Saturday, 29 May 2021

Happy He's Murray

Television would have been quite different if CBS’ “A Man on the Beach” had become a hit series in 1958.

It starred people who went on to TV fame after “Beach” failed—Max Baer and Gavin MacLeod.

MacLeod’s real breakout role was on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” He had a series before that. He appeared as Happy at the outset of “McHale’s Navy” before walking away for a movie role. He wasn’t missed. The cast was far too big and the comedy antics were soon given to Joe Flynn and Tim Conway, not MacLeod and the rest of Quinton McHale’s ragtag Bilko wannabes.

Occasionally he got focused in what were likely handouts from the network to fill entertainment columns. One mentioned how Carl Ballantine ad-libbed with a pair of scissors and removed what little of MacLeod’s hair he had left. Another called him the show’s good-luck charm because every time he announced his wife was expecting, the ratings went up or the show got renewed.

MacLeod was kind of “the other guy” when he was cast as writer Murray Slaughter on “Mary Tyler Moore.” Ed Asner and Ted Knight got meatier newsroom characters to play. UPI columnist Vernon Scott seems a little challenged to find something interesting about MacLeod himself in this wire story of February 20, 1971; the earliest national attention I can find that MacLeod received.

McLeod Likes To Write And Paint

HOLLYWOOD (UPI) – Gavin MacLeod, the harried news writer on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," is an unharried family man who writes plays, not news, in his spare time.
A native of Mount Kisco, N.Y., MacLeod is married to Joan Roovik.
She was a Rockette and he an usher at the famed Radio City Music Hall when they met at a church communion breakfast.
They were a steady twosome for a couple of years before they married and moved to California.
Their children are Keith, 10; David, 9; Julia, 8; and Meghan, 6.
Thanks to the children, the family also includes a St. Bernard named Gillian of Moose Lake; three eats, Georgie Boy, Sam and Owl, and two nameless lizards.
Fortunately for their neighbors, the MacLeods live on a half acre of San Fernando valley real estate in the foothills of Santa Monica mountains. Gavin has his eye on a larger home and grounds where the family can keep a horse and own a swimming pool.
Their current house has three bedrooms—which means two daughters and two sons in each of the kids’ rooms—and is decorated in the popular French Country style. MacLeod is a collector of abstract and impressionistic oil paintings by young California artists.
He dabbles in art himself. And it is not uncommon to see all the family on a weekend painting canvases or sculpting in clay. MacLeod says it is an excellent way to communicate with his off- springs.
He works on the CBS show five days a week, usually arriving at the studio at 9:30 a.m. after a 45-minute freeway ride.
Almost invariably he is home for dinner. Unlike many a husband who boasts of his wife's dexterity in the kitchen, MacLeod says Joan is a good cook when she wants to be. Translation: when there is company.
The MacLeods don't entertain often, but when they do, Joan can cook up a stuffed cornish game hen with the best of them.
Sunday morning is a special delight for the younger MacLeods. Old Dad struggles out of bed and prepares breakfast for the entire family.
His specialty is making hotcakes in the shape of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, snowmen and other figures. Little Meg is especially delighted with her father's talent for fancy pancakes.
Actor MacLeod has worked in 18 movies, including “Kelly’s Heroes,” and has appeared in 250 television shows. At the moment he would like to see “The Mary Tyler Moore” show run for the next decade or so.

In the early years, the show’s writers would make him the centre of plots on occasion, though one episode about Murray driving a cab was pretty much stolen by Joyce Bulifant as Murray’s wife. Time took care of things as the characters became more three-dimensional as the seasons chugged along.

This syndicated story appeared in papers around July 15, 1972:

Gavin Likes Nice Role

Hollywood (NEA)—GAVIN MacLEOD is a member of what is probably television's finest comedic ensemble company, The Mary Tyler Moore Show on CBS. This is a fairly big surprise to MacLeod, because of some years he was typed as depraved.
As Murray Slaughter, Mary's newsroom pal, MacLeod is certainly one of the good guys. And he likes being a good guy. It has helped his home life and it is giving him a pleasant public image.
"For years," MacLeod says, "I always played the depraved, the vile, the awful. And, really, it affected my home life. I remember once, I was in 'The Connection,' and I'd come home and I'd use vile language around the house. Fortunately, we only had one child at the time and he was just a baby."
HE SAYS he hasn't any idea how the men who put The Mary Tyler Moore Show came to think of him as a good guy. He knows they saw him in an episode of Hawaii Five-0 playing a depraved, vile, awful drug pusher—and they asked him to come in and read.
“I don’t know how it happened,” he says, “But I love being nice. And the public thinks I’m nice because Mary likes me on the show. People stop me after church and in supermarkets and it’s always, ‘Hi, Murray,’ with a big smile. It’s a great feeling.”
Now that he's discovered the joys of being a good guy, he wants to do more of the same. At the moment, he’s studying singing. He wants to do stage musicals. And he and his wife, Joan, who was a Radio City Music Hall Rockette when they met, want to start their own small stage theater, perhaps somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.
MacLeod is from Pleasantville, N.Y., which is the home address of The Reader's Digest. His father died when he was 13 and from then on he's always worked. His first job was as a waiter—"I was the youngest waiter in Pleasantville"—and on his first day he spilled soup on a customer. But he decided he’d rather act than spill soup, so he worked hard and won a scholarship in drama to Ithaca College in upstate New York. That’s where he learned to act—and get his first taste of being depraved.

MacLeod got fired from the WJM newsroom in 1977 and immediately boarded “The Love Boat” for a long and lucrative voyage. It never aspired to be anything other than cheesy fun and it made MacLeod even more popular with an aging TV audience.

His TV career was bookended with boats, but he was at his finest with an ensemble cast that’s lauded by many as among the best ever on the small screen.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sure after playing a pluthera of drug pushers, underhanded lawyers, crminals and even a nazi stealing art work from he French in " Hogan's Heroes ", playing Murray Slaughter was a welcome and comfertable change. Gavin took a character that could have easily faided into the wood work, and made him likable,a perfect foil for Ted Baxter and believeable. A true test of his talent. RIP Gavin, you will be missed