Saturday, January 19, 2008

THE HAT SQUAD: ALLAN MELVIN

When Dabbs Greer died last year, it made me take stock of my favorite character actors working in Toobworld. So many had passed away - Phil Leeds, Vito Scotti, Herb Vigran.... And with the death of Dabbs, I was thinking that I only had Allan Melvin left of that upper echelon.

And now, he too is gone.

Allan Melvin was 84 when he passed away from cancer at his home; he had been retired for about ten years.


Among the shows he's most famous for are 'Sgt. Bilko' ('You'll Never Get Rich') as Cpl. Steve Henshaw, Bilko's right-hand man, Barney Hefner on 'All In The Family' and 'Archie Bunker's Place', the voices of 'Magilla Gorilla' and Drooper of 'The Banana Splits', Sol Pomeroy on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show', several different nemeses for Barney Fife on 'The Andy Griffith Show', and of course, Sam "the Butcher" Franklin on 'The Brady Bunch'.
I thought of him just yesterday while watching the 'Poirot' episode "The Million Dollar Bond Robbery". A United States Customs Agent named Tom Franklin was searching the Queen Mary for the stolen bearer bonds on May 31st, 1936, and I thought I might be able to make the argument that he could have been the father of Sam the Butcher.

Here's how much of an impact Mr. Melvin had with that role of Sam the Butcher: There are actors who make a very strong impression in a production with very little involvement.

The Marx Brothers in several of their films only rack up about 20 minutes of screen time in each.

Michael Keaton is only in seventeen minutes of 'Beetlejuice'.

Michael Dunn appeared in only nine episodes of 'The Wild, Wild West' as Dr. Loveless, who is not only my favorite TV character of all time but the centerpiece of my Toobworld mosaic.

Out of about 117 episodes of 'The Brady Bunch', Allan Melvin only appeared in eight as Sam the Butcher!

My favorite 'Brady Bunch' memory of Sam the Butcher wasn't even a part of an episode of the show but did concern one. I saw a comic once on Comedy Central - sorry, guy, can't remember your name! - and during his riff on the Hawaiian episodes of 'The Brady Bunch', he held up a duplicate of that Tiki idol that cursed the family.

He asked the crowd if they remembered the figurine and then reminded them of how Alice threw out her back while learning how to dance the hula.

Yeah, right, said the comic. She threw out her back from all of that meat Sam the Butcher was slipping her.....

"Sam the Butcher". That's the type of character name you'd only find today in an episode of 'Supernatural' or 'Criminal Minds'......

Someday I have to figure out a good splainin as to why Mr. Melvin's character of Rob Petrie's old Army buddy on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' not only had four different names, but shared two of them with two other actors (Marty Ingels as Sol Pomeroy and Henry Calvin as Sam Pomerantz).

Allan Melvin was so busy creating characters for Toobworld and providing so many voices for characters in the Tooniverse, that he only made one movie - "With Six, You Get Eggroll". That's the movie universe's loss and Toobworld's gain.

Here's to you, Allan Melvin. As Red Skelton would say, "May God Bless......"

BCnU....
Toby OB


"
I've enjoyed the stuff I've done.
But the one you're getting paid for?
That's what you enjoy most
."
Allan Melvin

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Funny how two actors with recurring roles on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' should die in the same month. (I see you wrote about the guy who played Herman on the show.)

I guess Jamie Farr should be looking over his shoulder now. Then again, as big a role as he had in the show on screen and off, I guess Carl Reiner as Alan Brady falls into the same category.

Nice tribute to the guy, btw.

Jimmin

Mercurie said...

The past year has been hard on character actors. So many of them have died. Do you realise that now Mickey Freeman (Pvt. Zimmerman) is the only remaining member of the cast of The Phil Silvers Show?

BTW, Dr. Miguelito Loveless is my favourite TV villain of all time. Michael Dunn was great in the role.