Gavin MacLeod

Gavin MacLeod Headshot

Actor

Birth Date: February 28, 1931

Death Date: May 29, 2021

Birth Place: Mount Kisco, New York

Though best known for playing distinctly sunny characters in a trio of long-running and popular television series, Gavin MacLeod was typecast as a heavy for much of his early acting career. Director Blake Edwards first recognized his potential for comedy in 1959's "Operation Petticoat," and he later gained notice as Navy seaman "Happy" Haines on "McHale's Navy" (ABC, 1962-66) and news writer Murray Slaughter on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (CBS, 1970-77). But it was as Merrill Stubing, captain of "The Love Boat" (ABC, 1977-1986) that ensured MacLeod's place in pop culture history, though it would eventually overshadow the large body of work that preceded it. After converting to evangelical Christianity in the mid-1980s, MacLeod began to host programming on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, while maintaining a reserved presence in secular entertainment.

Born Allan George See in Mount Kisco, NY, on Feb. 28, 1930, he was raised in Pleasantville, NY and studied acting at Ithaca College. Military service in the U.S. Air Force followed his graduation in 1952, and after returning to civilian life, he worked as an usher and elevator operator at Radio City Music Hall, while at the same time, treading the pavement in search of acting jobs. A role in the 1956 Broadway production of "A Hatful of Rain" gave him his big break, and he headed to Hollywood soon after to find regular work in television and the occasional film. He adopted his stage name from his acting teacher, Beatrice MacLeod, as well as a character in a television drama.

Fast-talking and intense, he was ideal for heels and crooks in crime dramas or authority figures like soldiers or the police lieutenant he played in his feature debut, 1958's "I Want to Live!" Blake Edwards saw a knack for comedy in his acting palette, casting him as a nervous Navy clerk in 1959's "Operation Petticoat." But he was soon back to playing nefarious types, including a rogue's gallery of villains on "The Untouchables" (ABC, 1959-1963) until he returned to lighter fare as torpedoman's mate Joseph "Happy" Haines on "McHale's Navy" and its two spinoff features, "McHale's Navy" (1964) and "McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force" (1965). After the sitcom left the air in 1966, MacLeod divided his time between comic roles and more serious types like the drug pusher "Big Chicken" on "Hawaii 5-0" (CBS, 1968-1980). Though most of his work was in episodic television, he made regular forays into features like "The Sand Pebbles" (1966), "The Party" (1968) and "Kelly's Heroes" (1970) as one of Clint Eastwood's co-conspirators.

That same year, MacLeod was called in to read for the role of grumpy TV news producer Lou Grant on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." He found the smaller role of copywriter Murray Slaughter more intriguing, and won the part - the first for which he appeared on screen with his trademark shaved head - which did much to change audiences' perception of him for good. Despite the efforts of Grant, clueless newsreader Ted Baxter (longtime friend Ted Knight) and predatory Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White) to keep him underfoot, Murray was relentlessly upbeat and harbored a long-standing crush on Mary Richards (Mary Tyler Moore) that never sat well with his wife Marie (Joyce Bulifant). MacLeod's breezy delivery as Murray helped to earn him two Golden Globe nominations in 1975 and 1977.

When "Mary Tyler Moore" came to an end in 1977, MacLeod was immediately snapped up by Aaron Spelling to play Merrill Stubing on a new series called "The Love Boat" that strung together sketches about shipboard romances that were interwoven with and occasionally involved the ship's crew. As Stubing, MacLeod was largely called upon to play straight man to the zany antics of his crew members and the rotating cast of guest stars, though he was occasionally allowed to get in on the fun as Stubing's womanizing twin brother Marshall. A daughter, Vicki (Jill Whelan) was introduced in 1979, and Stubing gained a wife in Emily Haywood (Marion Ross) for the final season run. Though critics who had championed MacLeod during his tenure on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" shook their heads over his participation in what many considered lowbrow entertainment, MacLeod was employed on a top-rated network program for over a decade; one that was popular enough to generate a massive amount of tie-in material, as well as sizable numbers in reruns. It also earned him three Golden Globe nominations for Best Actor in 1979, 1981 and 1982.

What "Love Boat" fans did not know was that MacLeod was struggling off-camera with a serious alcohol problem, due in part to the pressures of his career. His disease also contributed to a 1982 divorce from his second wife, actress Patti MacLeod, whom he had married in 1974. However, the couple found solace in evangelical Christianity, eventually reuniting in 1985. MacLeod later made his own struggles with alcohol part of Stubing's storyline on "The Love Boat."

Though happy in his personal life, MacLeod's career waned after "Love Boat" left the air in 1986. Fixed in TV viewers' minds as Captain Stubing, he decided to exploit the connection by becoming the official spokesperson for the Princess Cruise Line, which had provided their MS Pacific as the location ship for the series. There were occasional character parts on "The King of Queens" (CBS, 1998-2007) as Doug Heffernan's much-loved uncle and as a cardinal on "Oz" (HBO, 1997-2003), but MacLeod's steadiest work came in regional theater or on Trinity Broadcasting Network's "Back on Course," which he co-hosted with his wife Patti. The show took its name from the 1987 autobiography he penned with his wife, which detailed the ups and downs of their married life. In addition to his acting career, MacLeod also served as the honorary mayor of Pacific Palisades in California. Gavin MacLeod died May 29, 2021 at the age of 90.

Credits

A Classic Christmas (My Music)

Host
Show
2019

Praise

Guest
Show
2016

The Talk

Guest
Talk
2010

The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry

Actor
Jonathan Sperry
Movie
2008

Time ChangerStream

Actor
Norris Anderson
Movie
2002

The King of QueensStream

Guest Star
Series
1998

That '70s ShowStream

Guest Star
Series
1998

Love Boat: The Next Wave

Guest Star
Show
1998

OzStream

Guest Star
Cardinal Frances Abgott
Series
1997
93%

JAGStream

Guest Star
Series
1995

New Year's Eve With Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians

Host
Show
1994

Touched by an AngelStream

Guest Star
Series
1994

Burke's Law

Guest Star
Jerry Marz
Show
1994

Un Viaje de San Valentin

Actor
Movie
1990

El Crucero del Amor

Actor
Movie
1990

Love Boat: A Valentine Voyage

Actor
Capt. Stubing
Movie
1990

Love Boat: A Summer Cruise

Actor
Capt. Stubing
Movie
1990

Student Exchange

Actor
Vice Principal Durfner
Movie
1987

The Oprah Winfrey ShowStream

Guest
Talk
1986

Murder, She WroteStream

Guest Star
Art Sommers
Series
1984

Hotel

Guest Star
Soap
1983

Pat Boone and Family Christmas Special

Self
Show
1979

The Love BoatStream

Actor
Captain Merrill Stubing
Series
1977

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Ted Knight

Actor
Show
1977

Ransom for Alice

Actor
Yankee Sullivan
Movie
1977

The New Love Boat

Actor
Captain Merrill Stubing
Movie
1977

The Love Boat III

Actor
Captain Merrill Stubing
Movie
1977

Wonder WomanStream

Guest Star
Series
1976

Charlie's AngelsStream

Guest Star
Series
1976

Rhoda

Guest Star
Series
1974

TattletalesStream

Guest
Game Show
1974

Only With Married Men

Actor
Jordan Robbins
Movie
1974

The Mary Tyler Moore ShowStream

Actor
Murray Slaughter
Series
1970

The Intruders

Actor
Warden
Movie
1970

Kelly's HeroesStream

Actor
Moriarty
Movie
1970
78%

Love, American Style

Actor
Kipnis
Series
1969

The Thousand Plane Raid

Actor
Sgt. Kruger
Movie
1969

The PartyStream

Actor
Charlie S. Divot
Movie
1968
83%

The Flying NunStream

Guest Star
Series
1967

Garrison's Gorillas

Guest Star
Series
1967

Rat PatrolStream

Guest Star
Sgt. Archie Gribs
Series
1966

Iron HorseStream

Guest Star
Series
1966

Baby Crazy

Actor
Dr Charles Norwood
Show
1966

The Sand PebblesStream

Actor
Crosley
Movie
1966
84%

Deathwatch

Actor
Emil
Movie
1966

Hogan's HeroesStream

Guest Star
Series
1965

The Big Valley

Guest Star
Series
1965

The Sword of Ali Baba

Actor
Hulagu Khan
Movie
1965

McHale's Navy Joins the Air Force

Actor
Seaman Joseph Haines
Movie
1965

Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.Stream

Guest Star
Fred Fay
Series
1964

The MunstersStream

Guest Star
Series
1964
83%

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Stream

Guest Star
Series
1964
100%

McHale's Navy

Actor
Seaman Joseph 'Happy' Hanes
Movie
1964

My Favorite MartianStream

Guest Star
Series
1963

McHale's Navy

Actor
Happy
Series
1962

Combat!

Guest Star
Series
1962

War Hunt

Actor
Pvt. Crotty
Movie
1962

The Dick Van Dyke ShowStream

Guest Star
Maxwell
Series
1961

Ben Casey

Guest Star
Whelan
Series
1961

Dr. Kildare

Guest Star
Series
1961

Cain's Hundred

Guest Star
Show
1961

The Crimebusters

Actor
Harry Deiner
Movie
1961

The Andy Griffith ShowStream

Guest Star
Gilbert Jamel
Series
1960

High Time

Actor
Professor Thayer
Movie
1960

Twelve Hours to Kill

Actor
Johnny
Movie
1960

Mr. LuckyStream

Guest Star
Series
1959

The Untouchables

Guest Star
Series
1959

Men Into Space

Guest Star
Dr. Dave Parsons
Show
1959

Lock-UpStream

Guest Star
Series
1959

RawhideStream

Guest Star
Series
1959

Pork Chop Hill

Actor
Pvt. Saxon
Movie
1959

Operation PetticoatStream

Actor
Ernest Hunkle
Movie
1959
81%

U.S. Marshal

Guest Star
Buck
Show
1958

Perry MasonStream

Guest Star
Lawrence Comminger
Series
1957

The Thin Man

Guest Star
Neil Jackson
Show
1957

Death Valley DaysStream

Actor
Phil Arnold
Series
1952

Death Valley DaysStream

Guest Star
Dandy Martin
Series
1952

Today

Guest
News
1952

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