslinger (1956), It Conquered the World (1956), Naked Paradise (1957),   Not of This Earth (1957), Sorority Girl (1957), A Bucket of Blood (1959), and The Little Shop of Horrors (1960). He made his television debut in an episode of Whirlybirds in 1958.  In the late Fifties he also guest starred in the shows as M Squad, Dragnet, The Gale Storm Show, and The Untouchables.

In the Sixties Dick Miller appeared in such films as Capture That Capsule (1961), Premature Burial (1962), The Terror (1963), Wild Wild Winter (1966), The Wild Angels (1966), A Time for Killing (1967), The Trip (1967), and The Wild Racers (1968). He appeared on the TV shows The Roaring 20's, The Lawless Years, Our Man Higgins, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Wagon Train, The Virginian, Branded, Combat!, and Mannix.

In the Seventies Mr. Miller appeared in such films as Night Call Nurses (1972), The Student Nurses (1973), The Slams (1973), Executive Action (1973), The Young Nurses (1973), Truck Turner (1974), Big Bad Mama (1974), Candy Stripe Nurses (1974), Summer School Teachers (1974), Capone (1975), White Line Fever (1975), Darktown Strutters (1975), Crazy Mama (1975), Hollywood Boulevard (1976), Cannonball! (1976), Moving Violation (1976), Mr. Billion (1977), New York, New York (1977), Game Show Models (1977), Starhops (1977), I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978), Corvette Summer (1978), Piranha (1978), The Lady in Red  (1979), Rock 'n ' Roll High School (1979), 1941 (1979), The Happy Hooker Goes Hollywood (1980), Used Cars (1980), and Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype (1980). He appeared on such TV shows as McCloud, Police Woman, Police Story, Hunter, Soap, Alice, Barnaby Jones, and General Hospital.

In the Eighties Dick Miller appeared in such films as The Howling (1981), Heartbeeps (1981), Movie Madness (1982), White Dog (1982), Heart Like a Wheel (1983), Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983), Space Raiders (1983), All the Right Moves (1983), Swing Shift (1984), Gremlins (1984), The Terminator (1984), Explorers (1985), After Hours (1985), Chopping Mall (1986), Project X (1987), Innerspace (1987), Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), The 'Burbs (1989), Ghost Writer (1989), and Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990). He had recurring roles on the TV shows Fame and The Flash. He guest starred on such shows as Open All Night, Police Squad!, Taxi, Knot's Landing, Tales from the Darkside, Amazing Stories, Moonlighting, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Who's the Boss.

In the Nineties Mr. Miller appeared in such films Motorama (1991), Unlawful Entry (1992), Matinee (1993), Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight (1995), and Small Soldiers (1998). He provided a voice for the animated feature film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993). He guest starred in such TV shows as Roc; Eerie, Indiana; Fallen Angels; Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman; Star Trek: Deep Space Nine; Weird Science; ER; Clueless; NYPD Blue; and Snoops. He was a guest voice on Batman: The Animated Series.

In the Naughts he appeared in such films as Route 666 (2001), Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003), Trapped Ashes (2006), and 3rd Shift: Michael's Lament (2009).  He guest starred on the TV show Karen Sisco and provided a guest voice on the animated series Justice League Unlimited. In the Teens he appeared in the films Burying the Ex (2014) and The Adventures of Biffle and Shooster (2015). He is set to appear in the horror movie Hanukkah.

Even though his career unfolded form the Fifties to the Teens, in many ways Dick Miller was a throwback to the character actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood. He appeared in everything from major supporting roles to roles that only had a few minutes' worth of screen time. What is more, he played a wide variety of characters, everything from psychopaths to gangsters to scientists to law enforcement officers. Dick Miller played characters named Walter Paisley multiple times, first in  A Bucket of Blood. Mr. Miller was a remarkable actor who was capable of making even the most off-the-wall characters seem believable. There have been very few actors quite like him and it seems likely that there won't be many more.

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