Richard Bakalyan, the quintessential tough guy character actor who sparred with Jack Nicholson and shot Faye Dunaway in Chinatown — just one of his many dozens of appearances in films and on television — has died. He was 84.
Bakalyan, who played juvenile delinquents, cops and gangsters as well as several henchmen on TV’s Batman during his more than a half-century in show business, died unexpectedly Friday at Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, N.Y., his family announced.
Given the nickname “Dicky B.” by Nancy Sinatra, Bakalyan played opposite her father, Frank Sinatra, in Robin and the 7 Hoods (1964), Von Ryan’s Express (1965) and None but the Brave (1965), and he wielded a machine gun (but didn’t have a line of dialogue) in The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre (1967).
Early in his career, Bakalyan played young men gone astray in such films as The Delinquents (1957), directed by Robert Altman; The Delicate Delinquent (1957), the first film Jerry Lewis starred in following his breakup with Dean Martin; The Brothers Rico (1957); Juvenile Jungle (1958); and Hot Car Girl (1958).
In The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), the native of Watertown, Mass., portrayed a thief; he had a scene with Jesus (Max von Sydow) as both men are nailed to crosses.
“My mother back east, she said, ‘Can’t you play a nice guy? What are the neighbors gonna say?’ ” Bakalyan recalled in an interview for The Face Is Familiar series. “I said, ‘Ma, I’m an actor, gimme a break here.’ Except when I got The Greatest Story Ever Told. I called her and said, ‘Ma, I’m playing another gangster, another heavy, but I’m hanging around with the right people.’ ”
In Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (1974), Bakalyan played a cop, Loach, who gives J.J. Gittes (Nicholson) a hard time after he sees the private detective sporting a conspicuous bandage.
“What happened to your nose, Gittes? Someone slam a bedroom window on it?” he teases Nicholson, who replies: “Nope, your wife got excited and she crossed her legs a little too quick. Understand what I mean, pal?”
Toward the end of the film, he shoots Dunaway’s character, Evelyn Mulwray, as she’s driving away in the darkness.
Bakalyan also appeared in such films as Paratroop Command (1959), Up Periscope (1959), -30- (1959), Pressure Point (1962), The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), The Strongest Man in the World (1975) and The Man With Bogart’s Face (1980).
He was the narrator in Disney’s It’s Tough to Be a Bird, which won an Academy Award in 1970 for best short subject (cartoons), and he voiced Dinky in another Disney project, The Fox and the Hound (1981).
On Batman, he was a henchman for The Joker (Cesar Romero), posing as a green alien in an attempt to frighten the citizens of Gotham City. He also was seen in episodes featuring the villains The Riddler (Frank Gorshin), King Tut (Victor Buono) and Louie the Lilac (Milton Berle).
A veteran of the U.S. Air Force who served during the Korean War, Bakalyan showed up on dozens of other TV shows — most often as bad guys — including The Rebel, The Untouchables, Wagon Train, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., Mod Squad, Cannon, Mannix, Kojak, The Rockford Files, Vega$, Baywatch Nights and Millennium.
Bakalyan knew he wasn’t a leading man but didn’t seem to have a problem with that.
“Some of the bigger films, in order to get the money to make them, they need the certain stars that people will stand in line to watch,” he said in The Face Is Familiar interview. “They’re not going to stand around the corner for me. However, they’re going to enjoy what I do because I’m going to fit into the puzzle.”
Survivors include his brother William, sisters-in-law Adelia and Marianne and nephews and nieces Richard, David, Beverly and Carol.