10 actors who left their shows temporarily due to injury or illness

Even devastating accidents and hospital stays couldn’t keep these actors away from their iconic roles.

Much has been said about television actors who left their shows and moved on to other projects, never to return. But what about actors who were forced to take a leave of absence because of things outside of their control?

Here are ten actors who missed episodes due to strokes, surgeries and sometimes full body injuries. No matter the illness, all these performers returned to work on these classic series, often for many more years.

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1. Raymond Burr in Perry Mason


Perry Mason without Raymond Burr? It seems impossible but it did happen. “The Case of the Bullied Bowler” featured future Mannix star Mike Connors and “The Case of the Thermal Thief” starred actor Barry Sullivan. Burr missed both while recovering from jaw surgery. There were also episodes where Burr appeared briefly while recuperating from another real-life surgery. There were four such occurrences, with the most notable being “The Case of Constant Doyle” starring none other than Bette Davis.

2. Mel Blanc in The Flintstones


Already a voice-acting legend for his work as Bugs Bunny and so many others, it was a no-brainer for Joseph Hanna and William Barbera to hire Mel Blanc for their new primetime animated show The Flintstones. Blanc played Barney Rubble for the entire first season. Before season two recording got underway, Blanc was in a terrible car accident that broke nearly every bone in his body. Daws Butler, voice of Yogi Bear, stepped in for five season-two episodes. Blanc made a full recovery and even recorded lines while still bedridden at home!

Image: The Everett Collection

3. Milburn Stone in Gunsmoke


Though James Arness is the only actor to appear in all 635 Gunsmoke episodes, Milburn Stone as Doc Adams is a close second, appearing in over 600 installments. Though some stories just didn’t feature Doc, Stone also suffered a heart attack in 1971 which required surgery and a long recovery. Character actor Pat Hingle, who was all over classic TV and played Commissioner Gordon in the Tim Burton Batman films, filled in as Dr. Chapman to treat the residents of Dodge City. Luckily, Milburn Stone rejoined the show later in the season and stayed until the end!

4. Bea Benaderet in Petticoat Junction


In the middle of Petticoat Junction’s fifth season, Bea Benaderet was diagnosed with lung cancer. She underwent radiation treatment and missed 10 weeks of filming. Her character, Kate Bradley, was said to be out of town caring for a relative. Benaderet was able to rejoin the production for the season five finale and continued filming the first few installments of season six. Sadly, Benaderet passed away not long after returning to the show.

5. William Christopher in M*A*S*H


It’s hard to imagine M*A*S*H without the considerate, spiritual and surprisingly tough Father Mulcahy. Actor William Christopher’s fantastic portrayal provided the soul of the show. But the character was almost cut when Christopher was diagnosed with a serious case of hepatitis. He had to miss multiple episodes and nearly died from the illness. Thankfully, Christopher recovered and Alan Alda made sure Father Mulcahy always had a place in the 4077th. Alda even wrote and directed the episode “Hepatitis” referencing his costar’s real-life ordeal.

6. George Maharis in Route 66


Route 66 followed two friends as they traveled the country helping anyone they could along the way. Future Adam-12 star Martin Milner played Tod alongside George Maharis as his buddy, Buz. The pair appeared together through the first and most of the second season until Maharis took a break due to illness. In the show, Buz was also sick and in the hospital. Marahis returned for a few episodes in season three before leaving the series for good.

7. Sonny Shroyer in Dukes of Hazzard


Sonny Shroyer was a constant presence in The Dukes of Hazzard as Deputy Enos Strate. He appeared in well over half the show’s 146 episodes. He was supposed to appear in a few more but appendicitis stuck him in the hospital during production of the second season. In a nod to his predicament, it was mentioned in the show that Enos was also having his appendix removed and therefore had to miss out on a few adventures with the Dukes.

8. Jane Morgan in Our Miss Brooks


This Fifties sitcom starring Eve Arden as English teacher Connie Brooks has one of the earliest examples of a main cast member leaving temporarily due to illness. Jane Morgan, who played Connie’s landlady Margaret Davis, suffered a stroke during the show’s third season. Margaret’s sister, Angela, who had appeared in earlier episodes, took on a more prominent role in Margaret’s absence. Fortunately, Morgan recovered quickly and not only stayed on until the series finale but lived for 20 more years into her 90s!

9. Don Adams in Get Smart


Spy spoof Get Smart was the ideal vehicle to showcase Don Adams’ comedic timing and wit. He and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99 were the perfect flipside to serious spy shows like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible. Adams appeared in every episode, but “Ice Station Siegfried” featured just a quick appearance to explain that Maxwell Smart was stuck in Miami and thus couldn’t participate in that week’s adventure. There are conflicting reports about the real reason for Adams’ absence, ranging from a root canal to performing in Vegas to cover gambling debts.

10. Ellen Corby in The Waltons


Everyone’s favorite TV grandma, Ellen Corby was a beloved part of The Waltons for many years. While filming the season five episode “The Ferris Wheel,” Corby was late to set – something that didn’t happen often. Will Geer and other cast members noticed and decided to check on her at her house. They realized she had a stroke and rushed her to the hospital, likely saving her life. Corby’s health struggles were written into the show, explaining her slower speech. She not only appeared in many more episodes but even came back for multiple Waltons reunion movies.

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FlintIngley 19 months ago
Ross Martin, of course. He missed several episodes of The Wild Wild West after having a massive heart attack. Charles Aidman replaced him for most of the episodes, along with "guest" sidekicks like Alan Hale, Jr. and William Schallert. They even managed to work in a "Gilligan's Island" joke at the end of Hale's appearance.
Mike 22 months ago
Late in its run, Peyton Place was hit with two ill-health absences at the same time:
Dorothy Malone had a medical emergency and missed a few episodes; Lola Albright pinch-hit for her.
Meanwhile, George Macready missed a few shows as the town founder; his substitute was Wilfrid Hyde-White.
Tresix 23 months ago
Didn’t Redd Foxx get sick and had to leave “Sanford and Son” for a while? That was when Grady stepped in to take care of the Sanford home.
JHP 24 months ago

I think he couldn't get a good sig from his shoe fone
JHP 24 months ago
#5 ?! really

am drop on the floor surprised
BuckeyeBeth7 JHP 18 months ago
I don’t think I’ve ever read where he got hepatitis A, B, or C. Since I don’t think he was a drug user or running around having unprotected sex, I’m assuming he got hepatitis from eating at a place where the prep crew/chefs didn’t practice proper hygiene. I’ve read a couple of places where he apparently almost died, and I personally think it was pretty damn cold of the powers-that-be on mash to want to write him off the show for having a bit of a lengthy illness. Thankfully Alan Alda used his influence to force them to keep William Christopher.
1MightyFine 24 months ago
Thank You ALL for the wonderful information about some of my favorite people who had a Great Show as well as those wonderful people that they portrayed. Some of this information I knew however, there wasn’t a lot I didn’t know and for this I applaud All of you on MeTV you are wonderful.
Thank You All so much for opening my eyes to some items I thought I knew were falsely told and of you All helped open my eyes to the truth.
I Love MeTV and those Wonderful programs.
joenic27 25 months ago
Howard McNear disappeared from the Andy Griffith Show, for about a season and a half, following his stroke.
Edd Byrnes missed half of season 2 on 77 Sunset Strip due to a contract dispute. Kookie lost his comb.
JHP joenic27 24 months ago
I got kookies comb - but don't need it (haha)
steveb 26 months ago
what about Sebastian Cabot in Family Affair.
Coldnorth 28 months ago
Ellen Corby was one tough lady. She must have really struggled to remember lines etc. sometimes she showed frustration during a scene. I don’t think she was always acting. I can’t imagine her determination
JeffBaker 29 months ago
I think Marion Lorne had a heart attack and was only able to do two episodes of the second season of "Bewitched."
bjmcstrickland 29 months ago
Erik Estrada on CHiPS. Had a motorcycle accident and was hospitalized with broken bones, etc. Several episodes showed him in a hospital bed or recovering at "home" until he could get back to riding. The show included a chase scene where a double for Estrada runs into a semi and Jon Baker gets to him first -- Larry Wilcox was a medic in Vietnam and helped Estrada right after the accident.
pammie63 29 months ago
How about Miss Michael Leonard as Olivia Walton?
JohnBates 29 months ago
Not to mention Caroll O'Conner having heart surgery near the end of the second season of "In The Heat Of The Night." He was replaced by Joe Don Baker in the final four episodes that season.
katlovemetv 29 months ago
Great article….always had a special fondness for Bea Benaderet and was real happy when she got her own show…what a star! So sorry she was unable to finish!
geatornez82 29 months ago
MrsPhilHarris 29 months ago
A bunch of comments have been removed again including one of mine. I looked it up. Can’t figure out why it’s gone.
Moody MrsPhilHarris 29 months ago
This was happening to me a couple of months ago. Comments were suddenly being deleted for no apparent reason. I emailed MeTv about it & they got right back to me. It seems it's a glitch in the software they use to screen inappropriate comments. They were able to restore my comments pretty quickly. I haven't had any problem since.
MrsPhilHarris Moody 29 months ago
Thanks Moody!
StrayCat 29 months ago
Not mentioned about William Christopher is that due to his illness the MASH producers announced they would be cutting him from the series, a decision that was immediately reversed when the entire cast revolted in support of Christopher. It was said that as expected in a long running series over time cast members always found something to squabble over causing a bit of animosity, but everybody always liked Christopher.
LoveMETV22 StrayCat 29 months ago
Yes the M*A*S*H cast were very supportive of each other. Or so it said.
vinman63 29 months ago
Dick York towards the end of his run with Bewitch was only mentioned and he was eventually replaced by Dick York.
Susan00100 vinman63 29 months ago
Don't you mean Dick Sargent?
RobinOrlowski Susan00100 29 months ago
Yeah---that was the biggie which I'm sure most people my age could think of

Runners up for Beverly Hills 90210 are Andrea Zuckerman's grandmother (the actresses playing her changes) and CU Frat President Mike Ryan (the actor playing him changes).
vinman63 Susan00100 29 months ago
yeah. What a goof lol
Nala92129 vinman63 25 months ago
Dick Sargent was no Dick York. Just as Alyce Pearce was irreplaceable.
vinman63 Nala92129 25 months ago
Originaly Dick Sargent was to have been Darin in the beginning of the series but he had other engagements.
TownOfMayberry 29 months ago
No Howard McNear?!?! How can you have this list without Floyd Lawson (Howard McNear)?!?!
katlovemetv TownOfMayberry 29 months ago
Agreed, Floyd should have definitely made the list!
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