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Frank Marth, a veteran character actor and member of Jackie Gleason‘s stock company on The Honeymooners, died Sunday of congestive heart failure and Alzheimer’s disease in Rancho Mirage, Calif., a family friend told The Hollywood Reporter. He was 91.
Often cast as an authority figure, Marth appeared on scores of TV shows and in many films during his more than 50 years in show business. He played a detective in Madame X (1966) opposite Lana Turner, a police lieutenant working with Richard Widmark in Madigan (1968), an Air Force man in the Gregory Peck film Marooned (1969) and a Nazi officer on the sitcom Hogan’s Heroes.
The tall and slender Marth, though, is probably best remembered for his assortment of background roles on The Honeymooners, which starred Gleason and Audrey Meadows as Ralph and Alice Kramden, with Art Carney as their upstairs neighbor, Ed Norton.
Marth played Harvey Wohlstetter, who hires Alice to babysit his son, Harvey Jr., as Ralph jumps to conclusions and thinks his wife is having an affair. He was one of the hoods who holds the Kramdens and Norton hostage after Ralph witnesses a bank robbery, the newsman who gets Ralph in trouble at home after he quotes the bus driver in the paper boasting that he’s the “head of the household,” and the off-screen narrator of Norton’s favorite TV show, Captain Video. Other “classic 39” episodes had him as Ralph’s co-worker or pool-room buddy.
Before and after The Honeymooners in the mid-1950s, Marth worked with Gleason on the comedian’s variety shows Cavalcade of Stars and American Scene Magazine, the latter beamed from Miami Beach, Fla.
In Meadows’ 1994 book Love, Alice: My Life as a Honeymooner, Marth noted that Gleason always called him Francis. On the show, “I always felt like I was going to a party, instead of work,” he recalled. “It was such a blast.”
Born and raised in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, Marth began his career on the stage and made his first TV appearance in 1949 on the series Mama.
Marth later appeared on such primetime shows as The Fugitive, Combat! The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wild Wild West, The Big Valley, Mission: Impossible, The F.B.I., Cannon, M*A*S*H, The Streets of San Francisco, Quincy M.E., Dirty Dozen: The Series and Airwolf; on the soap operas From These Roots and The Young and the Restless; and in the 1976 telefilm The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case.
He portrayed an escaped murderer in Fright (1956) and was in such other films as Pendulum (1969), The Lost Man (1969), Telefon (1977) and Loving Deadly (1994), his final credit.
Survivors include his wife of 45 years, actress Hope Holiday, who shared a memorable night of self-pity (and quite a few drinks) with Jack Lemmon on Christmas Eve in Billy Wilder‘s The Apartment (1960).
Services will be private.
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