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Stacy Keach Sr., 88; Actor Appeared in Hundreds of TV Shows, Commercials

February 14, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

Stacy Keach Sr., a character actor, director and producer who was the father of actor Stacy Keach and director James Keach, died Thursday at Providence-St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. He was 88.

Keach, who had been in failing health for the last 14 months, died of congestive heart failure.

As an actor, Keach appeared in hundreds of television shows and had a recurring role as the inventive professor Carlson on "Get Smart."

He also was popular in commercial work, appearing as Clarence Birdseye in ads for General Foods' Birds Eye frozen foods. In 1980, he appeared in about 38 different commercials.

Born in Milwaukee, Keach earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Northwestern University before teaching drama at Armstrong College in Savannah, Ga.

He came to the West Coast in the early 1940s to direct at the Pasadena Playhouse and was signed by Universal Studios as an actor, director and writer. After more than four years at Universal, he went to work for RKO as a producer.

For radio, Keach produced and directed "Tales of the Texas Rangers." The series starred Joel McCrea as Ranger Jase Pearson. The series later moved to television.

Keach was an early developer of industrial motion pictures, forming a company in 1946 that produced films for a variety of businesses. He also formed Kaydan Records and produced a number of award-winning, spoken-word recordings on subjects such as the U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.

His recent acting roles included appearances on the television series "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman," which stars his daughter-in-law Jane Seymour, the wife of James Keach, and "Matlock."

He also had roles in the films "Pretty Woman" and "Cobb."

In an interview with The Times some years ago, Stacy Keach remarked that his father had not wanted him and his brother to become actors.

"He told us it's the most insecure, heartbreaking kind of business," Keach said. "It's very unpredictable.

"When I was at Berkeley, my dad and mom said I should be like Walter Pidgeon," he added. "He went to law school and then he became a successful actor."

Keach is survived by Mary, his wife of 67 years; sons Stacy and James; and eight grandchildren.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills.

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