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Bernard Fox, the character actor with a European flair who is perhaps best known for playing the womanizing witch doctor Dr. Bombay on the ABC series Bewitched, died Wednesday. He was 89.
The Welshman, who portrayed the bumbling Colonel Crittendon on another popular 1960s sitcom, CBS’ Hogan’s Heroes, died of heart failure at Valley Presbyterian Hospital in Van Nuys, Calif., publicist Harlan Boll announced.
Fox appeared in an uncredited role in A Night to Remember (1958), about the Titanic disaster, and then played Colonel Archibald Gracie IV in James Cameron’s 1997 film about the doomed ocean liner. In the first one, his character delivered the line, “Iceberg dead ahead, sir!,” from the ship’s crow’s nest.
Fox voiced the Chairman in the Disney animated features The Rescuers (1977) and The Rescuers Down Under (1990) and portrayed retired Air Force pilot Winston Havelock in The Mummy (1999).
His film résumé also includes Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977), The Private Eyes (1980) and Yellowbeard (1983). He specialized in playing upper-crust characters.
Fox appeared as Dr. Bombay on 19 episodes of Bewitched, which ran from 1966-72 and starred Elizabeth Montgomery, and then reprised the role on the 1977 sequel Tabitha, in 1999 on the soap opera Passions and on a 1989 episode of Pee-wee’s Playhouse.
In a 1998 interview, Fox said he drew inspiration for Dr. Bombay from a man he served with in the Royal Navy during World War II.
“He was the officer in charge of the camp that we were in, and it was an all-male camp, and one evening, I was on duty and we got six Women’s Royal Naval Service arrived to be put up,” he recalled.
“So I went to this officer and said, ‘What shall I do?’ And he said, ‘Oh, I don’t know, give ’em a hot bran mash, some clean straw and bed ’em down for the night.’ And I thought, ‘What a great way to play [Dr. Bombay.]’ And that’s the way I played him, and [the Bewitched writers] just kept writing him back in.
“If I’d just gone for an ordinary doctor, you wouldn’t have heard any more about it. But because I made him such a colorful character, that’s why they wanted him back; he was easy to write for. They came up with the idea of him coming from different parts of the world all the time and in different costumes; that was their idea. The puns, I came up with, and in those days, they let you do that.”
Fox also appeared as English valet Malcolm Meriweather on The Andy Griffith Show and Dr. Watson opposite Stewart Granger as Sherlock Holmes in a 1972 ABC telefilm version of The Hound of the Baskervilles. And he guest-starred on series including The Dick Van Dyke Show, Perry Mason, McHale’s Navy, F Troop, Columbo, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Knight Rider, M*A*S*H and Murder, She Wrote.
He was a fan of magic and illusion and a longtime member of the Magic Castle in Hollywood.
Survivors include his wife Jacqueline, daughter Amanda and grandchildren David-Mitchel and Samantha.
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