Character actor often played the 'heavy'
George Murdock, 81, a veteran character actor who had a recurring role as Lt. Scanlon on the television sitcom "Barney Miller" and played God in the 1989 film "Star Trek
The Final Frontier," died Monday at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, said his close friend and fellow actor Jennifer Rhodes. He had
Murdock's craggy facial features and booming bass voice helped him land a steady stream of "heavy" parts in theater, film and television productions. When asked if he ever objected to being typecast, the actor told a Times reporter in 1982: "Getting the job is important. Who cares where it comes from."
A Kansas native, Murdock was an original cast member at the Melrose Theatre in Los Angeles, starring in "Lester Sims Retires Tomorrow" there and during its off-Broadway run in the early 1980s. He appeared in many productions at South Coast Repertory, the Los Angeles Theater Center and the Odyssey Theatre, where he originated the role of Judge Julius Hoffman in "The Chicago Conspiracy Trial" in 1979.
Murdock had dozens of roles on episodic TV series, beginning in the early 1960s with "Twilight Zone" and
and continuing through the decades with "It Takes a Thief," "Bonanza," "The Name of the Game," "Ironside,"
"The X-Files," "Law & Order" and other shows. Besides his "Barney Miller" part, he was also a regular on the mid-1980s show "What a Country!"
In the fifth installment of the
movie series, Murdock's character strikes down Kirk with a lightning bolt when the captain asks:
Charles 'Skip' Pitts
Guitarist helped create 'Theme From Shaft'
Charles "Skip" Pitts, 65, a longtime Memphis guitar player who helped create the distinctive sound of Isaac Hayes'
died Tuesday in Memphis after battling cancer, according to Tim Sampson, communication director for the
Pitts was responsible for the unforgettable wah-wah pedal guitar sound on Hayes' "Theme From Shaft" for the 1971 blaxploitation film that remains a memorable moment in American popular culture. Pitts' riff was angry and bristling with menace, capturing a dangerous vibe that transcended the screen and translated to the streets of a tense nation.
He was also responsible for the guitar line from
' "It's Your Thing."
Pitts grew up in
, and had a long, historic run in Memphis after moving there to join Hayes. He played with the deep-voiced soul singer for nearly four decades, worked as a session musician for Stax Records, where some of America's most notable music was made; and logged time with many significant soul and blues acts, including
, Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave,
Late in his career, he made appearances in such movies as "Black Snake Moan," to which he also contributed three soundtrack entries, and
and performed on the score for "Hustle and Flow."
Most recently he appeared on Green's "I Can't Stop" and
's "Memphis Blues." He also released an
-- Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports