Veteran TV and film actor, Jason Wingreen, has passed away at the age of 95. The Hollywood Reporter confirms Wingreen died on December 25, 2016, at his Los Angeles home. The actor voiced the character of Boba Fett in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, although he was not credited for the role.
Wingreen might be most recognized for his role as Archie’s bartender, Harry Snowden, on the CBS sitcom All in the Family. He continued in the role on the spin-off, Archie Bunker’s Place, until CBS cancelled it after four seasons.
Between 1987 and 1991, Wingreen also had a recurring role as a judge on Matlock, before NBC cancelled the drama. ABC revived it, but Wingreen did not return. His last TV credit, before retiring in his mid-70s was on Carroll O’Connor’s In the Heat of the Night TV series.
A successful character actor, Wingreen’s TV career stretches back to the 1950s. In the early 1960s, he wrote a handful of TV episodes for series including 77 Sunset Strip, The Greatest Show on Earth, and The Wild Wild West.
Throughout his career, Wingreen returned to several TV shows in more than one role, including The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Love, American Style. Wingreen’s repeat guest turns were not only confined to anthology series, though.
Wingreen filled more than one role on continuing series like The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Dr. Kildare, The Man from UNCLE, and Mission Impossible. He was cast on The Fugitive, The FBI, and the Ironside TV series, in six distinct roles, for each series.
Wingreen’s multiple appearances on The Untouchables is an interesting case. His first appearance was as Turner, in the 1960 episode, “The Mark of Cain.” During 1961, the actor then appeared in four episodes as Police Captain Dorset. Between 1962 and 1963, he then filled three more roles on the ABC crime drama.
Here is more on Wingreen’s life and career, from The Hollywood Reporter:
On The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Wingreen auditioned for the part of Yoda. He didn’t get that role (Frank Oz did), but he was given four lines of dialogue spoken by the masked Boba Fett, the feared bounty hunter who captures Han Solo (Harrison Ford).
“I think the actual work, aside from the hellos and goodbyes and all that, could have been no more than 10 minutes,” he said. He received no credit for his work (it didn’t become publicly known that the voice was his until about 2000) and lamented that he received no residuals for the performance — especially since it’s Wingreen heard on some Boba Fett action figures.
The son of a tailor, Wingreen was born Oct. 9, 1920, in Brooklyn and raised in the Howard Beach neighborhood of Queens. He wanted to be a sportswriter and attended Brooklyn College, where he took his first acting class. His first show business job was with a marionette company.
After serving in World War II, Wingreen was one of the founders of the famed Circle in the Square theater company in New York’s Greenwich Village, and he appeared for the first time on Broadway in two 1954 plays: The Girl on the Via Flaminia and Fragile Fox.
In 1956, Wingreen starred on the first installment of the CBS anthology series Playhouse 90, an episode that was written by future Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling.
He made his movie debut in The Bravados (1958), starring Gregory Peck, and also appeared on the big screen in A Guide for the Married Man (1967), Marlowe (1969), They Only Kill Their Masters (1972), The Terminal Man (1974), Oh, God! You Devil (1984).
He retired after appearances on Seinfeld and In the Heat of the Night in the 1990s.
In addition to his son, survivors include two grandchildren and his sister, Harriet Wingreen, for decades an orchestra pianist for the New York Philharmonic.
Please share your memories of Mr. Wingreen.