R.I.P. Gavin MacLeod of The Love Boat and The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Before becoming Stubing and Slaughter, he made memorable appearances in Mayberry. He was 90.
Read to Me
Gavin MacLeod grew up in Pleasantville. How perfect is that? No, not the fictional town from the 1998 movie — but rather Pleasantville, New York. What an apt name for a place that produced one of the most beloved, likeable stars in TV history.
Born Allan George See, the aspiring actor changed his name upon moving to New York City after serving in the United States Air Force. The actor told Parade in 2013 that he felt his original name, Allan See, was getting in the way of his success. He pieced together his stage name from two sources.
MacLeod took his new last name from his drama coach at Ithaca College, Beatrice MacLeod. He took his new first name, however, from a physically handicapped victim on a TV drama. There you have it: Gavin MacLeod.
His screen career began in earnest in the late 1950s. Early on, he often played a bad guy, popping up on hip crime shows like Peter Gunn, Mr. Lucky and The Untouchables, playing characters with names like "Bugsy," "Whitey" and "Three-Fingered Jack White."
MacLeod appeared on The Dick Van Dyke Show in 1961 in the episode "Empress Carlotta's Necklace." He played Maxwell Cooley, a wholesale jeweler who sells Rob Petrie a hideous necklace. That, obviously, would not be the last time he worked on a sitcom with Mary Tyler Moore.
Although people best remember MacLeod for his roles on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Love Boat, he got his big break on the sitcom McHale's Navy in 1962. MacLeod played Happy Haines for the show's first two seasons, eventually leaving to appear in the film The Sand Pebbles.
MacLeod made two memorable appearances in Mayberry. He played a suspicious "television" man named Gilbert Jamel in "TV or Not TV." Later, in the color seasons, he played an actor portraying Sheriff Andy! Oddly, both plots revolved around Hollywood filming a tale titled "Sheriff Without a Gun," though MacLeod was different characters.
Can you imagine Murray Slaughter uttering the line, "You've got spunk…. I hate spunk!"? It almost happened. TV executive Grant Tinker wanted MacLeod to audition for the role of Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. However, everyone decided MacLeod was a better fit for the friendlier Slaughter character instead.
"I didn't think I was right for Lou Grant, and I didn't think I was right for Ted Baxter," MacLeod told MeTV in 2014. "I thought, though, this guy Murray, maybe I could have some fun with him, you know?"
When The Mary Tyler Moore Show wrapped its legendary run, the close-knit cast was broken up.
"It was sad!" MacLeod told us. "I remember standing there in the back next to Mary before we went on, and I said, 'You know, Mare, this has been a great seven years…' and she said, 'Oh, Gavs…' She used to call me Gavs'… She said, 'Don't start it now, I won't be able to take it!' I was sad the whole last year, waiting for the last show!"
Like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Love Boat did not set out intended to cast MacLeod in his eventual role. The Love Boat began as a TV movie with an utterly different cast. Well, there were two trial TV movies before the Pacific Princess found her crew for a series.
MacLeod, Bernie Kopell and Ted Lange would end up being the only actors to appear in every episode of the series. Only the captain, the doctor and the bartender were there throughout all 250 episodes.
MacLeod took his role as Captain Merrill Stubing very seriously after The Love Boat wrapped in the late 1980s. After 1986, MacLeod served as a spokesperson for Princess Cruises, the cruise line featured in the series.
On Saturday, May 29, MacLeod passed away in his Palm Desert home, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 90.