Kenneth Mars, 75, a veteran actor whose most memorable performances were his two collaborations with director Mel Brooks in “The Producers” and “Young Frankenstein,” died of pancreatic cancer Saturday at his home in Granada Hills.
During a career that spanned five decades, Mars appeared in more than 35 films, including “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969), “Desperate Characters” (1971), “What’s Up, Doc?” (1972), and “Radio Days” (1987). He also had roles in scores of television shows, including “Love, American Style,” “Fernwood Tonight, “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” “McMillan & Wife” and “Malcolm in the Middle.”
In “The Producers” (1968), he played Franz Liebkind, a somewhat demented Nazi whose play, “Springtime for Hitler,” attracts a couple of scheming Broadway producers played by Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel. One of his most quoted lines was, “Not many people know it, but the Fuhrer was a terrific dancer!”
In “Young Frankenstein,” Mars again displayed a flair for Germanic characters in the role of Inspector Kemp, a monocled police chief with a hilariously malfunctioning prosthetic arm.
"[F]ew actors anywhere can portray daffy Germans as superbly as Kenneth Mars,” Robert Alan Crick wrote in the 2009 book “Big Screen Comedies of Mel Brooks.”
Mars was born April 4, 1935, in Chicago. A fine arts graduate of Northwestern University, he began acting in the early 1960s.
In his later years, he was a sought-after voice actor in children’s cartoons and animated features. He voiced the part of Grandpa Longneck in “The Land Before Time” series and King Triton in the “The Little Mermaid.”
Los Angeles Times staff reports