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Lyle Talbot; Veteran Actor, 'Ozzie' Neighbor

March 05, 1996|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Lyle Talbot, the versatile actor adept in every medium from tent shows to television who is perhaps best remembered as Ozzie and Harriet's irritating neighbor Joe Randolph, has died. He was 94.

Talbot died Sunday at his home in San Francisco, his son David said Monday.

Sometimes dubbed "Mr. Hollywood" in reference to his grandmother's maiden name, Talbot could be described as an actor who always worked.

In 1935, he risked the studios' wrath to become one of the 24 founding members of the Screen Actors Guild. The only one of the dissident actors then under studio contract, he immediately was downgraded from romantic leads to character roles.

Nevertheless, Talbot appeared in more than 150 films, as well as in Broadway and off-Broadway productions, dinner theater, magic acts, tent shows, radio and television.

"It's really simple," he told The Times in 1984. "I never turned down a job, not one . . . ever."

"I worked in some real stinkers, too," he added, notably "Plan 9 From Outer Space" in 1959, which won the Golden Turkey Award as the "worst film ever made."

Another memorable role was as the first Lex Luthor opposite Kirk Alyn's Superman in the big-screen serial "Atom Man vs. Superman."

As Joe in "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," Talbot was the neighbor who always borrowed and never returned Ozzie's tools and stupidly revealed Ozzie's little secrets to Harriet.

Talbot also was familiar as airline pilot Paul Fonda, the romantic suitor of Robert Cummings' sister in the popular television series "Love That Bob."

Talbot's well-known face appeared frequently on other television perennials, including "The Lucy Show," "Burns and Allen" and "The Danny Thomas Show."

The veteran actor's final film was 1960's "Sunrise at Campobello," in which he played a blimp salesman.

Born Lysle Hollywood Henderson, he was the only child of a show business couple who performed on Mississippi riverboats. After his mother died, his grandmother, Mary Hollywood Talbot, took charge and gave him her married surname. He began his career at age 17 as a magician's assistant and graduated to magician in traveling tent shows.

The handsome Talbot next tried repertory theater as a leading man, and by age 28 had formed his own company, the Lyle Talbot Players, in Nashville. A Hollywood agent saw him perform in Houston and invited him to screen-test for the new talkies.

Talbot debuted on the silver screen in 1932, and in his early roles worked opposite Ann Dvorak, Carole Lombard, Barbara Stanwyck, Ginger Rogers and Loretta Young.

Although 40, he enlisted during World War II and served as a noncommissioned officer. After the war, he made several B pictures before television offered him a new medium for success.

Married four times, Talbot is survived by two sons, David and Stephen; two daughters, Cindy and Margaret, and seven grandchildren.

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