H. Anderson; Father in ‘Dennis the Menace’

<i> Associated Press</i>

Herbert Anderson, a versatile movie and stage actor who was best known as the owlish father of television’s “Dennis the Menace,” died Saturday. He was 77.

Anderson died in his sleep at his home in Palm Springs. He had suffered a stroke about two months ago, said family spokesman Mike Vest.

A native of Oakland, Anderson acted in a number of Broadway, television and movie roles but was best known as Henry Mitchell from the 1959-1963 CBS series.


“That’s what people remember,” Anderson said in a 1992 interview. “A waitress once came up to me and said: ‘I used to dream I’d have a father like you.’ ”

Anderson retired in 1982 following heart surgery and moved to Palm Springs in 1985.

His acting career began with Warner Bros. in 1939, and his big break came in 1941 with the musical comedy “Navy Blues,” starring Ann Sheridan and Martha Raye. A year later he played a college newspaper editor in “The Male Animal” with Olivia de Havilland and Henry Fonda.

Anderson also played Dr. Bird in the 1953 Broadway production of the “Caine Mutiny Court Martial,” which also starred Henry Fonda.

Anderson said he and his TV wife, Gloria Henry, read “Dennis the Menace” scripts from a parent’s perspective.

“Many times, Gloria or I would read what Dennis was supposed to do and we’d say, ‘If my kid did that, I’d whack him,’ ” Anderson said. “And the writers would cut that part out. They listened to us.”

Anderson is survived by his wife, Mary; a daughter, Babbie Anderson of Huntington Beach; a son, Nick Anderson of Frenchtown, Mont.; four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.