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Obituaries

Harold Stone, 92; Busy Character Actor Often Played Villain

November 19, 2005|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Harold Stone, a character actor with sculpted features who worked steadily from the 1950s through the 1970s, often portraying the villain on television shows, has died. He was 92.

Stone died Friday of natural causes at the Motion Picture and Television Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, said his son Michael.

In 1964, Stone received an Emmy nomination for playing an Army medic who becomes a male nurse at great personal cost in an episode of "The Nurses," an hourlong drama that aired on CBS.

One of his favorite roles was playing Sam Steinberg, the father of David Birney's character on "Bridget Loves Bernie," the ethnic comedy about a mixed marriage that aired for a season on CBS beginning in 1972.

He also enjoyed playing the publisher on "My World and Welcome to It," the NBC series loosely based on the works of James Thurber that ran from 1969 to 1970, his son said.

He kept so busy as an actor -- averaging by one estimate about 20 television appearances a year -- that he recently told his granddaughter, Laura Bosserman: "I don't think there are any roles I haven't played."

After Jerry Lewis directed him in "The Big Mouth" (1967), Lewis signed a photograph of the pair from the film: "For Harold, a beautiful man ... an exceptional actor ... and the kind of performer that makes fair directors look great."

Lewis directed him in two more films, "Which Way to the Front?" (1970) and "Hardly Working" (1980), Stone's final film.

"I learned an awful lot from him," Stone said of Lewis in 2000. "We became great friends."

His appearance with Humphrey Bogart in "The Harder They Fall" (1956) was a turning point in Stone's career. Bogart took a liking to him and spread the word around Hollywood that he was a good actor, Stone recalled in 2000.

An only child, he was born Harold Hochstein on March 3, 1913, in New York City. The third-generation actor made his stage debut at 6 with his father, Jacob Hochstein, in the Yiddish play "White Slaves." He had one line -- "mama" -- that he failed to remember on opening night. (The "J" in his stage name, Harold J. Stone, was for his father.)

After graduating from New York University, he studied medicine at the University of Buffalo during the Depression but was forced to drop out to support his mother and fell back on acting.

"I was no more going to be an actor than the man on the moon," Stone recently recalled.

On Broadway, he debuted in 1939 in "The World We Make" and appeared in four more plays there before making his uncredited film debut in "The Blue Dahlia" (1946).

Until he retired in 1980, he was an often-menacing presence on TV crime shows and police dramas.

He also appeared in about 30 films, including Alfred Hitchcock's "The Wrong Man" (1956), "Spartacus" (1960) and "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965).

In 1960, his first wife, Jean, died, leaving him with two children, who were 8 and 11. He remarried later that year and had another son. He and his second wife, Miriam, legally separated in 1964 but never divorced.

In addition to his son Michael of Tarzana and granddaughter Laura, Stone is survived by another son, Robert of North Hollywood; a daughter, Jennifer Bosserman of Tarzana; and three other grandchildren.

The memorial service will be at 2 p.m. Sunday at Mt. Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Instead of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the City of Hope, 1500 E. Duarte Road, Duarte, CA 91010.

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