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.
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.