R.I.P. Michael J. Pollard, who played both the cousin of Barney Fife and the cousin of Maynard G. Krebs
The "Cousin Virgil" actor also inspired the screen name of Michael J. Fox. He was 80 years old.
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Michael J. Pollard passed away on November 22, 2019. The news was broken by Rob Zombie, the Halloween (2007) and Devil's Rejects director, in a Facebook post.
Zombie worked with Pollard in his 2000 cult classic House of 1000 Corpses. However, many others remember Pollard for his earlier work in classic TV and movies.
Pollard was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde as C.W. Moss. In 1988, he played Herman, a homeless man who teaches the main character about the value of life, in the Bill Murray Christmas Carol adaptation Scrooged.
He made appearances in several classic TV shows. In The Andy Griffith Show, he was cast as Virgil, Barney Fife's socially inept but talented cousin. He may spill meat in Andy's lap, but he can pick a lock and tell "a good crab joke."
On The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, he was Jerome Krebs, the cousin of Maynard G. Krebs. Pollard's character was meant to replace Maynard on the show after Bob Denver was drafted into the Army. However, once Denver failed the physical and returned to the series, Pollard's character was written out.
Perhaps one of his most iconic roles was on the first-season Star Trek episode "Miri."
"Miri" revolves around a planet where every adult has been brought down by a deadly disease and the children have formed their own community ruled by violence. Pollard plays Jahn, the leader of the children who rules with an iron fist. Star Trek fans will remember the eerily-chanted phrase "bonk, bonk on head," as Jahn urges the children to attack Kirk. It is also interesting to note that this episode was filmed on the Mayberry set.
Pollard also had another significant influence in Hollywood — he inspired the middle initial of Michael J. Fox. The Back to the Future star, born Michael Andrew Fox, needed to distinguish himself from Michael Fox, an actor seen in many Westerns on MeTV. As Fox wrote in his 2002 memoir Lucky Man: A Memoir, "I remembered one of my favorite character actors, Michael J. Pollard, the guileless accomplice in Bonnie and Clyde…. I stuck in the J, which I sometimes tell people stands for either Jenuine, or Jenius."
Pollard created a rich filmography and legacy and will be remembered fondly by fans from all backgrounds, from classic to TV to his work on horror and holiday films. He was 80 years old.