R.I.P. Bill Macy of Maude fame and guest star across MeTV
He made appearances on Matlock, The Love Boat and more.
Image: Everett Collection
"[I] first saw Bill Macy choking on a chicken bone in an off-Broadway play…it took seven minutes; it was a tour de force." Norman Lear shared this anecdote during his 1998 interview with the Archive of American Television.In a way, this perfectly sums up the commitment to the craft that Bill Macy brought to each role he took on.
Born Wolf Martin Garber, Macy was born on May 18, 1922, in Revere, Mass. He was raised in Brooklyn, New York and worked as a taxi driver before pursuing an acting career.
Most people recognize Macy from his longstanding role as Walter Findlay on the television sitcom Maude, a spinoff of All in the Family. As the fourth husband to Beatrice Arthur's title character, his flustered demeanor played alongside Arthur's outspoken and unapologetically liberal character in a way that delighted and fixated audiences for six years. When he did manage to win the rare argument or quarrel, Arthur would quip back with her catchphrase, "God'll get you for that, Walter."
Macy also took on plenty of guest roles across classic TV. Many series that brought on the character actor are MeTV favorites. On two separate occasions, Macy can be seen in episodes of The Love Boat. The first of these takes place in season eight, in which Macy's character must perform a selfless act in order to enter the pearly gates of Heaven. The second took place in 1986; during "We'll Meet Again," Macy plays husband to Jayne Meadows. The pair take the same cruise each year in the same cabin over the course of a decade, with one small hitch; both are married to other people!
In 1987, he played Richard Wilson in the Perry Mason TV movie, Perry Mason: The Case of the Murdered Madam. He popped up again in 1991 alongside Andy Griffith in Matlock, playing Sid Franklin in a case involving a murder and arson. Later, he appeared on Columbo in the episode "It's All in the Game", the only script that was written by Columbo himself (Peter Falk).
Macy died on Thursday evening, October 17 in his home according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 97.