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John Fiedler

John Fiedler

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Also Known As: John Donald Fiedler Died: June 25, 2005
Born: February 3, 1925 Cause of Death: cancer
Birth Place: Plattesville, Wisconsin, USA Profession: Cast ... actor
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BIOGRAPHY

This stage-trained veteran character player has had a long and varied career playing mousy little men in films and TV since the late 1940s. Short, plump, often bespectacled and perpetually balding, Fiedler has a look that defies the ravages of time. Somehow never truly young, he could never really grow old.

Fiedler could just have easily played many of his 50s roles in the 70s and vice versa. Often ridiculous or flustered, he segues smoothly between drama and comedy playing inoffensive Milquetoasts and unctuous men of petty authority. In addition, his distinctive vocal squeak (sort of like Sterling Holloway with a higher, whinier edge) makes him a memorable voice actor in animated films and TV specials. He proved a pleasantly pragmatic Piglet in several Disney-produced Winnie the Pooh outings, voicing the gentle character from the first feature film, "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day," in 1968 through a score of big and small screen projects to "Pooh's Heffalump Movie" in 2005. He also lent his distinctive tones to such Disney animated projets as "Robin Hood" (1973), "The Rescuers" (1977), "The Fox and the Hound" (1981) and "The Emperor's New Groove" (2000)

Fiedler may still be best known as the nervous and ineffectual Mr. Peterson, one of Dr. Hartley's more likable patients for five seasons (1973-78) of "The Bob Newhart Show", a classic CBS sitcom. Hardcore TV buffs, especially aficionados of sci-fi, fantasy and horror, will recall him from guest shots on "The Twilight Zone"--on the entries "Night of the Meek" (CBS, 12/23/60) as the boss of Art Carney's drunken department store Santa Claus and "Cavender is Coming" (CBS, 5/25/62) as one of the supervisor of Carol Burnett's guardian angel--and a "Star Trek" episode entitled "Wolf in the Fold" as an official investigating Scotty's possible involvement in a series of Jack the Ripper-like murders. Fiedler also had a recurring role on "Kolchack: The Night Stalker" (ABC, 1974-75) as Gordon (aka "Gordy the Ghoul") Spangler, a helpful morgue attendant. His resume of television guest appearances include an amazing array of TV classics from the 60s through the 90s, including "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," "Dr. Kildare," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "Bonanza," "My Favorite Martian," "The Fugitive," "The Munsters," "Perry Mason," "Gunsmoke," "The Donna Reed Show," "Bewitched," "Get Smart," "I Spy," "The Odd Couple," "Alice," "Quincy" "The Rockford Files," "Fantasy Island," "Hart to Hart," "Cheers," "The Golden Girls," "L.A. Law" and "Cosby." He also played a dual role on the daytime drama "One Life to Live" in 1987.

Theater devotees may first think of Fiedler as Karl Lindner, the only non-African-American character in Lorraine Hansberry's landmark drama "A Raisin in the Sun". He was the formal little fellow from a neighborhood "improvement association" who arrives at the apartment of the Youngers, a Black family planning to relocate into his middle-class, mostly white area, offering a substantial sum if they do not become his new neighbors. Fiedler would recreate this role in the 1961 feature version, the 1986 off-Broadway revival, the 1986 Kennedy Center production in Washington, DC, the 1987 touring company production and the 1989 "American Playhouse" production on PBS. One could say that Fiedler has "dibs" on the role.

Fiedler entered films in a classic drama of the NYC "realist" school, Sidney Lumet's "Twelve Angry Men" (1957). He was Juror Number 2, an unassuming bank clerk not used to formulating his own opinions. Many feature roles followed throughout the 60s with such credits as Billy Wilder's underrated "Kiss Me, Stupid", "The World of Henry Orient" (both 1964), "The Odd Couple" (1968) and "True Grit" (1969). In the 70s and 80s he was more frequently seen in TV movies and more freewheeling features such as Disney's "The Shaggy D.A." (1976), "Harper Valley P.T.A." (1978) and, with Burt Reynolds, "The Cannonball Run" (1981) and "Sharkey's Machine" (1981). He remained busy on stage throughout his career, even becoming a member of New York's Ensemble Studio Theatre in the 80s and appearing in a 1996 off-Broadway production of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest" directed by Tony Walton.

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