Richard Erdman, best known to audiences as Korean War veteran Leonard “Bucket of Guts” Rodriguez in the comedy series Community, has died. He was 93.
Erdman died Saturday, according to film historian Alan K. Rode, who shared a photo of the actor with the caption reading, “Goodbye pal. Dick Erdman 1925-2019.” The actor’s reps did not immediately respond to requests for confirmation.
Though he endeared himself to a new generation of audiences with his comedic supporting role across all six seasons of the NBC and Yahoo comedy, Erdman had an extensive resume as a character actor with many notable turns in projects throughout Hollywood’s Golden Age. Most notably, he played a cynical, alcoholic ex-Marine in 1951 noir classic Cry Danger opposite noir stalwarts Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming. He also played opposite William Holden in 1953’s POW drama Stalag 17 as barracks chief Sergeant “Hoffy” Hoffman.
Erdman shared screen time with some of Hollywood’s biggest names, including appearing opposite Marlon Brando in the method actor’s feature film debut The Men. He portrayed Leo, a patient in a veterans’ paraplegic ward who helps Brando’s Ken adjust to his new life.
Other memorable roles include a turn as garrulous barfly McNulty in an iconic The Twilight Zone episode, “A Kind of a Stopwatch,” and as Colonel Edward F. French in 1970’s Pearl Harbor dramatization Tora! Tora! Tora! His last onscreen appearance was in 2017 as himself in ABC sitcom Dr. Ken in an episode where Ken Jeong’s autobiographical doctor attends an audition. Jeong posted a tribute to his co-star on Saturday night, including a tribute reel of some of Erdman’s most memorable moments on Community.
Community costar Yvette Nicole Brown also shared a tribute to Erdman, writing, “I knew the day we’d have to say goodbye to this lovely man would come sooner than any of us were ready. But knowing that doesn’t make it any easier. #RichardErdman was JOY walking. Anyone who saw him on @CommunityTV gleeflully stealing every scene he was in knows that’s true.”
Writer Andy Bobrow shared a page of “Shut Up Leonard” jokes in Erdman’s honor.
Richard Erdman was born John Richard Erdmann on June 1, 1925 in Enid, Oklahoma. Raised in Colorado Springs, he moved to Los Angeles in 1941 at the encouragement of his high school drama teacher. Erdman began his career with a studio contract at Warner Bros. making his screen debut in Bette Davis classic Mr. Skeffington and playing a bumbling boyfriend in 1944’s Janie.
He made over 30 films at Warner Bros. over the course of his time there through 1947, and he appeared in over 160 film, television, and theatre projects across his entire professional life. Other notable films include Objective, Burma!, The Blue Gardenia, Saddle the Wind, and You’re in the Navy Now.
Erdman also worked steadily in television throughout his career with recurring roles on series like Where’s Raymond?, Perry Mason, and The Tab Hunter Show. He made countless guest star appearances on everything from Cheers to Wings to The Beverly Hillbillies to I Dream of Jeannie to Felicity. Most will remember him as rowdy Leonard, one of the Hipsters (named after their hip replacements) at Greendale Community College on Community.
He also dabbled in directing, helming the feature film The Brothers O’Toole in 1971 and two episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show.
He is preceded in death by his only daughter, Erica, and second wife Sharon Randall, whom he was married to from 1953 until her death in 2016.
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