Actor Eddie Quillan Dies; 60-Year Show-Biz Veteran

HOLLYWOOD - Eddie Quillan, who honed his theatrical skills in silent two-reel Mack Sennett comedies and then used them in more than 150 films and dozens of TV shows in a career that spanned more than 60 years, has died.

He was 83 when he died Thursday of cancer in Burbank, Calif., said his sister, Roseanne Quillan.

Quillan portrayed a series of idealistic young heroes and boys-next-door in some of Hollywood's most notable and forgettable pictures.

Among them were Ellison, the lovesick mutineer in ``Mutiny on the Bounty'' (1935), a boy accused of murder in ``Young Mr. Lincoln'' (1939), the young radio mechanic in ``The Grapes of Wrath'' (1940), and the candy man in ``Brigadoon'' (1954).

Known for his light air and a flair for the double-take, Quillan was born into a family of vaudevillians in Philadelphia and traveled the country as a child, performing in the family variety act, ``A Little Bit of Everything.'' In the mid-1920s, he came to California and landed small parts in Sennett's slapstick comedies.

But his big break came when he chanced upon a disabled car and stopped to help fix a flat tire, not knowing the driver was an aide to film director Cecil B. DeMille. Quillan was invited to an audition and signed a contract with DeMille's Pathe Film Corp. In 1929, he appeared in his first feature film, ``The Godless Girl.''

When he turned to TV late in his career he generally portrayed cab drivers, bookmakers or thieves on such melodramas as ``Police Woman'' and ``Baretta.''

But as the mailman in television's ``Julia'' (1968-71) series, producer-director Hal Kanter allowed him some comedic improvisations.

``The first thing I'd do when I got on the set was to see where the doors are, where the props are and figure out what I might do in the way of (funny) business,'' Quillan said in a 1981 interview with the Los Angeles Times. ``There are very few, if any, of us left who know the comedy we learned in that era,'' he said, of his Sennett days.

Quillan also appeared on ``Little House on the Prairie'' and ``Highway to Heaven.''