Character Actor Steve Franken Dies at 80

5:35 PM PST 08/29/2012 by Mike Barnes
ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

He starred in "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," appeared on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and played opposite Peter Sellers in "The Party."

Steve Franken, a veteran comic character actor who played Dwayne Hickman’s rich playboy rival on the classic 1960s sitcom The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, died Aug. 24 of cancer at a rehabilitation facility in Canoga Park, Calif. He was 80.

During a career that spanned almost 60 years and more than 150 film and TV appearances, Franken also starred as Dick opposite Joyce Bulifant and Don Galloway in the 1964-65 comedy Tom, Dick and Mary and played a paleontology professor who dates Rhoda (Valerie Harper) on two episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show.

His film résumé includes a memorable slapstick turn as a drunken servant opposite Peter Sellers in Blake EdwardsThe Party (1968) and roles in The Americanization of Emily (1964), Panic in the City (1968), Which Way to the Front? (1970), Westworld (1973), The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975), The Missouri Breaks (1976), The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu (1980), Curse of the Pink Panther (1983), Nurse Betty (2000), Angels & Demons (2009) and Reach, a movie not yet released.

On Dobie Gillis, which ran from 1959-63 on CBS, Franken played Chatsworth Osborne Jr., a millionaire dilettante who spars with Dobie (Hickman) and beatnik Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver). Chatsworth is introduced in the show’s first season as a cousin to Warren Beatty’s character, Milton Armitage. (Beatty left the series after one season.)

A Brooklyn native and son of a press agent, Franken also had a supporting role in the 1963-64 NBC drama The Lieutenant, the first series created by Star Trek’s Gene Roddenberry. He played six characters in seven episodes of ABC’s Bewitched, appeared on Love, American Style five times and had guest shots in other series including McHale’s Navy, That Girl, The Mod Squad, Adam-12, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Charlie’s Angels, Barney Miller, Hotel, Seinfeld and The King of Queens

Survivors include his wife Jean, his ex-wife Julie, his daughters Anne and Abigail and his grandchildren Mateo and Treya.

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