Character actor Bill Erwin's persistence paid off in the Eighties
The famous Old Man is the definition of aging gracefully.
You might recognize character actor Bill Erwin as an Old Man from hit shows and movies in the Eighties and Nineties.
He memorably got an Emmy nomination for guest starring on Seinfeld.
In the Eighties, many reporters described his appeal, praising his distinct look as what set him apart as a top-notch character actor.
It’s "the silver hair, the wise eyes, the knowing smile, the voice filled with authority," mused a reporter for Victor Valley Daily Press in 1982.
"His round rosy face with those blue eyes and that thatch of silver hair make him one of the most recognizable character actors around today," proclaimed another in the Victoria Advocate the same year.
For Erwin, his celebrity was a long time coming after spending decades on TV and feeling like his face was forgettable even when he made it on hit shows like The Andy Griffith Show, I Love Lucy or The Twilight Zone.
"When I was a young man, it was sometimes difficult for me to get work," Erwin said. "If you are very handsome or very ugly, you can work in Hollywood. The problem is to work when you are more or less average-looking."
Erwin saw himself as a nobody for most of his career.
"I just had a round, honest face, and there are millions of round, honest faces around," Erwin said. "So, it was difficult at times. But now I no longer look like everybody else, so I am working more."
Erwin kept at the acting even through what he described as lean years because acting was his greatest joy, and at his core, he always believed in persistence as his best strategy for success.
"Now that I look like I do – the silver hair and the mustache to match – I am getting better parts than I ever had before in my life," Erwin boasted.
At his home in the Eighties, Erwin had framed a quote above his desk that read "Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence."
In his career, which stretched from uncredited movie parts in the 1940s to memorable Old Man TV roles through 2006, Erwin’s persistence indeed paid off.
All he really needed to succeed was growing older and getting consistent stage time to become seasoned.
When he finally got the celebrity that he’d pursued all his life, he said he felt younger than his years.
"It appears that most actors my age have either become superstars or long since given up the struggle," Erwin said. "I have just kept working away, seeking to improve my skills. Then there’s that old word ‘persistence.’ I’m standing on the threshold with the eagerness of a juvenile."
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Then again, there's the advice offered by Max Plunkett, Edward Everett Horton's character in Ernst Lubitch's film of Noel Coward's "Design for Living" (1933):
"Nothing will replace one-hundred percent virtue and three square meals a day."
And I'm sure he kept telling himself that...and telling himself that...and telling himself that.
MeTV (past and present programs):
I Love Lucy, The Rifleman, Wagon Train, Leave It to Beaver.
Just to name a few. He certainly had no shortage of roles.