Monday, September 07, 2015

Obituary: Martin Milner

According to TMZ, actor Martin Milner, known for both television and movie roles, but probably best known for his television roles, has died. He was 83.

A representative of his fan page confirmed the death.

For most younger people, Milner is remembered for his role in the police series Adam 12, but those of us in the baby boom era best remember his work in the classic television series, Route 66. It ran from 1960 to 1964. This show, with the exception of the last two episodes which were just godawful but for the final scene, was one of the best shows ever to air. The episodes often operated on a higher intellectual plane than almost all other series of the era, which is saying a lot because there were so many great series from that period. You had to pay attention or even watch the episodes multiple times to truly grasp it. It was really about man's search for meaning. It was one of the early road-type shows where people went across the country searching for whatever was missing in their lives.

Milner, with original co-star George Maharis and later with Glenn Corbett after Maharis left, uprooted his family to travel from place to place to act in this series, as this was the first, and I believe the ONLY, series ever to be filmed entirely on the road--no studio work. It was a truly great series, and Milner, who played a privileged kid with a spanking new Corvette (arguably the true star of the series), had a cynical, edgy demeanor that endeared him to millions.

Route 66 was canceled after the fourth season as the cost of all of the location shooting was not sustainable. Fortunately, the episodes are on DVD for people to enjoy.

I have written about it here and here.

Milner had equal success with Adam 12. He guested on television shows like the Twilight Zone, where he appeared in the unsettling "Mirror Image." He could also be seen in movies like that godawful Valley of the Dolls. In that film, Milner played the first husband of character Neely O'Hara, played by Patty Duke. Her performance was arguably the worst performance by an actress in motion picture history. Milner had a thankless role, but then again, everybody in that film did.

Here is a truly memorable scene with Milner with Sharon Tate and Patty Duke:

More about Milner from the Variety link:

“Route 66” ran on CBS from 1960-64, about a decade before “Adam-12” and resolutely not produced by Webb: Written and lensed across North America and inspired by the spirit of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” the series followed Milner’s Tod Stiles and George Maharis’ Buz Murdock as they traveled from town to town in a Corvette, exploring social issues and the changing cultural landscape.

As “Adam-12” ended in 1975, Milner transitioned smoothly to the Irwin Allen-produced series “Swiss Family Robinson,” in which he played the paterfamilias. When that series proved short lived, Milner went on to appear in a variety of TV movies; there was also a guest spot on “Police Story.”

He retired from acting in 1997.

Milner was married since 1957 to Judy Jones, and they had four children, three of whom along with Judy survive him.

He will be missed.

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