Maurice Marsac, 92; French actor often portrayed snooty waiters

Times Staff Writer

Maurice Marsac, a French character actor who often played haughty waiters, most notably in “The Jerk,” and who also was a nationally ranked croquet player, has died. He was 92.

Marsac died of cardiac arrest May 6 at a hospital care facility in Santa Rosa, Calif., said Mark Jaqua, a distant relative.

His death came less than three weeks after his wife of 55 years, Melanie, died at 90 in her sleep April 16 at their Oakmont, Calif., home.

After debuting as a French soldier in “Paris After Dark” (1943), Marsac appeared in more than 150 television shows and films, including “To Have and Have Not” (1944) and “How to Marry a Millionaire” (1953).


In “The Jerk” (1979), Marsac portrays the waiter who must deflect Steve Martin’s complaint that his plate of escargots is covered with snails.

On television, Marsac “really enjoyed” playing a French teacher in “Our Miss Brooks,” the 1950s series with Eve Arden, Jaqua said.

Marsac appeared in dozens of TV shows, including a 1956 episode of “I Love Lucy” in which he had to deal with Lucille Ball’s distress over being served escargots.

His last role was as a maitre d’ in the film “Dragnet” (1987).

About a decade ago, Marsac and his wife moved from Studio City to Oakmont to indulge in Northern California’s more entrenched croquet culture.

As a member of the Beverly Hills Croquet Club, Marsac was noted for his teaching ability.

In 1989, he was named the resident pro at two Newport Beach croquet courts.

The Marsacs were part of an elite group invited to most croquet invitationals in the United States, said Bob Alman, founding editor of Croquet World Online Magazine.

“In the world of croquet, you have to be pretty good to be invited, but you also have to be invitable,” Alman said.

“Maurice and Melanie were lively, exciting and wonderful, wonderful people who did not know how to have a dull conversation,” he said.

With a higher ranking than his wife, Marsac was once among the top 5% of croquet players, Alman said.

Marsac was born March 23, 1915, in La Croix, France.

During World War II, he participated in the French Resistance.

The Marsacs often traveled extensively to play croquet and visit France or his wife’s homeland of Mexico.

“He was sort of the last of a generation, with a code of honor and a regal bearing,” said Jaqua, who was a distant cousin of Marsac’s wife.

“He and his wife were so devoted to each other that we knew one probably wasn’t going to be able to live without the other.”