Character actor Bill Erwin's persistence paid off in the Eighties

The famous Old Man is the definition of aging gracefully.

You might recognize character actor Bill Erwin as an Old Man from hit shows and movies in the Eighties and Nineties.

He memorably got an Emmy nomination for guest starring on Seinfeld.

In the Eighties, many reporters described his appeal, praising his distinct look as what set him apart as a top-notch character actor.

It’s "the silver hair, the wise eyes, the knowing smile, the voice filled with authority," mused a reporter for Victor Valley Daily Press in 1982.

"His round rosy face with those blue eyes and that thatch of silver hair make him one of the most recognizable character actors around today," proclaimed another in the Victoria Advocate the same year.

For Erwin, his celebrity was a long time coming after spending decades on TV and feeling like his face was forgettable even when he made it on hit shows like The Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy or The Twilight Zone.

"When I was a young man, it was sometimes difficult for me to get work," Erwin said. "If you are very handsome or very ugly, you can work in Hollywood. The problem is to work when you are more or less average-looking."

Erwin saw himself as a nobody for most of his career.

"I just had a round, honest face, and there are millions of round, honest faces around," Erwin said. "So, it was difficult at times. But now I no longer look like everybody else, so I am working more."

Erwin kept at the acting even through what he described as lean years because acting was his greatest joy, and at his core, he always believed in persistence as his best strategy for success.

"Now that I look like I do – the silver hair and the mustache to match – I am getting better parts than I ever had before in my life," Erwin boasted.

At his home in the Eighties, Erwin had framed a quote above his desk that read "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence."

In his career, which stretched from uncredited movie parts in the 1940s to memorable Old Man TV roles through 2006, Erwin’s persistence indeed paid off.

All he really needed to succeed was growing older and getting consistent stage time to become seasoned.

When he finally got the celebrity that he’d pursued all his life, he said he felt younger than his years.

"It appears that most actors my age have either become superstars or long since given up the struggle," Erwin said. "I have just kept working away, seeking to improve my skills. Then there’s that old word ‘persistence.’ I’m standing on the threshold with the eagerness of a juvenile."

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leannie429 9 months ago
The role I remember him most for was the old bellhop at the Grand Hotel in “Somewhere in Time.” I loved every minute of his performance.
F5Twitster 10 months ago
"At his home in the Eighties, Erwin had framed a quote above his desk that read 'Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.'"

Then again, there's the advice offered by Max Plunkett, Edward Everett Horton's character in Ernst Lubitch's film of Noel Coward's "Design for Living" (1933):

"Nothing will replace one-hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day."
F5Twitster 10 months ago
"At his home in the Eighties, Erwin had framed a quote above his desk that read 'Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.'"

And I'm sure he kept telling himself that...and telling himself that...and telling himself that.
Runeshaper 10 months ago
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence." - Love that! I remember Bill Erwin from Home Alone (-:
DZee 10 months ago
I remember him from a Married with Children episode too.
ETristanBooth 10 months ago
I remember him primarily from the film Somewhere In Time (1980).
Andybandit 10 months ago
I remember him on Seinfeld. He was on Seinfeld.
Pacificsun 10 months ago
Very nice story, with a great lesson to be taken advantage of.
LoveMETV22 10 months ago
He was hilarious as the Old Man on Seinfeld. He has also made appearances on several
MeTV (past and present programs):
I Love Lucy, The Rifleman, Wagon Train, Leave It to Beaver.
Just to name a few. He certainly had no shortage of roles.
WordsmithWorks 10 months ago
The Emmy nod for "Seinfeld" was well-deserved. He was great in that episode.. Didn't remember him in "Twilight Zone," so IMDb to the rescue. Among three other bit parts, he was the husband half of the middle aged couple in "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up." He amassed 247 TV/film credits, with his final role coming when he was 93 years old. Not a bad career.
I still love how he delivered his speech in "Martian," which went something like: "I think 18 years is long enough for a woman to know who she's married to. So I'll thank you to stop staring at me as though I just put on this face as part of a costume."
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