Friday, June 28, 2019

Max Wright Passes On

Max Wright, best known for playing Willie Tanner on the sitcom ALF, died on June 26 2019 at the age of 75. The cause was lymphoma.

Max Wright was born on August 2 1943 in Detroit, Michigan. He began his career on stage and made his Broadway debut in The Great White Hope in 1968. He continued to appear on Broadway in the Seventies in such productions as The Cherry Orchard, The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel, Stages, Once in a Lifetime, The Inspector General, King Richard III, and Lunch Hour. He made his television debut in 1974 in a production of Etienne that aired on Great Performances. He appeared in the TV movies Red Alert and Playing for Time. He made his film debut in Last Embrace in 1979. He appeared in the movies All That Jazz (1979) and Simon (1980).

The Eighties would see Mr. Wright work extensively in television. He played Dabney Coleman's boss on the comedy Buffalo Bill, director of the Humanidyne Institute Dick Stetmeyer on Misfits of Science, and, of course, Willie Tanner on ALF. He guest starred on Hart to Hart, WKRP in Cincinnati, Open All Night, Code Red, Tales from the Darkside, I Gave at the Office, After MASH, E/R, Code Name: Foxfire, Benson, Cheers, Comedy Factory, You Are the Jury, and Faerie Tale Theatre. He appeared in the films Reds (1981), The Sting II (1983), Fraternity Vacation (1985), Touch and Go (1986), Soul Man (1986), and Going to the Chapel (1988).

In the Nineties Max Wright returned to Broadway in the productions Ivanov and Twelfth Night. He was a regular on the TV series Dudley and The Norm Show. He appeared in the mini-series The Stand. He guest starred on the shows Murder, She Wrote; Who's the Boss?; Ghostwriter; Quantum Leap; The Powers That Be; Murphy Brown; Roc; Monty; Friends; The John Laroquette Show; Early Edition; Aaahh!!! Real Monsters; High Incident; Mad About You; and The Drew Carey Show. He appeared in the mini-series From the Earth to the Moon. He appeared in the films The Shadow (1994), Grumpier Old Men (1995), A Midsummer's Night Dream (1999), and Snow Falling on Cedars (1999). In the Naughts he guest starred on the TV show A Minute with Stan Hooper and appeared in the movie Easter (2002).

Max Wright will probably always be remembered as Willie Tanner on ALF, and with good reason. Aside from being the most successful television show on which he appeared, he was also very good on it. Mr. Wright made believable a show with a premise that some in the audience might have found unbelievable. Of course, Max Wright played other uptight characters similar to Willie on other shows, including Buffalo Bill and Misfits of Science. That having been said, he could play other types of roles. As hard as it can be to imagine, Mr. Wright played Nazi scientist Dr. Mengele in the TV movie Playing for Time and did a fine job doing it. In All That Jazz Max Wright played producer Joshua Penn, who survives largely on Dexedrine pills and cigarettes. In Reds he played a historical figure, flamboyant editor, author, and playwright Floyd Dell. Max Wright was an immensely talented actor who leaves behind a number of memorable roles.

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