Lloyd was considered to be the longest-working actor in Hollywood history.

By Maureen Lee Lenker
May 11, 2021 at 06:57 PM EDT
Advertisement

Norman Lloyd, an actor whose career spanned collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, and Amy Schumer, has died. He was 106.

Lloyd died in his sleep at home on May 10, according to The Hollywood Reporter,

He had a truly prolific career, spanning from his work on the stage in the 1930s to his final film, 2015's Trainwreck. Lloyd was the final surviving member of Orson Welles' Mercury Theater, having appeared in its very first production, a modern-dress rendition of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar that landed Welles on the cover of Time.

Lloyd was considered to be the longest-working actor in Hollywood history, and contemporary Karl Malden once said of him, "He is the history of our industry."

His first big break on screen came in Hitchcock's 1942 Saboteur, a sort of proto-North by Northwest about a wrongfully accused man attempting to clear his name after he becomes embroiled in an espionage plot. Lloyd had a memorable role as a Nazi spy, who falls from the top of the Statue of Liberty during the film's climax.

SABOTEUR
Credit: Everett Collection

This launched a lifelong friendship with Hitchcock, earning him a role in Spellbound and post-war, a much-needed rescue from the impact of the Hollywood Blacklist as an associate producer and director on television series Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

The actor continued to work steadily throughout his life, working with Chaplin in Limelight, starring on six seasons of St. Elsewhere as Dr. Daniel Auschlander, and playing a memorable role as the stern, austere headmaster of Welton Academy who disapproves of Robin Williams' John Keating in Dead Poets Society.

Lloyd was born Norman Perlmutter in Jersey City, N.J. on November 8, 1914. He was a performer from the age of 9, with his parents paying for singing and dancing lessons. After dropping out of college, he became involved in the New York social theater of the 1930s, working with entities such as the Theatre of Action and the Federal Theatre Project. He made his Broadway debut in 1935 at the age of 20.

He met Orson Welles and collaborator John Houseman at the Federal Theatre Project, and when they left to found the Mercury Theater, they invited Lloyd to become a charter member. He accompanied Welles and the rest of the company to Hollywood in 1939, originally slated to feature in Welles' production of Heart of Darkness for RKO. When the project was scrapped due to budgetary concerns, Welles asked Lloyd to stay on for his next project, which became Citizen Kane, but Lloyd declined and returned to New York.

Eventually, he returned to Hollywood to make his film debut in Saboteur. He excelled early on in villainous screen roles, including as malicious Finlay in Jean Renoir's The Southerner. Other notable roles in the 1940s included a turn in French revolution noir Reign of Terror, starring opposite Marsha Hunt in Jules Dassin's A Letter for Evie, and re-teaming with Hitchcock for Spellbound.

Lloyd was always socially conscious, and his associations with the likes of John Garfield (with whom he appeared in Garfield's final film He Ran All the Way), Hunt and Dassin, and Elia Kazan made him vulnerable to the investigations of the House of Un-American Activities Committee, forcing him to pivot to directing and producing.

He directed frequently at legendary La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego, Calif. He also worked in television, directing sponsored 1955 film A Word to the Wives, as well as plenty of episodic television including numerous episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

The series led him to work with a smorgasbord of talent, including directors Robert Altman and Ida Lupino, writers such as Ray Bradbury, and actors like Charles Bronson, James Mason, Vera Miles, Walter Matthau, Jayne Mansfield, Robert Redford, Fay Wray, Dick Van Dyke, Jessica Tandy, and Roger Moore.

Lloyd was behind the camera on two of the series most memorable episodes: "Man From the South," based on a Roald Dahl story and starring Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre; and "The Contest for Aaron Gold," from a Philip Roth story and starring Sydney Pollack. Ultimately, he won a Special Mention for Alfred Hitchcock Presents from the Venice Film Festival in 1985. 

He also appeared in five episodes in various roles. He later went on to choose the stories, writers, and directors for the second iteration of the show, 1963-65's Alfred Hitchcock Hour.

Lloyd continued to act, having memorable roles in projects such as 1978's FM and opposite his frequent tennis opponent, Charlie Chaplin, in 1952's Limelight as a choreographer.

Throughout the 1970s, he also produced stage adaptations for PBS' Hollywood Television Theater. He earned an Emmy nomination for Steambath.

His next big acting role came in 1982 as Dr. Daniel Auschlander on NBC medical drama St. Elsewhere. He was only slated for four episodes, but he and his crusty character were so beloved, he ended up becoming a series regular for the show's six seasons, before succumbing to a stroke in the infamous series finale.

After almost a decade away, he returned to acting on the big screen for 1989's Dead Poets Society, excelling as the reviled, cruel headmaster. His last major recurring role was as Dr. Isaac Mentnor on UPN sci-fi drama Seven Days from 1998 to 2001. He also had recurring roles on Wiseguy and The Practice.

Lloyd's other film work includes The Green Years, The Black Book, an American remake of M, Audrey Rose, The Age of Innocence, The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, and In Her Shoes. He also held an impressive TV guest star resume, appearing on shows such as The Joseph Cotten Show, Kojak, Murder, She Wrote, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and Modern Family.

Norman Lloyd
Credit: Alberto E. Rodriguez/WireImage

His final film role came in 2015's Trainwreck, as a resident of the nursing home where Amy Schumer's character's father lives.

Lloyd wrote a memoir, Stages of Life in Theater, Film and Television, in 1993, but over the last few decades, he's become a regular at film festivals and events such as Cannes and the TCM Classic Film Festival, regaling audiences with stories of his amazing career.

He was the subject of 2007 documentary Who Is Norman Lloyd? and he turned his Hollywood memories into a 2010 show called An Evening with Norman Lloyd, where he took to the stage at Burbank's Colony Theatre to discuss his career and answer questions from the audience.

Lloyd was married to Broadway singer and dancer Peggy Craven for over 70 years, from 1935 until her death in 2011. He is survived by their two children, Michael and Josie.

Related content:

Comments