Alice and Top Cat Actor Marvin Kaplan Dies at 89

Marvin Kaplan

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1927, actor Marvin Kaplan was first discovered by Katharine Hepburn in 1949. An unlikely start, this association led him to his first role in the George Cukor classic Adam’s Rib alongside Hepburn herself and Spencer Tracy. After finding his calling, Kaplan devoted himself to acting and garnered dozens of film and television credits - among his more notable roles, the tough Tom cat Choo-Choo in the 1960s animated TV series Top Cat, where Kaplan lent his voice alongside actors Allen Jenkins and Arnold Strong. Kaplan continued in film and television up until his death, which came in his sleep yesterday morning at the age of 89.

The Wrap reported Kaplan's death last night after a statement was released by Theatre West, the longest running theatre company in Los Angeles. Kaplan, in combination with his film and television work, was deeply involved with the theater as both an actor and playwright, which included the plays “A Good House for a Killing” and “Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife.”

Kaplan mastered the art of comedy and earned recurring roles in shows like Meet Millie as the aspiring poet Alfred Prinzmetal, Alice as the phone company employee Henry Beesmeyer, and Dwight McGonigle in the unbelievably strange '90s show On the Air, created by the dynamic duo David Lynch and Mark Frost. Kaplan’s enthusiasm for comedy and entertainment shined through in these performances and earned him membership into institutions like the Motion Picture Academy, Academy of New Musical Theatre, and California Artists Radio Theatre.

Marvin Kaplan in A New Kind of Love
Marvin Kaplan in A New Kind of Love (1963)

Though his filmography includes a great deal of memorable performances in television, Kaplan never left film. With his start in Adam’s Rib, Kaplan worked and earned roles in films like The Nutty Professor (1963), Freaky Friday (1976), and It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, World.

I have a good life, but I made it for myself. You gotta make it for yourself.” And made it himself he did. Recognized as a hard worker, Kaplan worked up until his death with his last film still in post-production. Lookin’ Up, directed by T.J. Castronovo and written by both Kaplan and Steven Carter, tells the story of a man attempting to murder his family for the sole purpose of getting on television. The film is set to be released on September 10th and stars Steve Guttenberg, Debra Sullivan, Fay Dewitt, and Kaplan himself. Kaplan will be remembered for his dedication to the craft, and for the laughs he brought to families throughout the past sixty years.

R.I.P. Marvin Kaplan: January 24, 1927 – August 25, 2016

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