Veteran actor Mark Gordon dies

Key figure in improvisational theater movement was 84

Mark Gordon, a veteran actor on film, TV and stage who was a key figure in the improvisational theater movement, died Aug. 12 of lung cancer in New York. He was 84.

Gordon's credits include the Woody Allen films "Take the Money and Run" (1969), "Don't Drink the Water" (1969) and "Sleeper" (1973), roles on such soap operas as "The Edge of Night" and "As the World Turns" and a one-episode stint on "Mary Tyler Moore" as Chuckles the Clown.

Gordon was workshop director and an actor in the famed Chicago-based Compass Players (which later became Second City), working alongside the likes of Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Barbara Harris and his wife of 52 years, Barbara Glenn Gordon.

With May, he continued in New York at the Premise, whose improvisational company that included Peter Boyle and Louise Lasser. Gordon also appeared in "A New Leaf," a 1971 comedy written and directed by May, and had the lead in her off-Broadway hit "Adaptation/Next," which opened in 1969.

Gordon served as a visiting professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, Finch College and Columbia University and was an acting coach at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. He taught private classes for more than 20 years.

A lifelong New Yorker, Gordon appeared in more than 30 plays on Broadway and off, including "Of Mice and Men" with James Earl Jones, "The Devils," "Compulsion" and "Desire Under the Elms." Off-Broadway, he played Willie in a production of "The Iceman Cometh" at the Circle in the Square.

Regionally, he toured with the national companies of "Mr. Roberts" and "Critic's Choice" and starred for six months in the Chicago production of Harold Pinter's "The Caretaker." He directed the 1968 Broadway comedy "Before You Go" and helmed numerous off-Broadway plays as well.

Gordon's credits also include "The Nickel Ride" (1974) and William Peter Blatty's "The Ninth Configuration" (1980) on film and "Hawaii Five-0," "Cannon" and "Starsky & Hutch" on television.

Three actors -- including Gordon in a 1973 episode -- played Chuckles the Clown on "Mary Tyler Moore." The character was not seen in the 1975 classic episode "Chuckles Bites the Dust" in which Moore succumbs to fits of laughter and then sobbing during the clown's funeral.

Gordon's survivors include his son, director-writer Keith Gordon, and sister Rose Gordon Vachio. The family asks that donations be made to the Lung Cancer Alliance.
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