Allyn Ann McLerie, Actress in 'Where's Charley?' and 'They Shoot Horses, Don't They?' Dies at 91
The widow of 'Punky Brewster' actor George Gaynes, she also appeared on television in 'The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.'
Allyn Ann McLerie, the actress and dancer who starred in the Broadway and big-screen versions of Where's Charley? and played a freaked-out contestant in They Shoot Horses, Don't They?, has died. She was 91.
McLerie died May 21 in North Bend, Washington, her daughter, Iya Falcone Brown, announced.
On television, McLerie portrayed Blair Brown's mother on the 1987-91 NBC-Lifetime series The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd and played the priggish secretary of a widowed judge (Tony Randall) on the 1976-78 ABC-CBS sitcom The Tony Randall Show. Both shows were created by Jay Tarses.
McLerie also had a recurring role as the wife of Gordon Jump's Arthur Carlson on the CBS comedy WKRP in Cincinnati, created by Hugh Wilson.
She was married to Police Academy actor George Gaynes for 62 years until his death in February 2016 at age 98. In 1985, McLerie appeared on his comedy series Punky Brewster as his love interest.
Her first husband was Adolph Green, the legendary playwright, lyricist and screenwriter behind such classics as On the Town, Bells Are Ringing, Singin' in the Rain and The Band Wagon. They divorced in 1953.
Born in Canada and reared in Brooklyn, McLerie portrayed Amy Spettigue in George Abbott's musical farce Where's Charley? during its original Broadway runs in 1948-50 and 1951, then reprised the role for the 1952 Warner Bros. adaptation. Amy played the girlfriend of Ray Bolger's character, an Oxford University graduate who masquerades as his aunt from Brazil.
In Sydney Pollack's bleak They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969), McLerie was memorable as an early dance partner of Red Buttons' aging sailor who suffers a breakdown during a Depression-Era dance marathon when she imagines she's covered in bugs.
Born on Dec. 1, 1926, in Grand'Mere, Quebec, McLerie and her mother moved to the Bay Ridge neighborhood of Brooklyn to live with her maternal grandparents after her father, a Royal Canadian Air Force pilot, died three months before she was born.
She took piano and dance lessons and attended Fort Hamilton High School, and at age 16 she danced on Broadway in One Touch of Venus, starring Mary Martin and choreographed by Agnes de Mille.
McLerie also appeared on Broadway in the 1940s in On the Town — written by Green in his Broadway debut — and Miss Liberty under the direction of famed choreographers Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine. She later toured Europe with the American Ballet Theatre as the Cowgirl in de Mille's Rodeo.
Her other Broadway performances included serving as an understudy to Gwen Verdon in 1959's Redhead and playing Anita in the 1960 revival of West Side Story.
McLerie studied with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio, and as a contract player at Warner Bros., she starred opposite Doris Day in Calamity Jane (1953) and appeared in The Desert Song (1953), Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954) and Battle Cry (1955).
She went on to work alongside Robert Redford in Jeremiah Johnson (1972), The Way We Were (1973) — both directed by Pollack — and All the President's Men (1976) and garner roles in The Reivers (1969), The Cowboys (1972) and Cinderella Liberty (1973).
McLerie also appeared on television on The Thorn Birds, St. Elsewhere, Barney Miller, The Love Boat, Dynasty, The Waltons and Brooklyn Bridge.
She and Gaynes moved from Santa Barbara to North Bend in 2015 to live with their daughter and her husband, Norman. (Their son, Matthew, died in 1989 in a car incident in India.)
Survivors also include granddaughter Niki and her husband, Simon, and great-granddaughters Portia and Harper.