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Norman Lloyd, Who Got His Acting Start During The New Deal, Dies At 106

May 11, 2021
Originally published on May 13, 2021 1:15 pm

To call an actor a Hollywood legend sounds like hyperbole, but Norman Lloyd really was.

He died Tuesday at his home in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, according to his manager, Marion Rosenberg, as quoted by the Associated Press.

Norman Lloyd, born in 1914, got his start performing with the Federal Theatre Project, part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s. It employed hundreds of out of work actors. Lloyd, the son of a Jersey City store manager, soon started acting with Orson Welles at his acclaimed Mercury Theatre.

Then Alfred Hitchcock hired Lloyd to play the creepy title character in his 1942 movie Saboteur.

"The big scene, if I may say so, was my falling off the Statue of Liberty," Lloyd told Los Angeles public radio station KCRW in 2012.

Because Lloyd had long associated with leftists like Orson Welles, he found it hard to get hired during the McCarthy blacklists of the 1950s. Hitchcock helped him out, and got him a behind-the-scenes job producing his popular TV show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Over Lloyd's nine decades of producing, directing and acting, he appeared on screen with everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Daniel Day-Lewis. Lloyd was directed by some of the greatest names in cinema, including Jean Renoir and Jules Dassin. He appeared in a few Hollywood hits, including Dead Poets Society and Trainwreck — it was his final role at age 100 — and dozens and dozens of TV shows. Murder She Wrote. Modern Family. Star Trek: The Next Generation.

In the hospital drama St. Elsewhere, which ran through most of the 1980s, Lloyd starred as Dr. Daniel Auschlander. The role was supposed to last just a few episodes because Auschlander had cancer — but as Lloyd told the Archives of American Television in 2012, the show decided to keep him around. "And so the character went for six years with the longest remission on record," he chuckled.

Lloyd was also known as a devoted Hollywood husband. He was married to actress Peggy Lloyd for 75 years, until her death at age 98 in 2011.

: 5/13/21

An earlier version of this story mistakenly said Jules Dassin was French. He was American.

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To call an actor a Hollywood legend sounds like hyperbole, but Norman Lloyd really was. His manager told the Associated Press that he died Tuesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 106 years old. NPR's Neda Ulaby has our remembrance.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Norman Lloyd, born in 1914, got his start performing with the Federal Theatre Project, part of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal in the 1930s.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Extra, extra - Uncle Sam going into show business.

ULABY: The Federal Theatre Project employed hundreds of out-of-work actors. And Lloyd, the son of a Jersey City store manager, soon started acting with Orson Welles at his acclaimed Mercury Theatre. Then Alfred Hitchcock hired Norman Lloyd to play the saboteur in his 1942 movie "Saboteur."

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

NORMAN LLOYD: The big scene, if I may say so, is my falling off the Statue of Liberty.

ULABY: That's Norman Lloyd in 2013 on Los Angeles Public Radio station KCRW. The movie ends with his character dangling from the statue's torch after tussling with the hero...

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SABOTEUR")

ROBERT CUMMINGS: (As Barry Kane) Can you get a grip with your feet?

LLOYD: (As Frank Fry) I can't.

ULABY: ...And then spectacularly plummeting to his death.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "SABOTEUR")

LLOYD: (As Frank Fry, screaming).

ULABY: Because Norman Lloyd had long associated with leftists like Orson Welles, he found it hard to get hired during the McCarthy blacklists of the 1950s. So Hitchcock gave him another job behind the scenes, producing his popular TV show.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

ULABY: Over Norman Lloyd's nine decades of producing, directing and acting, he appeared on screen with everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Daniel Day Lewis. He was directed by the great French filmmaker Jean Renoir. And you may have seen him in the movies "Dead Poets Society" or the comedy "Trainwreck" - it was his final role at age 100 - or in dozens and dozens of TV shows; "Murder, She Wrote," "Modern Family," "Star Trek: The Next Generation" or the 1980s hospital drama "St. Elsewhere." Lloyd starred as a doctor.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "ST. ELSEWHERE")

LLOYD: (As Dr. Daniel Auschlander) You've caught an infection, Francine, but it has nothing to do with your operation.

ULABY: Originally, that role was supposed to last just a few episodes because the doctor he played had cancer. But as Lloyd told the Archives of American Television (ph) in 2012, the show decided to keep him around.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LLOYD: And so the character went for six years with the longest remission on record.

ULABY: Norman Lloyd was also known as a devoted Hollywood husband. He was married to actress Peggy Lloyd for 75 years until her death at age 98 in 2011.

Neda Ulaby, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.