(AP) — Gavin MacLeod
, the veteran supporting actor who rose to prominence as Murray Slaughter, the sardonic TV news writer
on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show
,” before becoming even more famous as the cheerful Capt. Stubing on “The Love Boat
,” has died at the age of 90.
MacLeod died early Saturday, according to his nephew, Mark See, who stated that his uncle's health
had recently deteriorated but that no cause of death
MacLeod, who was known to sitcom fans
for his bald head and wide smile, toiled in near anonymity for more than a decade, appearing on dozens of TV shows and in several movies
before landing the role of "Mary Tyler Moore" in 1970.
He had originally auditioned for Moore's TV boss, Lou Grant, a part that went to Ed Asner. Realizing he wasn't the right fit for the blustery, short-tempered TV newsroom leader, MacLeod asked if he could try instead for the wisecracking TV news writer, whose jokes
frequently made fun of the dimwitted anchorman Ted Baxter.
“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” was a smash hit from the start and is still considered a classic of situation comedies; it spawned two spinoffs, “Rhoda” and “Phyllis,” starring Valerie Harper and Cloris Leachman, who played Mary’s neighbors.
When Moore, who played news producer Mary Richards, decided to call it quits after seven seasons, it was still the most popular show on the air.
MacLeod went on to create “The Love Boat,” a romantic comedy
in which guest stars ranging from Gene Kelly to Janet Jackson
would come aboard for a cruise and fall in love with each other.
Despite being panned by critics, the series was a huge success, lasting 11 seasons and spawning several TV movies, including two in which MacLeod remained at the helm, as well as landing him a job as a TV pitchman for Princess Cruise Lines.
“The critics despised it, labeling it mindless television
, but we became goodwill ambassadors,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 2013.
“Touched by an Angel,” “JAG,” and “The King of Queens” were among his final television credits.
In his 2013 memoir
, "This Is Your Captain Speaking," MacLeod admitted to struggling with alcoholism
in the 1960s and 1970s, and that losing his hair
at a young age made it difficult for him to find work
as an actor.
“I went all over town looking for an agent, but no one was interested in representing a young man with a bald head,” he wrote. “I knew what I needed to do. I needed to buy myself a hairpiece.” A toupee changed his luck “pretty quickly,” and he no longer needed it by middle age.
MacLeod, whose real name was Allan See, got his first name from a French film and his last name from a drama teacher at Ithaca College in New York
who encouraged him to pursue a career as an actor.
After graduating from college, the Mount Kisco, New York native worked as a supporting actor in "A Hatful of Rain
" and other Broadway
plays, as well as in films such as "I Want to Live!" and "Operation Petticoat."
Throughout the 1960s, he appeared as a guest on TV shows such as "Hogan's Heroes
Five-O," and "The Dick Van Dyke Show." From 1962 to 1964, he played seaman Joseph "Happy" Haines on "McHale's Navy."
“Immediately I thought, ‘This is not the script for me. The character is too much of a bigot.’ I can’t say these things,” MacLeod wrote in his memoir about auditioning for Archie Bunker in “All in the Family.”
"Kelly's Heroes," "The Sand Pebbles," and "The Sword of Ali Baba" were among his other film credits.
MacLeod had four children
with his first wife, Joan Rootvik, whom he divorced in 1972; he was the son of an alcoholic, and his drinking problems contributed to a second divorce, to Patti Steele, but they remarried in 1985 after MacLeod stopped drinking.
Later, the couple hosted a Christian radio show called "Back on Track: A Marriage Ministry."