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Norman Lloyd, the actor, producer and director whose collaborations with Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, Bertolt Brecht and Jean Renoir made him a legend — albeit an off-the-radar one — in Hollywood, died Tuesday morning. He was 106.
Lloyd died in his home in Los Angeles, his son, Michael, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Lloyd portrayed the villain who plummets from the Statue of Liberty at the climax of Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942) and appeared as the crusty Dr. Daniel Auschlander on NBC’s acclaimed 1980s hospital drama St. Elsewhere.
His first love was the theater, and he was asked by Welles and John Houseman to join their legendary Mercury Theatre in the mid-1930s. He played Cinna the Poet in Welles’ anti-fascist adaptation of Julius Caesar, the 1937 Broadway production that landed Welles, then 22, on the cover of Time magazine.
On film, Lloyd was another villain in The Southerner (1945), which was co-written by William Faulkner and directed by the French auteur Renoir; played a choreographer in Limelight (1952), written, directed and starring his frequent real-life Beverly Hills tennis opponent, Chaplin; and portrayed the headmaster in Dead Poets Society (1989), directed by Peter Weir.
His work as the bad guy Fry in Saboteur (1942) launched a relationship with Hitchcock that would span nearly four decades and include a role in Spellbound (1945) and work as a producer and director on the classic TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents and its follow-up, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
On Hitchcock Presents, Lloyd directed a 1960 installment, “The Man From the South,” an adaptation of a Roald Dahl short story in which a young gambler (Steve McQueen) makes a bet that his cigarette lighter can work 10 straight times. If it does, he wins a car from Peter Lorre’s character; if it doesn’t, Lorre will chop off McQueen’s finger with a hatchet.
Yet throughout these and other brushes with greatness, Lloyd remained fairly anonymous, more happenstance than household name; a 2007 documentary on his life was aptly titled Who Is Norman Lloyd?
He was born Nov. 8, 1914, in Jersey City, New Jersey, and raised in Brooklyn. His parents paid for his singing and dancing lessons and took him to an elocution teacher to help get rid of his accent.
Lloyd’s first big break came in 1932 when, while attending New York University, he was picked to be an apprentice at the Civic Repertory Theatre run by Eva Le Gallienne, one of the grand figures of the American stage. In an effort to get the gig, he knocked unannounced on the Broadway theater stage door of British actor Nigel Bruce (Dr. Watson of the Sherlock Holmes films) and elicited his advice.
Later, Lloyd joined May Sarton’s Apprentice Theatre in Dublin, New Hampshire, where he received no pay but room and board, then did plays for the Living Newspaper unit of the Federal Theatre Project of the Works Progress Administration.
When Welles and Houseman left the Federal Theatre to form the Mercury, they asked him to come along. In addition to Julius Caesar, Lloyd appeared in their production of The Shoemaker’s Holiday.
In 1940, the peripatetic Lloyd followed Welles out to Los Angeles to act in what would have been the wunderkind’s first film — a reimagining of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness — but budgetary worries prompted RKO to pull the plug before filming began. Lloyd returned to New York and passed on participating in Welles’ next project, Citizen Kane.
“I have always regretted it,” Lloyd told then-THR reviewer Todd McCarthy of his decision to abandon Welles.
After performing in Saboteur and Spellbound, he appeared in Lewis Milestone’s A Walk in the Sun (1945) and took a job with the director’s production company.
In 1947, Lloyd and Houseman produced the U.S. premiere of Galileo, written by Brecht, then Germany’s top playwright, and directed by Joseph Losey. The production, staged at the Coronet in Los Angeles, starred Charles Laughton.
In the early days of television, Lloyd helmed James Agee’s five-part Mr. Lincoln for Alistair Cooke‘s Omnibus, the first commercial network series devoted to the arts. Stanley Kubrick, then a 24-year-old second-unit director, assisted Lloyd on the 1952-53 project.
Lloyd’s career took a downturn when he was suspected of having communist ties (Milestone and Losey were blacklisted) and unable to get work in Hollywood. So he returned to Broadway to direct the 1954 musical comedy The Golden Apple, starring Kaye Ballard.
For his anthology series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the influential Hitchcock insisted that Lloyd be hired to co-produce the half-hour show, which ran from 1955-62. Later, Lloyd would choose the stories, writers and directors for the 1963-65 Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
Lloyd worked for the last time with Hitchcock on Short Night, a thriller that the filmmaker was planning to make in the late 1970s but couldn’t because of health problems. The British icon died in April 1980.
Also in the ’70s, Lloyd produced and directed several stage adaptations for PBS’ Hollywood Television Theater, including Steambath, about the afterlife, for which he earned an Emmy nomination. When Renoir was too ill to stage his work Carola for the series, he entrusted Lloyd to handle it.
Lloyd also produced for such other anthology series as Journey to the Unknown for British TV, The Name of the Game and Tales of the Unexpected.
On St. Elsewhere — the popular NBC/MTM Enterprises drama that aired for six seasons from October 1982 to May 1988 — Lloyd played Auschlander, the chief of services at the fictional Boston-based teaching hospital St. Eligius. His character battled liver cancer throughout the series before succumbing to a stroke in the show’s fantasy finale, one of the most-talked-about series endings in TV history.
Lloyd also could be seen in the films The Green Years (1946), Anthony Mann’s The Black Book (1949), Losey’s remake of M (1951), Robert Wise’s Audrey Rose (1977), Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence (1993), The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000) and In Her Shoes (2005); in the 2000 made-for-TV movie Fail Safe; in recurring roles on the series Wiseguy, The Practice and Seven Days; and in guest spots on Kojak, Murder, She Wrote, Star Trek: The Next Generation and Modern Family.
In the 2015 Amy Schumer film Trainwreck, he played a friend of her father’s in an old-age home.
Lloyd’s memoir, Stages of Life in Theater, Film and Television, was published in 1993. In recent years, the raconteur delighted audiences at Cannes, the TCM Classic Film Festival and elsewhere with his showbiz tales.
In 1935, Lloyd married Broadway singer and dancer Peggy Craven; the year before, she had appeared in a production of Romeo and Juliet, starring Basil Rathbone, Katherine Cornell and Welles. She died in 2011.
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