Kenneth Mars


Actor
Kenneth Mars

About

Also Known As
Ken Mars
Birth Place
Chicago, Illinois, USA
Born
April 04, 1935
Died
February 12, 2011
Cause of Death
Pancreatic Cancer

Biography

A prolific character actor with a penchant for absurd, theatrical European characters, Kenneth Mars provided some of the most uproarious moments in such classic comedies as Mel Brooks' "The Producers" (1968), "Young Frankenstein" (1974), and countless television shows, features and animated programs. An oversized talent in every sense, the chief weapon in Mars' comedy arsenal was his voi...

Biography

A prolific character actor with a penchant for absurd, theatrical European characters, Kenneth Mars provided some of the most uproarious moments in such classic comedies as Mel Brooks' "The Producers" (1968), "Young Frankenstein" (1974), and countless television shows, features and animated programs. An oversized talent in every sense, the chief weapon in Mars' comedy arsenal was his voice, which seemed to adapt to any variety of accents, including deranged Germans in "Producers" and "Frankenstein," kindly father figures like King Triton in "The Little Mermaid" (1989), and all manner of outlandish humans and animals in network cartoons. Along the way, Mars enjoyed roles in films by Woody Allen ("Radio Days," 1987), George Roy Hill ("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," 1972), Arthur Penn ("Night Moves," 1975) and Peter Bogdanovich (1972's "What's Up, Doc?"), but it was his roles in the Brooks films and his animated work that ensured his favored status with movie lovers until his death in 2011.

Born in Chicago, IL on April 14, 1936, Kenneth Mars began his onscreen acting career in 1962 on the sitcom "Car 54, Where Are You?" (NBC, 1961-63), and soon became a staple of television comedies and dramas. In 1967, he landed his first role as a series regular on the Emmy-winning "He & She" (CBS, 1967-1970) as Harry Zarakartos, a jocular Greek fireman who would drop in on the show's stars, real life married couple Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss, by crossing a plank that connected their apartment to the firehouse across the street. The following year, Mars gained his breakthrough role as Franz Liebkind in "The Producers." A certifiably insane former Nazi, Liebkind penned the musical "Springtime for Hitler," which was purchased and produced by Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) and Leo Bloom (Gene Wilder) in the hopes of defrauding its investors. Mars' performance, which brought new levels of definition to the word "committed," was highly praised, and cemented him in the minds of audiences and casting directors alike as an eccentric German or other Middle European.

The popularity of "The Producers" gave Mars' career a considerable boost, and he soon graduated to major supporting roles in Hollywood features. Most of these were comedies, which gave him a fine canvas for his broad talents: in "The April Fools" (1969), he was teamed with Melinda Dillon as an over-the-top married couple, while Peter Bogdanovich's "What's Up, Doc?" (1972) cast him as the fraudulent Croatian scientist who competed with Ryan O'Neal for a grant. His greatest comic role of the 1970s was that of Inspector Kemp in Brooks' Oscar-nominated "Young Frankenstein" (1974). A parody of Lionel Atwill's dogged, one-armed inspector in "Son of Frankenstein" (1939), Kemp sported a wooden arm with a mind of its own, as well as an accent so thick that his own countrymen could barely understand him. Mars was also a staple of TV sitcoms during this period, most notably as the hapless W.D. "Bud" Prize, who had invented "chinodontics" to realign his face, on "Fernwood 2-Nite" (syndicated, 1977).

Though primarily considered a comedic actor, Mars was also a capable dramatic performer who brought gravity and sympathy to these infrequent turns. He enjoyed a rare co-lead in "Desperate Characters" (1971), a downbeat drama about a pair of alienated New Yorkers (Shirley MacLaine and Mars) whose marriage begins to crumble, as well as played a small town sheriff who attempts to track down "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" (1972). As with his comedy work, Mars was best used to flesh out supporting roles, like the detective in "Night Moves" (1975) who tried to lend a hand to struggling P.I. Gene Hackman.

Mars' best work in the 1960s and 1970s provided him with steady if unremarkable work throughout the 1980s and 1990s, mostly on episodic television. There were also infrequent appearances in theatrical features like "Yellowbeard" (1983) and "Fletch" (1985), which made use of his knack for accents and pompous authority figures; Woody Allen also tapped him for "Radio Days" (1987) as an irate rabbi, and his darker "Shadows and Fog" (1992) as the wistful Armstead the Magician, who helped to subdue the film's mysterious strangler. However, Mars' most frequent showcase during this period was in animated films like "The Land Before Time" (1988) and its numerous sequels, as well as television shows like "Freakazoid!" (The WB, 1995-97) and "Batman: The Animated Series" (The WB, 1992-95). In 1989, he voiced King Triton, father of "The Little Mermaid," and reprised the role in subsequent direct-to-video sequels and a weekly series (CBS, 1992-94), as well as the "Kingdom Hearts" (Square Enix, 2006- ) video games.

Mars continued to balance his busy schedule of animation voiceover work and guest roles on television, including a recurring role on "Malcolm in the Middle" (Fox, 2000-06) as Otto Mannkusser, the gullible owner of a dude ranch with a typically broad Germanic accent. He remained active until his death on Feb. 12, 2011 from pancreatic cancer. In addition to his acting career, Mars also recorded a comedy album, Henry the First (1975), which featured his impressions of Henry Kissinger in numerous bits, including a cover of Bachman-Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business."

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Teddy Bear's Picnic (2002)
Runaway Virus (2000)
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000)
Voice Of King Triton
How to Marry a Billionaire: A Christmas Tale (2000)
Land Before Time VI: Secret of Saurus Rock (1998)
Land Before Time V: Mysterious Island (1997)
Voice
Land Before Time IV: Journey Through the Mists (1996)
Voice
Citizen Ruth (1996)
Rough Magic (1995)
Land Before Time III: The Time of the Great Giving (1995)
Voice
Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure (1994)
Voice Of Grandpa
Thumbelina (1994)
Voice
We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story (1993)
Voice
Shadows And Fog (1991)
I'll Take Romance (1990)
Smokey
Get Smart, Again! (1989)
The Little Mermaid (1989)
Voice
Police Academy 6: City Under Siege (1989)
Illegally Yours (1988)
For Keeps (1988)
Rented Lips (1988)
Radio Days (1987)
The Adventures of the American Rabbit (1986)
Voice Of Vultor/Buzzard
Fletch (1985)
Beer (1985)
A J Norbecker
Protocol (1984)
Prince Jack (1984)
Lyndon B Johnson
Yellowbeard (1983)
Full Moon High (1981)
You Can't Take It With You (1979)
Before and After (1979)
The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979)
Goin' Coconuts (1978)
Kruse
Night Moves (1975)
The New, Original Wonder Woman (1975)
Colonel Von Balasko
Someone I Touched (1975)
Paul Wrightwood
The Parallax View (1974)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Guess Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed (1973)
What's Up, Doc? (1972)
Hugh Simon
Second Chance (1972)
Desperate Characters (1971)
Otto Bentwood
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Marshal
The April Fools (1969)
Don Hopkins
Viva Max! (1969)
Dr. Sam Gillison
The Producers (1968)
Franz Liebkind

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

High Spirits (1988)
Assistance

Cast (Special)

Countdown to Christmas (1994)
Sex, Shock and Censorship in the 90's (1993)
Mimi & Me (1991)
Full House (1983)
Arthur Krantz; The Theatrical Producer
The Fighting Nightingales (1978)
Colonel H Jonas Boyette
Bunco (1977)
Full House (1976)
It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman (1975)
Van Dyke and Company (1975)
Comedy News II (1973)
Reporter
The Karen Valentine Show (1973)
Comedy News (1972)
Shepherd's Flock (1971)
Jack Shepherd

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Whale of a Tale (1992)
Voice
A DuckTales Valentine (1990)
Voice
Chocolate Fever (1985)
Voice Of Sugar Cane
Hugh Pine (1985)
Voice
The Rules Of Marriage (1982)
Red Hewitt

Life Events

1967

Debut as regular in a comedy TV series, "He and She"

1967

Feature debut, "The Producers"

1971

Star of an unsold pilot, "Shepherd's Flock"

1972

Debut in a TV-movie, "Second Chance"

1972

First co-starring role in a feature, "What's Up, Doc?"

1982

Debut in a miniseries, "The Rules of Marriage"

1985

Debut as voice actor in animated TV series, "The New Jetsons"

Videos

Movie Clip

What's Up, Doc? (1972) - We've Almost Got That Stammer Cured Already detained by rival Simon (Kenneth Mars), panicked musicologist Howard (Ryan O’Neal) meets Larrabee (Austin Pendleton), provider of the grant for-which they’re competing then, aided by Randy Quaid, finds mischievous Judy (Barbra Streisand) impersonating his fianceè, in What’s Up Doc, 1972.
What's Up, Doc? -- (1972) -- (Original Trailer) Director Peter Bogdanovich joins stars Barbra Streisand and Ryan O'Neal for this full-on tongue in cheek trailer for the 1972 comedy hit What's Up, Doc?, also the feature debut of Madeline Kahn.
Full Moon High (1981) -- Original Trailer Leading man Adam Arkin is more prominent than his dad Alan, and co-star Ed McMahon doesn’t appear at all, in the rude trailer for independent director-producer Larry Cohen’s low-rent comedy-horror-nostalgia feature Full Moon High, shot in 1979 but released in 1981.
Night Moves (1975) - She Likes Big Guys Ex-jock LA P-I Harry (Gene Hackman) with pal Nick (Kenneth Mars) picks up a tape with background on his client and her runaway daughter, listening as he drives to meet his wife (Susan Clark) after an Eric Rohmer movie, making an unpleasant discovery, in Arthur Penn’s Night Moves, 1975.
Night Moves (1975) - Real Live Detective Director Arthur Penn is well into the narrative as the opening credits roll, Gene Hackman is LA private detective and ex-jock Harry Moseby, Susan Clark his antique-dealer wife, Ben Archibeck her sidekick, in the acclaimed “neo-noir” Night Moves, 1975.
Parallax View, The - Non-Ex-Agent Frady (Warren Beatty) visits his ex-lawman friend Will (Kenneth Mars) at an amusement park to talk about creating a cover for his investigation in Alan J. Pakula's The Parallax View, 1974.
Radio Days - Masked Avenger Woody Allen is the narrator and Seth Green is his younger self, recalling his quest for "Masked Avenger" paraphernalia, and his Rabbi (Kenneth Mars), mother (Julie Kavner) and father (Michael Tucker) in Radio Days, 1987.
Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, The - Wooly Bill Hitchcock Amos and Theodore (Tim Conway and Don Knotts) witness some knockout political theater by Grand Junction Sheriff Wooly Bill Hitchcock (Kenneth Mars) in Disney's The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again, 1979.

Trailer

Bibliography