John McLiam; Broadway, Film Character Actor


John McLiam, a Broadway character actor who also worked extensively in films and television from “My Fair Lady” to “Dynasty,” has died. He was 76.

McLiam died Saturday in Woodland Hills after suffering from Parkinson’s disease and melanoma, his wife, Roberta, said.

He was known for a remarkable facility with speaking in various accents--British, Cockney, Irish, Australian, Russian, Swedish, or Western, Southern or Brooklyn--and moved easily from roles in Shakespearean productions to the part of Pa Joad in “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Born John Williams, the actor later assumed the Gaelic version of his surname, McLiam, as his stage name.


He studied English at St. Mary’s College in Northern California and earned a master’s degree from UC Berkeley. During World War II, McLiam served as an intelligence officer in the Navy, earning a Bronze Star.

After a brief stint as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner, he appeared in a couple of plays and did so well that he moved to New York to go into theater. After studying playwriting, acting and directing, he made his Broadway debut as an actor in “Barefoot in Athens” in 1951.

During the 1950s, McLiam appeared in several Broadway plays and scores of television and radio programs originating from New York. He also wrote plays, including “The Sin of Pat Muldoon,” which was produced on Broadway in 1957.

McLiam moved to California in 1961 and concentrated on films and episodes of prime-time television series including “Dynasty,” “Two Marriages” and “Highway to Heaven.”


In addition to “My Fair Lady,” his films included “Cool Hand Luke,” “In Cold Blood,” “The Iceman Cometh,” “The Reivers,” “The Missouri Breaks” and “First Blood.”

In addition to his wife, McLiam is survived by a daughter, Claire, of Santa Barbara, and one granddaughter, Rose Alice.

A funeral Mass is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. today at St. Mel Church, 20870 Ventura Blvd., Woodland Hills, with burial at 10 a.m. Thursday in San Fernando Mission Cemetery, Mission Hills.

The family has asked that memorial donations be made to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.