Gene Dynarski, Actor on 'Seinfeld' and 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind,' Dies at 86

Gene Dynarski - Seinfeld - Photofest still - H 2020

He also appeared on 'Star Trek,' 'Batman' and 'The X-Files' and ran a small theater in L.A.

Gene Dynarski, a character actor who appeared in Steven Spielberg's Duel and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and played Izzy Mandelbaum Jr., the son of Lloyd Bridges' character, on Seinfeld, has died. He was 86.

Dynarski died Feb. 27 in a rehabilitation center in Studio City, playwright Ernest Kearney announced.

The Brooklyn native also worked twice on the original Star Trek, as the miner Ben Childress on the 1966 episode "Mudd's Women" and as Krodak, who represents a city up for Federation membership, on the 1969 installment "The Mark of Gideon."

Dynarski was seen as Benedict, one of Egghead's (Vincent Price) henchmen, on Batman in 1966, and on a 2000 episode of The X-Files, his character fell victim to a monstrous bat creature.

His résumé also included Earthquake (1974), Airport 1975 and All the President's Men (1976) and Hill Street Blues, The A-Team, Little House on the Prairie, Starsky and Hutch, Kung Fu, Kojak, Bonanza and The Monkees, among other TV series.

In 1979, Dynarski opened The Gene Dynarski Theatre near Sunset Boulevard and Western Avenue in Los Angeles, with Ed Harris starring in Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth as its first production. Elisabeth Shue and Tom Hanks were among others who performed there before it shuttered in the mid-1990s.

Born on Sept. 13, 1933, Dynarski worked as a "pin monkey" at a bowling alley, served in the U.S. Navy and, after coming to L.A., began getting acting jobs through noted casting director Lynn Stalmaster. In 1965, he made his onscreen debut on an episode of the ABC medical drama Ben Casey.

In the 1971 telefilm Duel, Dynarski was a trucker confronted in a roadside café by Dennis Weaver, who thinks he's the murderous big-rig driver on his tail, and in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), he played the supervisor who sends out Richard Dreyfuss to investigate those mysterious blackouts. 

On the 1997 Seinfeld episode "The English Patient," Dynarski's character and his equally competitive dad and grandfather (Earl Schuman) all throw out their backs, then blame Jerry for it. (He and Bridges returned for another episode the following season.)

Dynarski also portrayed Josef Stalin in the 1996 videogame Command & Conquer: Red Alert and won a Los Angeles Drama Critics' Award for his performance in Among the Vipers, produced by Kearney at the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble.

Survivors include his two daughters.