Kenneth Mars, 'Young Frankenstein' Actor, Dies at 75

1:35 PM PST 02/14/2011 by Mike Barnes
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The veteran character actor with a flair for German-type accents also starred as the Nazi playwright in "The Producers."

Kenneth Mars, a farcical character actor best known for playing the police inspector with a creaky prosthetic arm in Mel Brooks’ 1974 classic Young Frankenstein, died Saturday of pancreatic cancer at his home in Granada Hills, Calif. He was 75.

With a flair for German-type accents, Mars also appeared as the insane Nazi playwright who creates Springtime for Hitler in Brooks’ The Producers (1968) and as a Yugoslavian shyster in Peter Bogdanovich’s What’s Up, Doc? (1972).

Mars has regular roles on TV as ranch owner Otto Mannkusser on the Fox series Malcolm in the Middle, as W.D. “Bud” Prize on Norman Lear’s Fernwood Tonight and its offshoot, America Tonight, in the late 1970s and as Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin’s fireman neighbor in He & She, a 1967-68 CBS series.

The Chicago native cultivated a robust career as a voice actor during his 40-plus years in show business, working on such projects as The Jetsons, The FIintstones Kids, The Little Mermaid, Duckman and Life With Louie. He was Grandpa Longneck in many installments of The Land Before Time series that ran on film, video and TV.

In a take-off on Lionel Atwill’s local police Inspector Krogh character with a mechanical wooden arm in 1939’s Son of Frankenstein, Mars’ Inspector Kemp in Young Frankenstein sports an eye patch and monocle over the same eye, a disjointed wooden arm that moves in all manner of ways and an accent so thick even his own countrymen can’t understand him.

Mars also appeared in the Woody Allen films Radio Days (1987) and Shadows and Fog (1991), and in another dramatic turn, opposite Shirley MacLaine in 1971’s Desperate Characters. His stage appearances included the role of Martin Eliot in The Affair and Sir Evelyn Oakleigh in Anything Goes.  

Survivors include daughters Susannah Mars Johnson and Rebecca Mars Tipton; their husbands, Gary Johnson and Wayne Tipton; and grandchildren Alex Tipton, Kate Johnson, Noah Tipton, Nick Tipton, Olivia Johnson and Sam Tipton.

Services will be private. Remembrances on his behalf can be made to Smile Train in Washington D.C.

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