6 actors whose last role is their most famous

These performers left a lasting legacy with their most memorable characters.

Sometimes actors get lucky and hit it big with their very first role. Other times, it can take decades to find that special character they can bring to life in a memorable way. Whether through tragedy or retirement, a few famous names didn’t play their most well-known characters until the very end of their careers.

Here are six classic TV actors who left a lasting legacy with their final onscreen appearances. The roles that made them famous are also the very last ones they ever played.

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1. Milburn Stone as Doc Adams

Milburn Stone was 51 years young when he first started playing Doc Adams on Gunsmoke in 1955. Little did he know it would be the last acting job he would ever need. Stone had been in the business for decades before playing Dodge City’s ornery physician. He played bit parts and side roles in many Westerns and noir flicks throughout the 1930s and '40s. After suffering a heart attack in 1971, Stone left Gunsmoke temporarily to recover. He soon returned and stayed with the show until it ended in 1975. He then retired from acting and passed away in 1980 at the age of 75.

2. Ken Weatherwax as Pugsley Addams

Ken Weatherwax will always have a place in TV history as the original Pugsley Addams. In fact, Pugsley, who almost had a much stranger name, is virtually the only character Weatherwax ever played. Besides a small part as an unnamed boy in one Wagon Train episode, Pugsley was Weatherwax’s first and last real role. But the last episode of the 1960s sitcom wasn’t Weatherwax’s final time onscreen. He voiced the Addams son in some episodes of the 1973 animated series and appeared in the 1977 reunion special Halloween with the New Addams Family as Pugsley Sr.

3. Howard McNear as Floyd the Barber

For most of his career, Howard McNear was a go-to actor to play a clerk, a politician, a judge or any other small role in all kinds of TV shows throughout the 1950s and '60s. He voiced Doc Adams for the radio version of Gunsmoke, but his biggest claim to fame came in just another sitcom side-character, a barber. Of course, when that periphery character is on one of the most popular shows of all time, it can have quite the impact. McNear’s portrayal of Floyd the Barber in The Andy Griffith Show is a fan favorite. He continued to work on the series even after suffering a stroke which limited his mobility. He passed away one year after the show ended, leaving a memorable mark in his final role.

4. Dan Blocker as Hoss Cartwright

Dan Blocker was a teacher and PhD student before breaking into Hollywood. His imposing size and west Texas upbringing made him a natural fit for Westerns, which were the majority of his career. In the four short years between his very first acting gig and his famous final role in Bonanza, he appeared in Wagon Train, Gunsmoke, Sugarfoot, Cheyenne, Maverick, The Rifleman and more. As middle Cartwright son, Hoss, Blocker brought humor and heart to one of the most popular Westerns of all time. His tragic untimely death after Bonanza’s thirteenth season meant the role that made him a household name would also be his last.

5. Raymond Burr as Perry Mason

Of course, Raymond Burr’s last role wasn’t on the original Perry Mason TV show. He led another successful crime show, Ironside, right after and continued to appear in other series and movies into the early 1980s. But in 1985, Burr returned to his most famous role and continued to play Mason in 26 television movies until his death in 1993. So, while Perry Mason the show was not Raymond Burr’s last role, Perry Mason the character was.

6. Ellen Corby as Grandma Walton

In a similar vein, Ellen Corby’s last time onscreen was as Grandma Walton, but not in the The Waltons TV show. She appeared in five of the six reunion movies, including the last one, 1997’s A Walton Easter. Like Milburn Stone before her, Ellen Corby began acting in her 20s playing small roles in films before hitting her stride as a character actress in TV. She played many mothers and grandmothers, including a memorable turn as Lurch’s mom in The Addams Family, then won her famous role as Grandma Walton at 61-years-old. Will Geer passed away during the show’s production but, technically, Grandpa Walton was not his last time on TV. He appeared in the Harriet Tubman miniseries A Woman Called Moses nine months after his last Waltons episode aired.

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obectionoverruled 31 months ago
Howard McNear was a great radio and TV character actor. He played many roles on Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar and was a natural on the old RCA. His gadfly, stuttering, all time barber next door to the country’s only walk-in, check-yourself-out jail on Mayberry’s main drag was hilarious. I read he had a stroke in mid-life and always held his limp left arm low without showing his handicap. When he and Gomer were deputized as sheriff assistants I thought I’d lose it. The creators, writers and directors on that show were spot on - America loves its rural roots and the characters that make it so beloved.
rackuhn85 32 months ago
Wow great shows and great actors. My mom and dad went to school with Lurch from the Adams family.
LoveMETV22 rackuhn85 32 months ago
That's cool. He was in the third grade at the age of 6, and a freshman in High school at age 11. He was a gifted individual.
Pacificsun 32 months ago
Everytime I see Hoss on Bonanza when I accidentally catch it on afternoon Western TV, I'm taken back to when his death was announced. It was really the first of it's kind to so impact a recurring series. And people (viewers) reacted as if they had lost their own friend. There was just no way to replace him. He almost came through the screen for some fans who were hooked on his personality (big heart and courage)!! What a legacy he left behind.
I agree. It did feel like a friend was lost when Dan died. Before he died, he bought a motorhome from the manufacturer where I worked after college. So I felt an additional sense of kinship with him.
HulkFan02 32 months ago
I didn't know Raymond passed away when playing Perry Mason
Susan00100 HulkFan02 32 months ago
Raymond quit playing Perry Mason a couple of years before he passed from cancer. He spent his final years tending his California vineyard.
Mr305north 32 months ago
Wow. Does anyone know why Oliver in show "green acres" always wears a tie in every scene ?? He's on a farm!!!
Pacificsun Mr305north 32 months ago
Just catching up with Green Acres, huh! Cute. Your comment made me chuckle. If you're only noticing Oliver's business suit on the farm, then you might be missing a few other things.

The show was unique, that's for sure. Not many others like that one out there!
harlow1313 Mr305north 32 months ago
Everything about Oliver is out of synch with his community, except for his desire to farm. I believe his attire is intended to be amusing, absurd.
Yes, that's part of the gag!
He's a lawyer from "the big city" who has dreamed of retiring to a farm, but he doesn't have a clue! So he still wears the clothes he's accustomed to wearing.
Susan00100 Pacificsun 32 months ago
I really hate that show! Not so much for its fish-out-of-water motif, but because Oliver Douglas was an insufferable snob who considered himself superior to the Hooterville "rubes". Of course, with the possible exception of Sam Drucker, they were written as being too stupid to live!
Good grief, his inability to rid his Wall Street attire and mannerisms while attending to the country store gossip or climbing a phone poll to hook into the wires is What made this show so hilarious. His Lincoln Continental and Eva’s Fifth Avenue nightgowns were so out of tune that even if you watch Green Acres with the mute button down you’d laugh yourself to death.
justjeff 32 months ago
One of Dan Blocker's early roles was as "The Goon" in the Joe Besser era (1957) Three Stooges Short "Outer Space Jitters". He was misscredited as "Don" Blocker...
HulkFan02 justjeff 32 months ago
That pic thou is so funny XD
Andybandit 32 months ago
Nice story. I knew all the characters in the story except Millburn Stone.
ncadams27 32 months ago
How about George Reeves as Superman and Ward Bond as Major Adams on Wagon Train?
ncadams27 ncadams27 32 months ago
You could even add John Hamilton whose last role was Perry White on Superman.
justjeff ncadams27 32 months ago
...and Nick Adams on "The Rebel", Peter Duell on "Alias Smith and Jones"...
HulkFan02 ncadams27 32 months ago
I know that he died from gunshot from what I remember
tmac1951 32 months ago
I would list Monk as #7, it could be his last great role, and METV has to include Monk in everything, and Monk was on so long ago Tony must be in his 80s or 90s by now.
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Pacificsun WordsmithWorks 32 months ago
Yes it seems like just an eternity ago doesn't it.
Monk just ended in 2009.
How did you think it was that old?
I am assuming that is a joke?
Was there color tv in 2009?
Color TV was coming into Everyman’s home around 1966 or so. My dad had a Magnavox in his den, and only he could turn it on or off. Don’t flip the channels so fast, you’ll wreck the TV! But we only had 3 channels, so what’s the prob? He’d invite us kids into his world mostly on Sunday nights, after the football game was over, for the Wonderful World of Disney. Gads those were innocent times. What will our children and grandchildren laugh about our backwards ways 30 years from now?
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