As we continue getting to know several of the panelists from To Tell The Truth, today we look at the career of Peggy Cass.
Mary Margaret Cass was born in 1924 in Boston. She attended Cambridge Latin School and after graduation became interested in acting. She joined the HB Studio in New York City, probably about the same time Orson Bean was there.
In New York, she was employed in various positions while waiting for her big break, including secretary, telephone operator, advertising solicitor, and model. She traveled to Australia with the USO for seven months. Her first role was in a traveling production of “Born Yesterday” where she was an understudy to Jan Sterling.
Cass married Carl Fisher in 1948; they divorced in 1965.
Peggy’s Broadway debut came for “Touch and Go” in 1949. One of her next shows was Agnes Gooch in “Auntie Mame” (based on a book written by Patrick Dennis) which she won a Tony for. She was cast in “A Thurber Carnival,” a 1960 Broadway revue of James Thurber’s works.
She also tried her hand at movies. Her first movie was 1951’s The Marrying Kind. In 1958 she reprised her role as Agnes in Auntie Mame, receiving an Oscar nomination, 1961 found her in Gidget Goes Hawaiian. She would be cast in three movies in 1969 and 1970.
Cass accepted her first television role in a show I’ve never heard of in 1950: Nash Airflyte Theater. In addition to playhouse dramas, she was on The Phil Silver Show in 1958 and 1959. In 1961 she was a regular on The Hathaways, a show we discussed a few months ago. Cass as Elinor raised three monkeys (The Marquis Chimps) along with her husband (Jack Weston); the monkeys were stars, and Elinor was also their agent. After 26 episodes, the show was canceled.
After the cancellation, she would take roles in thirteen other television shows including Love American Style, The Love Boat, and Hotel. In two of the shows, she had regular roles: The Doctors with 145 episodes, an afternoon soap opera; and Women in Prison. This is another show I have never heard of; it was set in my home state. The synopsis on imdb lists it as a “comedy taking place in Cell Block J of the Bass Women’s Prison in Wisconsin. Some of the inmates are Vicki, a yuppie housewife framed for shoplifting by her husband; Dawn, who murdered her husband; Bonnie, an English prostitute; Eve, the old lady who has been there for at least 10 years; and Pam, serving time for computer crimes. Meg is the guard and Blake is the assistant warden. Cass played Eve.
Cass was also in the pilot of Major Dad. She played Esther Nettleton a secretary working for Major MacGillis.
Cass appeared on The Tonight Show with Jack Paar in 86 episodes as one of his regular cast members. She also appeared on The Mike Douglas Show ten times and on The Merv Griffith Show 26 times.
I guess the reason I recognize her as a game show celebrity is because she was on 21 different game shows. I remember her best from To Tell the Truth which is also not a surprise because if you count episodes of the various versions, she appeared in 481 episodes.
Cass remarried late in life in 1980. Her second husband was Eugene Feeney. He was a former Jesuit priest and educator. That same year she had an interesting experience we all think about but don’t think really happens much. She needed a left-knee operation and engaged the services of Dr. Norman Scott, doctor for the New York Knicks. After the operation, while Cass was in the recovery room, she realized they had operated on her right knee, and they had to take her back in for a second surgery.
In 1999 Cass died from heart failure.
I have to admit Cass’s role as Agnes Gooch is one of my favorite supporting actress roles. I’m not sure what her hopes and dreams were. I wish she had been cast in a second sitcom; it might have changed the trajectory of her career drastically. It was fun to learn a bit more about the woman behind Agnes.
We’ve all experienced that moment we’re at the grocery store and see someone we know, but we can’t remember their name or how we know them. Maybe it was work or school, or their kids were friends with ours. Sometimes we even remember we spent a lot of time with them and like them, but the name and relationship is just not there.
This month we are meeting some of our television friends that we’ve gotten to know, even if we can’t remember their names or what we watched them on. We’ll learn more about eight different character actors. We start off the month learning about Edward Andrews and Herb Edelman.
Edward Andrews from Doris Day and Disney comedies. Anyone who grew up in the
1960s or 1970s will remember this military man with a grandfatherly softness to
Andrews was born in Georgia in 1914. His father was a minister and their family moved a lot; he lived in Pittsburgh; Cleveland; and Wheeling, West Virginia. He had a very small part in a James Gleason production at age 12. He attended college at the University of Virginia. In 1935, he got his first part in a Broadway production, “So Proudly We Hail.” He continued in Broadway for the next twenty years, including a touring production of “I Know My Love” with Lunt and Fontaine. During that time, he took a leave from his career to serve in WWII. He was a Captain and commanding officer of Battery C with the 751st Artillery Battalion of the Army.
In 1955 he married Emily Barnes and they would have three children, remaining together until his death. About the same time, his movie career took off. Andrews looked older than his age which helped him get parts for older roles. He could play a grandfather, then turn around and handle a sleazy businessman or legalistic bureaucrat. He portrayed George Babbitt in Elmer Gantry in 1960. He worked for Disney playing the Defense Secretary in both The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) and Son of Flubber (1963). I remember him fondly in Doris Day’s movies, The Thrill of It All (1963), Send Me No Flowers (1964), and The Glass Bottom Boat (1966). One of his last roles was Grandpa Howard in Sixteen Candles in 1984. His movie credits totaled 46.
Edward also kept busy with television appearances. One of the first actors to guest star on television, in 1950, Andrews was on Mama. As early as 1952, he began acting in the variety of drama shows on television. During the 1950s he would appear in eighteen of these shows including The US Steel Hour, Robert Montgomery Presents, Studio One in Hollywood, and Omnibus.
He showed up in westerns including The Real McCoys, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and Rawhide. We saw him on medical and legal dramas such as Ben Casey,The Defenders, The Bold Ones, Ironside, and Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law. Mysteries and crime thrillers also found a place for him. You might remember him from Naked City, The Wild Wild West, The Mod Squad, Hawaii Five-0, McMillan and Wife, and Quincy, ME.
Like his films, he seemed to excel in comedy. Andrews played George Baxter in the pilot for Hazel, but unfortunately when the show went into production, the part was recast with Don DeFore. He would guest star in some of the most popular sitcoms, including The Phil Silvers Show, The Andy Griffith Show, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Paul Lynde Show, Love American Style, The Bob Newhart Show, and Three’s Company.
In 1964 he starred in Broadside. Commander Adrian (Edwards) is not happy when a group of Waves are posted to his station on the South Seas island Ranakai. His men no longer have focus, so he spends the series trying to get the women relocated.
In 1970 he had a recurring role on The Doris Day Show as Colonel Fairburn. He also starred as Harry Flood in the show Supertrain in 1979. Playing on the Love Boat and Hotel themes, the show was about a bullet train that had new passengers each episode.
Perhaps Andrews will be best remembered for his guest starring role on two Twilight Zone episodes, “Third From the Sun” (Andrews plays a company man who thinks a coworker William, a nuclear engineer, and his friend Jerry are going to steal a spaceship to leave Earth) and “You Drive” (Andrews hits a newspaper boy and then flees the scene, trying to hide the crime).
In all, he appeared on 118 different television series as well as made-for-television movies.
Andrews enjoyed playing a character actor. He said it ensured more work and longevity in his career. He was quoted as saying, “What you get are people who speak to you. They know you from somewhere, but they don’t think of you as an actor. They stop and say, ‘Harry, how’s everything in Miami?’ I’ve learned by experience not to argue with them.”
In March of 1985, Andrews had a heart attack and passed away at age 70. With his white hair, and horn-rimmed glasses, Andrews was an adaptable character actor. Whether he was playing a lovable doctor, a nosy coworker, a fun-loving grandfather, or a despicable murderer, he was believable. He truly was a great character.
Another fun actor
everyone will recognize is Herb Edelman. Herb was born in Brooklyn, New York in
1933 in the midst of the Depression. Tall, lanky, and prematurely bald, he
would go on to have a long career in movies and television.
Originally, Edelman wanted to be a veterinarian, and he went to school at Cornell but left after his first year. He served in the Army as an announcer for Armed Forces Radio. After he left the service, he started college again, this time studying acting at Brooklyn College. Once again, he dropped out. He made a living as a hotel manager and a cab driver.
In the mid-1960s he began both his film and television careers. Some of his best-known roles were in the movies. He played Harry Pepper, a wise-cracking telephone operator, in Barefoot in the Park and Murray the Cop in The Odd Couple, as well as Harry Michaels in California Suite.
However, it was television where he received most of his work. In the 1960s, he began his career, appearing on a variety of shows, including That Girl, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., and The Flying Nun. During these years he also dated and married Louise Sorel who he was wed to for six years.
In 1968, he accepted the role of Bert Gamus in The Good Guys. Bert and his friend Rufus (Bob Denver) open a diner, their dream. Bert’s wife Claudia (Joyce Van Patten) helped him serve customers.
In the 1970s, his career continued as he appeared in many shows every year. Some of the hit series we saw him on during this decade include Room 222, Bewitched, McMillan and Wife, The Partridge Family, Love AmericanStyle, Maude, Happy Days, Barney Miller, Kojak, and Charlie’s Angels.
In 1976, he was again cast in a show, Big John Little John. Edelman was a middle school teacher who drank out of the fountain of youth on vacation. Afterward, he would randomly turn into a thirteen-year-old and worked to keep the secret from his friends and coworkers. The show was short-lived.
Edelman’s work schedule did not slow down in the 1980s. He would have roles in the cast of five television shows and spent time in between guest starring on other shows such as Trapper John, Highway to Heaven, The LoveBoat, and thirtysomething.
From 1980-81, he was cast as Reggie on Ladies’ Man, about a woman’s magazine with one male journalist. From 1981-82, he appeared as Commissioner Herb Klein on Strike Force. This show followed a strike force team that handles cases too difficult for the mainstream officers. The following year, he was Harry Nussbaum on Nine to Five, the show based on the movie about a group of office workers. From 1984-88, he was cast as Richard Clarendon on St. Elsewhere, a teaching hospital.
Although his roles decreased in the 1990s, he had one of his most memorable roles during those years as Stanley Zbornak, Dorothy’s ex-husband, on Golden Girls; he was nominated twice for his role on the show.
In 1990, he played Sergeant Levine on Knot’s Landing. Knot’s Landing was a night-time soap about the lives of the wealthy who live in a coastal suburb of LA. His last recurring role was Lieutenant Artie Gelber on Murder She Wrote, about a mystery writer who helps solve crimes.
Edelman died much too early in 1996 from emphysema at age 62.
who was unforgettable in his movie and television roles. Whether playing a repairman,
a cop, a teacher, or a ex-husband, he always came through as an authentic