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Malachi Throne, the veteran TV actor who played Robert Wagner‘s boss on It Takes a Thief and the enigmatic evildoer False-Face on Batman, died Wednesday in Los Angeles of lung cancer. He was 84.
Justified actor Jim Beaver reported Throne’s death Thursday on his Facebook page. “My good friend Malachi Throne died last night. One of the finest actors and finest people I’ve been fortunate enough to know,” the entry said.
Throne provided the voice of the Talosian leader The Keeper for “The Cage,” the pilot episode of Star Trek, and in 1966 played Commodore José Mendez in the only two-parter of the original series.
Earlier, he rejected Gene Roddenberry‘s offer to play Dr. Leonard McCoy on the series after Throne lobbied for the role of Spock. “There’s an old saying among actors: ‘Never be the third man through the door,’ and I felt I would always be the third man in that role,” he once said.
Throne also worked on Star-Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II. And with his distinctive deep voice, he narrated the original trailer for Star Wars (1977).
The action-adventure It Takes a Thief, inspired by Alfred Hitchcock‘s To Catch a Thief (1955), starring Cary Grant, ran on ABC from January 1968 to March 1970. It starred Wagner as sophisticated thief Alexander Mundy, who is freed from jail so he can steal for the U.S. government.
Throne’s Noah Bain worked for the Secret Intelligence Agency and frequently threatened to return Mundy to prison if he didn’t do what he was told.
Throne exited It Takes a Thief in the third season and was replaced by Edward Binns, reportedly upset when the series was to film in Italy and he was being asked to stay behind and give Wagner’s character orders over the phone.
On ABC’s Batman, Throne’s face was never seen as he strapped on a bizarre plastic mask when he wasn’t posing as Chief O’Hara, Commissioner Gordon and others as False-Face in 1966. In the series’ traditional two-part format, he is mysteriously credited as “?” in the first part (but as Thone in the second).
“Everyone wanted to know who played False-Face. It was a two-part episode, so after the first week the papers were abuzz,” he once said. “Eventually, I cooled down and let them put my name at the end of the second episode. It was the best press I ever got in my life.”
Born Dec. 1, 1928, in New York City, Throne played Huckleberry Finn at age 10 in the New York Parks Department’s production of Tom Sawyer. He worked in off-Broadway and Broadway productions before guest-starring on scores of TV shows, including Naked City, The Untouchables, 77 Sunset Strip, Ben Casey, The Defenders, The Fugitive, I Spy, The Big Valley, The Time Tunnel, Hogan’s Heroes, Hawaii Five-O, What’s Happening!, Babylon 5, Melrose Place and Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Throne was an active member of the Theatre West company in Los Angeles. He was scheduled to appear in The Fantasticks there this past fall but had to withdraw because of his fading health, publicist Philip Sokoloff said. His wife said Throne was cremated and there will be no services.
“Theatre West says goodbye to our friend and colleague Malachi Throne,” said a message on the theater’s home page.
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