RIP Gavin MacLeod (1931-2021)

MacLeod is a recognizable face to anyone who has a TV in their house. While he will always be associated with the small screen, he was also in a few classic films in between his TV roles. MacLeod got his start on the stage, including in a 1956 Broadway production of A Hatful of Rain. He then landed the role of Happy on TV’s McHale’s Navy which is probably what led to his career being mostly filled by comedies although most of his early film roles were in dramas (I Want to Live! (1958), Compulsion (1959), Pork Chop Hill (1959), etc.).

One of MacLeod’s most noticeable film roles was in Operation Petticoat (1959) which was a comedy sub film that starred Cary Grant and Tony Curtis. In the film, the sub filled with men gets co-inhabited by a group of women which leads to much hijinks. MacLeod’s character has an inappropriate tattoo on his chest which he got by accident although it leads to him catching one of the girl’s eyes. MacLeod then continued playing supporting roles on episodes of TV and in other films, including the film version of McHale’s Navy (1964) and its sequel McHale’s Navy Joins the Air Force (1965). Other notable film appearances by MacLeod include being among the cast of The Sand Pebbles (1966), The Party (1968), and Kelly’s Heroes (1970).

Aside from his role in McHale’s Navy, MacLeod’s career in the 1950s and 1960s was mostly defined by television. MacLeod’s episode credits including appearing on Peter Gunn, Dr. Kildare, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Untouchables, The Munsters, Rawhide, Gomer Pyle: USMC, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Andy Griffith Show, Perry Mason, My Favorite Martian, Combat!, Hawaii Five-O, The Big Valley, and Hogan’s Heroes. His next major TV role came as journalist Murray Slaughter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977). Murray’s character was first envisioned as Mary’s work enemy, but the role was changed after MacLeod was cast to be Mary’s closest work friend because everyone felt that MacLeod was too nice to play someone who would work against Mary. Murray was also known for his wisecracks mainly aimed at Ted Baxter and Sue Ann Nivens (ironically, in real-life MacLeod was very close friends with both Ted Knight and Betty White). While Ted Baxter couldn’t really come-up with comebacks, Sue Ann Nivens would get him back by making “bald jokes.”

MacLeod then got to star in a show following The Mary Tyler Moore Show when he was cast as the captain on The Love Boat (1977-1987). The Love Boat is best-remembered for its theme song and containing many celebrity guest stars including big names from Hollywood’s golden age. The show tended to focus on the stories of the guest stars while MacLeod and the rest of the ship’s crew aided the travelers. After The Love Boat ended, MacLeod made a few more TV appearances, but didn’t become another show regular again. Throughout his personal life, MacLeod was married three times (twice to the same woman who he was still married to when he died and who appeared in a few episodes of The Love Boat). MacLeod passed away on May 29th, 2021 at the age of 90.

~Virginia

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