Actor Frank Faylen Dies; Noted for Film, TV Roles

Times Staff Writer

Frank Faylen, a character actor whose 70-year entertainment career ranged from a Mississippi River showboat act to a role on the “Dobie Gillis” television series, is dead.

Faylen was 79 when he died Friday at a Burbank hospital. He had suffered from a lengthy respiratory illness.

He was a veteran of more than 400 films. His movie work included parts in “The Grapes of Wrath,” “Gunfight at the OK Corral” and “Funny Girl.”


Born in St. Louis, he lived on a showboat with his parents, who were acrobats and singers. Faylen joined their troupe as an infant when he was rolled onto the stage in a baby buggy to be a straight man for showboat comics. A cow was carried on board to keep his baby bottle filled.

After working with his parents, Faylen became a vaudevillian song-and-dance man before turning to the screen in 1936.

Under contract to Paramount, he portrayed scores of gangsters, policemen and bartenders. His most-acclaimed role was in the 1945 film, “The Lost Weekend.” In it, he played a sadistic nurse who tormented alcoholic Ray Milland.

Faylen’s other films included “Bullets or Ballots,” “Kid Galahad,” “Road to Rio,” “Detective Story,” “Riot in Cell Block Eleven” and “North to Alaska.”

He was most widely known for a television role, however. He portrayed Herbert T. Gillis, the grocer-father of Dobie Gillis in the 1959-1963 television series, “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” and in a subsequent Dobie Gillis TV movie.

Faylen is survived by his wife of 57 years, actress Carol Hughes of Hollywood, daughters Catherine Philbin of Van Nuys and Carol Jones of Newport Beach, and three grandchildren.


Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, family members said.