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Mark Miller, who portrayed the patriarch of a castle-dwelling family on the 1960s NBC sitcom Please Don’t Eat the Daisies and co-wrote the Keanu Reeves-starring romantic drama A Walk in the Clouds, has died. He was 97.
Miler died Friday in Santa Monica of natural causes, a family spokesperson announced. Survivors include his daughter and Tony-nominated actress Penelope Ann Miller.
Miller also wrote, produced and starred in the classic family film Savannah Smiles (1982), which was inspired by and named for his youngest daughter. It’s the story of a runaway girl (Bridgette Andersen) who forms an improvised family with the two escaped convicts (Miller, Donovan Scott) who find her.
On Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, which aired for two seasons and 58 episodes from 1965-67, the native Texan played college professor Jim Nash opposite Patricia Crowley as newspaper writer Joan Nash. They are the parents of four rambunctious boys (Kim Tyler, Brian Nash and twins Jeff and Joe Fithian) and a sheepdog.
A Walk in the Clouds (1995), starring Reeves, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón and Anthony Quinn, was a box-office winner for 20th Century Fox, grossing $50 million worldwide. Based on the 1942 Italian film Four Steps in the Clouds, it also was a critical hit, with Roger Ebert calling the movie “a glorious romantic fantasy, aflame with passion and bittersweet longing.”
Born in Houston on Nov. 20, 1924, Miller trained at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. His first professional job was starring opposite classmate Grace Kelly in Noël Coward’s Private Lives at the Casino Playhouse in Newport, Rhode Island. (Miller and Kelly dated for two years and remained lifelong friends.)
He was then tapped by playwright Philip Barry to portray Sandy Lord in The Philadelphia Story opposite Sarah Churchill, daughter of Winston Churchill.
Miller, who starred in more than 30 plays, captured the attention of William Inge, who waited until the actor was available to launch the first Broadway touring company of Bus Stop. Miller played the cowboy Bo opposite Elaine Stritch in that.
Just before opening in a North American tour of Dark at the Top of the Stairs with Joan Blondell, Miller married journalist Beatrice Ammidown, and they honeymooned while traveling with the production throughout Canada and the U.S.
While performing in the show at the Biltmore Theatre in Los Angeles, Miller caught the eye of Desi Arnaz, who cast him in the 1960-61 ABC/Desilu sitcom Guestward Ho!, also starring Joanne Dru and J. Carrol Naish.
Miller moved to Los Angeles and appeared with James Franciscus, Suzanne Pleshette and Eva Gabor in Youngblood Hawk (1964) and on episodes of The Twilight Zone, The Andy Griffith Show, Gunsmoke, I Dream of Jeannie and Alfred Hitchcock Presents before landing on Please Don’t Eat the Daisies.
The show was based on a 1957 book by Jean Kerr (wife of famed drama critic Walter Kerr) and followed the popular 1960 movie version at MGM that starred Doris Day and David Niven.
For his first TV script, Miller was nominated for an Emmy for the Daisies 1966 episode “The Magnificent Muldoon,” guest-starring Burgess Meredith.
In 1970-71, Miller was featured in a cast of rotating characters opposite Robert Stack and Anthony Franciosa on the NBC series The Name of the Game, and he guest-starred on The Waltons, Barnaby Jones, Adam-12 and The Streets of San Francisco, among other shows, around this time.
He wrote, produced and starred in Ginger in the Morning (1974), for which he cast relative unknown Sissy Spacek as the title character and included several of her original songs in the movie.
A year after he and Ammidown divorced, Miller wed actress Barbara Stanger, and they collaborated on several screenplays, including Christmas Mountain: The Story of a Cowboy Angel (1981), in which he starred alongside his wife and Slim Pickens.
In the ’90s, Miller and Stanger relocated to Taos, New Mexico, where he wrote and produced full time. He also returned to the stage in 2010 when his play Amorous Crossing, based on Private Lives and starring Loretta Swit, was produced by the Alhambra Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida.
After Miller and Stanger divorced in 1998, he returned to California in 2013 to be near his children — Savannah, Penelope Ann and Marisa Miller from his first marriage and the late Gabe Miller from his second.
In his final years, he formed Gypsy Moon Productions. His last screenplay, The Heart of the Storm, was written in the spirit of A Walk in the Clouds; it’s about two people who are thrown together in a hurricane and fall in love, despite their best efforts not to.
At the time of his death, Miller was working on a remake of Savannah Smiles with producer Rob Moran and Bay Point Media at Atlanta-based Trilith Studios, his family said.
Survivors also include his granddaughters, Amelia, Eloisa, Gretta, Sophie, Maria and Celeste.
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