R.I.P. William Windom

The prolific character actor William Windom has died at the age of 88. Windom made his movie debut in 1962, starring as Gregory Peck’s courtroom antagonist in To Kill A Mockingbird. He later appeared in movies such as The Americanization Of Emily, Hour Of The Gun (1967), The Detective (1968) with Frank Sinatra, John Frankenheimer’s The Gypsy Moths (1969), Robert Altman’s Brewster McCloud (1970), the horror picture The Medusa Waltz (1971), the 1973 Escape From The Planet Of The Apes (in which he played the President of the United States), Sommersby (1993), the 1994 remake of Miracle On 34th Street, and Clint Eastwood’s True Crime (1999).

By the time of Mockingbird, Windom was already a veteran of TV, having starred in numerous 1950s anthology series like Robert Montgomery Presents and Play Of The Week.  And it was through his hundreds of television guest spots and roles in TV movies that he became one of the most familiar faces in the business. Among his most notable work were two episodes of The Twilight Zone and two appearances on Rod Serling’s later series, Night Gallery, including a showcase role in one episode that was said to be especially close to Serling’s heart, “They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar.”

Windom co-starred in the ’60s sitcom The Farmer’s Daughter as the fictional congressman Glen Morley—a character based on his own great-grandfather and namesake, who served as President James Garfield’s Treasury Secretary.

He played Commodore Decker in the celebrated “Doomsday Machine” episode of Star Trek, a role he recreated in a 2004 episode of the fan-made series Star Trek: Phase II.

And he made more than 50 appearances on Murder, She Wrote as Jessica Fletcher’s neighbor Seth Hazlitt, and took the Jason Robards role in the first, early-’90s TV series version of the Ron Howard movie Parenthood.

His one foray as a leading man in a regular series was My World And Welcome To It, in which he played a fictionalized version of cartoonist James Thurber in a sitcom that incorporated animated segments modeled on Thurber’s drawings. It lasted only 26 episodes between 1969 and 1970, but it won him the Emmy for Best Leading Actor in a Comedy Series. Windom's last performance was in a short film called Just in 2006

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