George Furth: Putting the Name to the Face

It has been a joy learning more about the life and career of George Furth (George Schweinfurth, 1932-2008). I’d always known him entirely as a film and television character actor, but it turns out he had a substantial stage career, and was a writer in addition to being a performer. (My ignorance on this score will no doubt appal some of my theatre friends. I just never put the name with the face).

As to his better known reputation. Furth was a small-seeming, nervous, shifty looking man with prominent teeth and a crooked mouth. Registering discomfort and surprise were high among his skill sets. He was also very square — you normally saw him in a staid business suit, playing an accountant or something of that nature, sometimes with glasses. Films you can see him include The Best Man (1964), The Cool Ones (1967), The Boston Strangler (1968), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Myra Breckinridge (1970), The Third Girl from the Left (1973), Sleeper (1973), Blazing Saddles (1974), Shampoo (1975), Airport ’77, Oh, God (1977), Hooper (1978), The Cannonball Run (1981), Young Doctors in Love (1982), Doctor Detroit (1982), The Man with Two Brains (1983), and Bulworth (1998). TV work included episodes of McHale’s Navy, Honey West, Batman, F Troop, The Monkees, Ironside, I Dream of Jeannie, Night Gallery, That Girl, Adam-12, Green Acres, Bonanza, The Odd Couple, Happy Days, All in the Family, Ellery Queen, Little House on the Prairie, Murder She Wrote, et al. Plus he was a regular on the short-lived shows Tammy (1965-66) and The Dumplings (1976). and had recurring roles on Mary Hartman Mary Hartman. 

Originally from Chicago, Furth made his Broadway debut in A Cook for Mr. General (1961). But his best known credits in the theatre were as a playwright. He wrote the book for the Sondheim musical Company (1970), as well as the shows Twigs (1975), The Act (1977, with Kander and Ebb), The Supporting Cast (1981), Precious Sons (1986), and Getting Away with Murder (1996), as well as the book for Sondheim’s musical version of Merrily We Roll Along (1981, adapted from the Kaufman and Hart play of course).