Patty Duke Show and True Blood actor William Schallert dies at 93


William Schallert, a veteran TV performer and Hollywood union leader who starred on the Patty Duke Show, has died.

William died on Sunday at his home in Pacific Palisades, California, according to his son Edwin. He was 93.

Though usually seen in secondary roles, William's lean, friendly face was familiar to baby boomers for roles in two classic sitcoms -- as a teacher to Dwayne Hickman and his pals in The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and as the dad in The Patty Duke Show.

Actor Gregory Peck, left, points out someone to actor William Schallert

In 1979, William was elected president of the 46,000-member Screen Actors Guild, an honour held at one time or another by James Cagney, George Murphy, Ronald Reagan and Charlton Heston. Most of them had little to do but conduct meetings and issue statements. With William it was different.

In 1980 he led the union as it staged a 13-week strike over such issues as actors' pay for films made for the then-new cable television industry.

He told the Los Angeles Times his message to actors was that "we have to respect ourselves as artists" and recalled the pre-union days when actors were sometimes expected to work until midnight and be back at work six hours later.

Actors William Schallert, left, and Dennis Weaver on the picket line

William said in 2008 that his greatest accomplishment as SAG president was the formation of a committee for performers with disabilities.

"We had established committees for all of the various ethnic minorities, women and seniors. I'm a big beneficiary of that right now because I'm 85 and I still work."

Among his later TV roles were guest shots on Desperate Housewives and True Blood.

In 2008, he played Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens in Recount, HBO's Emmy-winning dramatisation of the 2000 presidential election.

William was born in 1922, in Los Angeles. After military service he graduated from UCLA and moved to England on a Fulbright scholarship in 1952. He studied repertory theatre and lectured on American theatre at Oxford University.

In his early years he was a founding member of the Circle Theatre in Hollywood. The director was Charlie Chaplin, whose son Sydney was a cast member.

William recalled that after a preview performance Chaplin would suggest a couple of things to correct. "When it was about five or six in the morning," William said, "Oona (Chaplin's wife) would say 'Come on, Charlie, let them go home. They've got a performance to do tonight.'"

Charlie Chaplin