John Milford; Helped Design Walk of Fame

TIMES STAFF WRITER

John Milford, veteran character actor and civil engineer who helped design Hollywood's internationally known Walk of Fame, has died at the age of 72.

Milford, who also pioneered the equity waiver theater in Los Angeles, died Monday en route to his Brentwood home after treatment for melanoma at the John Wayne Cancer Institute at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica.

The Johnstown, N.Y., native educated himself to make a living while pursuing what he loved. He received a bachelor's degree in civil engineering at New York's Union College and a master's in drama at Yale.

Milford made his acting debut in the early television series "What's My Name?" at KGRB in Albany, N.Y., in the 1940s and his film debut in the classic "Marty," starring Ernest Borgnine in 1955.

Adapted well to the demand for Westerns in the 1950s and early 1960s, Milford appeared in such motion pictures as "Gunfight at Comanche Creek" and "Support Your Local Sheriff," and such television series as "The Rifleman," "Sugarfoot," "The Virginian" and "Gunsmoke."

Altogether, Milford worked in a dozen or so films and about 500 television productions, most recently in the motion picture "Primary Colors," starring John Travolta, and television's "X-Files."

Milford eased gracefully into old age and its associated character roles, playing doctors, grandfathers or dignitaries such as Albert Einstein.

When acting didn't pay the bills, Milford simply went back to engineering. It was in that capacity, and as a member of the Screen Actors Guild, that he created the original design for the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The sidewalk memorial now has 2,195 bronze stars engraved with the names of entertainment luminaries.

But Milford may be best remembered for what he did for the theater business in Los Angeles. In 1957, he helped build a venue at 3759 Cahuenga Blvd., once known as the REP Playhouse, then Studio Theater.

In 1969, with Don Molin, Milford changed the name of the theatrical space once again and established the 45-seat Chamber, the first of the city's equity waiver theaters (fewer than 99 audience seats, obviating paying actors union wages). The little theater helped launch the careers of such actors as Richard Chamberlain and Vic Morrow.

Milford also acted in several plays there, including "Silent Night, Lonely Night" and "Do You Know the Milky Way," in which he played a dozen roles.

Milford is survived by his wife, Susan Graw, a film and TV producer; two sons, Gerry and Robert; two brothers, and two grandsons.

Services are scheduled for Friday at St. Albans Church in Westwood.

The family has asked that any donations be made to the John Wayne Cancer Institute or to Camp Del Corazon at 5695 Holbrent Ave. No. 10, Van Nuys, CA 91411.

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