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Bill Erwin, a character actor best known for his roles as Sid Fields on NBC’s Seinfeld and as Arthur the Bellman in the 1980 film Somewhere in Time, died Dec. 29 of age-related causes in Studio City. He was 96.
Erwin was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of the embittered Sid Fields — whom Jerry Seinfeld volunteers to look after but then loses — in the 1993 Seinfeld episode “The Old Man.”
Erwin returned many times to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Mich., the setting of Somewhere in Time, to annually celebrate the film with fans. The time-traveling romantic drama starred Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.
Erwin had a long career on stage, working on Broadway and locally at the Pasadena Playhouse, the Laguna Playhouse and Theater 40 in Beverly Hills, where he wrote, produced and starred in the long-running one-man show Twisted Twain. In 1983, he received a Drama Critics Award for the Actors Forum production of Old Friends.
Erwin also starred in numerous TV commercials, most notably a CLIO Award-winning Dreyer’s Ice Cream spot in which he played an old man notified by his wife that “Dessert’s ready, it’s Dreyer’s Ice Cream.” That prompted Erwin’s chair-bound character to leap up and break dance.
A native of Honey Grove, Texas, the University of Texas graduate came to Hollywood in the early 1950s and appeared on such shows as I Love Lucy, Leave It to Beaver, The Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke, The Andy Griffith Show and Perry Mason.
More recently, he worked on Highway to Heaven, Growing Pains, Who’s the Boss?, Married … With Children, Everwood and My Name Is Earl.
Erwin was a member of SAG and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for more than 50 years. He was a self-taught cartoonist whose work was published in the New Yorker, Playboy and Los Angeles magazine. After appearing in Ray Bradbury’s Any Friend of Nicholas Nickleby Is a Friend of Mine, Erwin maintained a long friendship with the author.
Survivors include his children Mike, Timothy (Toes), Lindsey and Kelly, all industry pros; eight grandchildren and a great-grandson; sister Mary Gene Cosper; and nephews Ron and Don Cosper.
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