PASSINGS: Sid Melton, Leonard Stone, Liz Anderson, Thomas McNeeley Jr., George Rountree

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Sid Melton

Character actor in dozens of TV, film projects

Sid Melton, 94, a character actor perhaps best known for his roles in the hit television shows “Green Acres” and “The Danny Thomas Show,” died of pneumonia Wednesday at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, his family said.

During a career that spanned nearly 60 years, Melton appeared in about 140 television and film projects. They included two 1951 movies, “Lost Continent” with Cesar Romero and the Samuel Fuller-directed “The Steel Helmet,” and 1972’s “Lady Sings the Blues” with Diana Ross.

On the 1950s TV show “Captain Midnight,” Melton co-starred as the hero’s sidekick, Ichabod Mudd. Decades later, he recalled that fans still greeted him with the character’s signature line: “Mudd with two Ds.”

A regular on “The Danny Thomas Show” from 1959 to 1971, Melton played club owner Uncle Charley Halper. Melton also had a recurring role in the late 1960s on the sitcom “Green Acres” as Alf Monroe, half of an inept brother-sister carpenter team. He also appeared in flashback sequences as the husband of Estelle Getty’s widowed character on “The Golden Girls” sitcom, which originally aired from 1985 to 1992.

He was born Sidney Meltzer on May 22, 1917, in New York City. His father, Isidor Meltzer, was a comedian in Yiddish theater.

On the stage, Melton debuted in 1939 in a touring production of “See My Lawyer” and appeared in 1947 on Broadway in “The Magic Touch,” using his stage name, Sid Melton.

Melton broke in to Hollywood with the help of his older brother, Lewis Meltzer, a screenwriter who adapted “Golden Boy” and “Man With the Golden Arm.” After interviewing at MGM, the actor soon had a small part in the 1941 film “Shadow of a Thin Man” with William Powell and Myrna Loy.

Leonard Stone

Veteran television, film and stage actor

Leonard Stone, 87, a veteran character actor best known for his role as the indulgent father of gum-smacking Violet Beauregarde in the 1971 film “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” died of cancer Wednesday at his home in San Diego, his family said. His death came one day before his 88th birthday.

A native of Salem, Ore., born on Nov. 3, 1923, Stone studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He began performing professionally before World War II, when he served in the Pacific with the Navy.

He was nominated for a Tony Award as best featured actor in a musical for his performance as George Poppett in the 1959 Bob Fosse musical “Redhead,” which starred Richard Kiley and Gwen Verdon.

Stone appeared on at least 119 television programs, including many of the top-rated shows of the last six decades, such as “McHale’s Navy,” “Perry Mason,” “Gomer Pyle,” “Dragnet,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Hawaii Five-O,” “Gunsmoke,” “All in the Family” and “Falcon Crest.”

His movie credits include the 1973 science fiction thriller “Soylent Green,” in which he played the manager of an apartment building where a murder occurs.

His last acting role was in the 2006 TV movie “Dorothy,” starring Diane Keaton.

Liz Anderson

Country music songwriter and singer

Liz Anderson, 81, who wrote country music hits for Merle Haggard, her daughter Lynn Anderson and others, died Monday at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville. The Tennessean newspaper reported that she had complications from heart and lung disease.

Born Elizabeth Jane Haaby on March 13, 1930, in Roseau, Minn., near the Canadian border, she sang in a church choir and learned to play the mandolin as a child. At age 13, she moved with her family to Grand Forks, N.D., and at 16 married Casey Anderson. The couple moved to Northern California and she worked as a secretary before becoming a songwriter.

Anderson and her husband eventually moved to Nashville, where she also had recording career.

Del Reeves was the first country music singer to record one of Anderson’s songs, following by Roy Drusky, who had a hit with “Pick of the Week” in 1964.

That year Haggard and Bonnie Owens sang a duet on “Just Between the Two of Us,” a song Anderson wrote with her husband. A year later, Haggard had a top 10 country hit with Anderson’s “(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers.” Then he recorded another Anderson composition, ‘’I’m a Lonesome Fugitive,” that went to No. 1 on the country charts and became one of his signature songs.

Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, Jerry Lee Lewis, Waylon Jennings and Ernest Tubb also recorded her songs. Anderson wrote “Ride, Ride, Ride” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry” for her daughter, Lynn, and they teamed up for a duet on “Mother May I.”

Thomas McNeeley Jr.

Boxer fought Floyd Patterson in 1961 bout

Thomas McNeeley Jr., 74, a boxer who battled heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson in a memorable 1961 match, died Oct. 25 at a hospital in Weymouth, Mass., of complications from a seizure.

McNeeley was 23-0 when he took on Patterson, who stopped him in the fourth round of their bout in Toronto after knocking him to the canvas repeatedly.

“The stories about the fight said I went down nine or 10 times,” McNeeley told the Boston Globe in a 1994 interview. “The writers were being nice to me. I have the film. It was more like 12 or 13.”

A decided underdog, McNeeley said he had no doubt that he would win before the fight. He recalled that before introductions, he was daydreaming about who would sing the national anthem before his first title defense. But McNeeley hit the floor twice in the first round, then several more times after.

After the fight, while Patterson was facing tough questions during an interview, McNeeley spoke out and said: “If anyone here ever calls him anything but a real champion — then they have to answer to me!”

McNeeley later served as commissioner of the Massachusetts Boxing Commission and as a U.S. marshal. He also worked in the Massachusetts House of Corrections Athletic Department and finished his career as a counselor for state employees.

One of McNeeley’s four sons, Peter, followed his father into boxing and was Mike Tyson’s first opponent after the champion had served three years in prison for rape. Tyson stopped McNeeley a minute and a half into their 1995 bout.

George Rountree, 61, a key behind-the-scenes associate of the Four Tops who worked as the Motown quartet’s musical director for more than 30 years and also played keyboards, died Sunday in a Las Vegas hospital. Rountree suffered from kidney disorders but died of heart failure, said his close friend and fellow musician Will Miller.

—Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports