William Schallert died at the age of 93 last Sunday in Pacific Palisades, California. His son Edwin confirmed his death. Some people might not recognize the name, but they would remember him as being Patty Duke’s father, Martin Lane, on the “The Patty Duke Show” that ran from 1963-1966. Like many other character actors with long careers, Schallert’s face was more recognizable than his name.
Schallert appeared in many films and in such television series as Perry Mason; The Smurfs; Jefferson Drum; Philip Marlowe; The Rat Patrol; Gunsmoke; Star Trek; The Patty Duke Show; 87th Precinct; The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis; The Waltons; Hawaii Five-O, Quincy, M.E.; The Partridge Family; Bonanza; Wanted: Dead or Alive; Leave It to Beaver; The Dick Van Dyke Show; Love, American Style; Get Smart; Lawman; Combat!; The Wild Wild West; and in later years, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Medium, My Name is Earl, and True Blood.
William “Bill” Schallert was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Edwin Francis Schallert, a longtime drama critic for the Los Angeles Times, and Elza Emily Schallert (née Baumgarten), a magazine writer and radio host. He began acting while a student at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and, in 1946, helped found the Circle Theatre with Sydney Chaplin and several fellow students. In 1948, Schallert was directed by Sydney’s father, Charlie Chaplin, in a staging of Somerset Maugham’s Rain.
Schallert appeared in supporting roles on numerous television programs since the early 1950s, including four episodes (and three different characters) in Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theatre between 1958 and 1961. He was in Gunsmoke (season 3, episode 16 “Twelfth Night”) in 1957 and (season 4, episode 16 “Gypsum Hills Feud”) in 1958 and The Partridge Family, as a very humble folk-singing guitar player with “Stage Fright”, in 1971. He appeared three times as Major Karl Richmond on NBC’s Steve Canyon, starring Dean Fredericks in the title role.
Schallert also appeared in several movies. One of his early cinematic roles was a brief uncredited performance as a police detective in The Reckless Moment (1949) with Joan Bennett and James Mason. He had roles in The Man from Planet X (1951) with Robert Clarke, The Tarnished Angels (1958) with Robert Stack, Blue Denim (1959) with Brandon deWilde, Pillow Talk (1959) with Doris Day and Rock Hudson, Speedway (1968) with Elvis Presley, The Jerk (1979) with Steve Martin, Teachers (1984) with Nick Nolte, and Innerspace (1987), in which he played Martin Short’s doctor. Schallert also played (uncredited) an ambulance attendant in the early minutes of the 1950s sci-fi classic, Them! (1954). He was a founding member of the Circle Players at The Circle Theatre, started in 1946, now known as El centro theatre.
Schallert starred in Philbert, an innovative 1964 TV pilot for ABC, which combined live action camera work and animation. Created by Warner Brothers animator Friz Freleng and directed by Richard Donner, ABC backed out of the series shortly before full production was to begin, though the completed pilot was released in theaters by Warner Brothers as a short subject.
Schallert was probably best known as Martin Lane on The Patty Duke Show. He also appeared as a wise teacher, Mr. Leander Pomfritt, on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and as The Admiral on Get Smart. On the two former shows he worked opposite actress Jean Byron. Schallert made three guest appearances on CBS’s Perry Mason between 1957–1962, including the role of Donald Graves in the series’ fifth episode, “The Case of the Sulky Girl”, and Dr. Bradbury in the 1961 episode, “The Case of the Misguided Missile”. He played the role of Nilz Baris in the Star Trek episode “The Trouble With Tribbles”, and much later in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode “Sanctuary”, in which he played Varani, a Bajoran musician.
Schallert played the role of Carson Drew in the television series The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries (1977–1979), featuring Pamela Sue Martin as Nancy Drew.
In addition to his onscreen performances, Schallert did voiceover work for numerous television and radio commercials over the years. Among these were a recurring role as “Milton the Toaster” in animated commercials for Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts.
Schallert had the rare distinction of appearing in both the original movie version of In the Heat of the Night (1967) and the later NBC TV version in 1992. In 2004, TV Guide recognized Schallert’s portrayal of Martin Lane on The Patty Duke Show as No. 39 on its list of “50 Greatest TV Dads.”
Schallert served as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) from 1979 to 1981 and afterward remained active in SAG projects, including serving as a Trustee of the SAG Pension and Health Plans since 1983, and of the Motion Picture and Television Fund since 1977. (His former co-star and television daughter, Patty Duke, also served as SAG president from 1985 to 1988.)
During Schallert’s tenure as SAG President, he founded the Committee for Performers with Disabilities, and in 1993, he was awarded the Ralph Morgan Award for service to the Guild.
Schallert continued to work steadily as an actor in later life, appearing in a 2008 episode of How I Met Your Mother, the HBO television movie Recount (2008) as U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, the HBO series True Blood and his distinctive voice continues to bring him work for commercial and animation voiceovers. 2009 appearances included a guest role on Desperate Housewives on March 15, 2009, in which he played the role of a small newspaper editor, and he also appeared in an episode of According to Jim. More recently, he appeared in the January 21, 2010 pilot episode of The Deep End on ABC as a retiring CEO with Alzheimer’s Disease. He also made an appearance on Medium on the February 5, 2010 episode and a cameo on the June 26, 2011 season premiere of True Blood as the Mayor of Bon Temps. He played Max Devore, a secondary antagonist, in the A&E adaptation of Bag of Bones.
In 2010, Schallert made a series of Public Service Announcement videos with Patty Duke and other castmates from The Patty Duke Show for the Social Security Administration. His last television appearance came in 2014 on an episode of the sitcom 2 Broke Girls.
In a 2014 interview, Schallert said that he was suffering from peripheral neuropathy, forcing him to wear leg braces while effectively confining him to a wheelchair. He said about his condition: “They help me stay balanced if I use a walker, but it’s just easier to get around in a wheelchair”. While not ruling out working on stage in the future, Schallert said “working in film or TV would be too difficult now. Besides, I did my share!”
Schallert was married to actress Leah Waggner (born Rosemarie Diann Waggner) from 1949 until her death in 2015. She appeared with him in various shows, including episodes of The Patty Duke Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show. The couple had four sons: William Joseph (born in 1949), Edwin G. (born in 1952), Mark M. (born in 1954), and Brendan C. Schallert (born in 1961). Schallert died on May 8, 2016 at his home in Pacific Palisades at the age of 93, six weeks after the death of his on-screen daughter Patty Duke on March 29.