Ian Abercrombie dies at 77; actor played Elaine’s boss on ‘Seinfeld’


Ian Abercrombie, 77, the British character actor who played Elaine’s demanding boss, Mr. Pitt, on “Seinfeld,” died Thursday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, said his friend Cathy Lind Hayes. He suffered complications of kidney failure and recently had been diagnosed with lymphoma.

As the eccentric Justin Pitt, Abercrombie appeared in seven episodes opposite Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Elaine Benes in the high-rated sit-com.

“I was a pain in the neck. I was a hypochondriac. I was many things, and I just made her life so miserable,” Abercrombie said in a 1998 CNN interview. “She wouldn’t take the salt off my pretzels, you know. She brought me white socks … she did a lot of things for me, but she could never do it right.”

Those seven appearances, he acknowledged, changed his life.

“Incredibly so,” he said. “I mean, I have been around as an actor for 40-odd years, and this show knocked me out of the ballpark.”

Born Sept. 11, 1934, in Grays, Essex, England, Abercrombie launched his stage career as a dancer. He arrived in the United States at 17 in 1951 and made his American stage debut in a production of “Stalag 17” with Jason Robards four years later. Drafted into the Army in 1957, he served in Special Services in Germany.

His theatrical work included Los Angeles productions of “Sweet Prince” with Keir Dullea, “A Doll’s House” with Linda Purl, “The Arcata Promise” with Anthony Hopkins and the acclaimed one-man show “Jean Cocteau — A Mirror Image.”

Abercrombie, who had roles in films such as “Army of Darkness,” “Wild Wild West” and “The Lost World: Jurassic Park,” made frequent TV guest appearances and was a regular, as Alfred Pennyworth, on the 2002-03 series “Birds of Prey.”

He also did a lot of voice-over work, including a role in the animated movie “Rango” and recurring roles in the animated series “Star Wars: the Clone Wars” and “Green Lantern: The Animated Series.”

He was a founding member and former board member of BAFTA-LA and was a board member of the Actor’s Fund of America.

He is survived by his brothers, Douglas, Donald and Alex.