R.I.P. Stuart Margolin

We have been half-planning to do some sort of post on Stuart Margolin (1940-2022) for many years and postponing. As happens, his death today at age 82 forced the issue.

Most people of a certain age know him best as “Angel” on The Rockford Files (1974-79), a role for which he won two Emmys. It was emblematic of the kind of parts he played: shifty-eyed, oily, untrustworthy, but also somehow likeable and charming. That part alone was enough to earn him a place in the annals, but what really sealed the deal for me was when I went back and binged all of Love, American Style (1969-74) and saw him featured in so many of the short funny blackout bits they placed around the main show segments. In addition to performing in the bits he wrote and directed some of them. The show was produced by his brother Arnold.

Margolin had been a screen actor since the early ’60s. I certainly remember seeing his earlier guest shots on programs like M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Monkees, The Partridge Family etc (Margolin was also a songwriter and musician). In the middle of The Rockford Files run he was the titular character in the pilot/film of Lanigan’s Rabbi (1976) alongside Art Carney, one of the shorter lived shows on the NBC Mystery Movie. Amusingly, he was not related to Janet Margolin, who was also on the show. Stuart Margolin was replaced by Bruce Solomon from Foul Play when Lanigan’s Rabbi went to series, due to other commitments. Margolin was also in movies like Kelly’s Heroes (1970), Death Wish (1974), The Big Bus (1976), Futureworld (1976), Days of Heaven (1978), S.O.B. (1981), Class (1983), A Fine Mess (1986), and Guilty by Suspicion (1991). He also directed lots of television across the decades.

Margolin was raised mostly in Texas, and has a distinctly Southern manner that reminded me a bit of Dabney Coleman. His last film credit was in the film What the Night Can Do (2020) which he both wrote and starred in, co-starred JoBeth Williams, and was directed by his step-son Christopher Martini.

Look — here’s his version of a Viking funeral: