Frank Aletter dies at 83; character actor known for roles in situation comedies
By By Dennis McLellan
May 15, 2009 | 12:00 AM
Frank Aletter, a veteran character actor who starred in the 1960s situation comedies "Bringing Up Buddy" and "It's About Time," has died. He was 83.
Aletter, who was once married to actress and former Miss America Lee Meriwether, died of cancer Wednesday at his home in Tarzana, said his daughter Kyle Oldham. FOR THE RECORD: Frank Aletter obituary: A photo caption accompanying the obituary of character actor Frank Aletter in Friday's Section A misidentified actress Enid Markey, his co-star in "Bringing Up Buddy," as Violet Flower. Markey played the role of Aunt Violet Flower in the TV sitcom. —
Aletter, a 1950s Broadway actor whose credits included the musical comedy "Bells Are Ringing," appeared in a number of movies, including "Mister Roberts" and "Tora! Tora! Tora!," but he was best known for his extensive work in television.
In the 1960-61 series "Bringing Up Buddy," he played bachelor Buddy Flower, an investment counselor living with his meddlesome spinster aunts.
In “It’s About Time,” a 1966-67 series, he and Jack Mullaney played astronauts who crack the time barrier and wind up back on Earth during the Stone Age, where they are befriended by a couple named Shad and Gronk (Imogene Coca and Joe E. Ross).
Aletter also played Cara Williams' husband in "The Cara Williams Show," a 1964-65 situation comedy, and he was a regular on the 1970-71 sitcom "Nancy."
As a guest actor, he appeared in more than 100 series, including "Perry Mason," "The Lucy Show," "MASH," "Kojak," "All in the Family," "Fantasy Island," "Murder, She Wrote" and "Dallas."
"He was one of the faces that everybody would stop and ask, 'Do I know you from anywhere?' " said Oldham, recalling that her father was riding in the passenger seat of a car in New York City years ago when a homeless car-window washer came up and said, "Hey, dude, I just saw you on 'What's Happening!!' "
Aletter, born in Queens, N.Y., on Jan. 14, 1926, served in the Army from 1946 to 1948, during which he was in a Special Services Unit in Germany.
After his discharge, he enrolled in the Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan.
He made his Broadway debut in 1950 when he replaced Eli Wallach in the role of Stefanowski in "Mister Roberts." His other Broadway credits include "Wish You Were Here" and "Time Limit!"
Aletter served for many years on the board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild.
His marriage to Meriwether in 1958 ended in divorce in the early 1970s.
In addition to Oldham, he is survived by his second wife of 25 years, Estella; his other daughter, Lesley Aletter; his stepdaughters, Alix and Julia Hodes; and his granddaughter, Ryan Oldham.
Instead of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.