Dipping into the past of Classic TV history, on this date — December 14 — we find three actors who left us, but whose work continues to live on in the television series we most remember them for, as well as additional performances. Today’s celebrities are Norman Fell, Mr. Roper on Three’s Company; Mike Evans, Lionel Jefferson on both All in the Family and The Jeffersons; and character actor Bernard Fox, perhaps best known as Dr. Bombay on Bewitched.
His most popular role was undoubtedly Mr. Roper on Three’s Company (1976 to 1981) and the spin-off series, The Ropers (1979 to 1980). Tremendously in demand as a character actor, he appeared in dozens of feature films, TV movies, and episodes of episodic television spanning, on the big screen, The Violators (1957) to Beach House (1987), and on the small from The Elgin Hour (1954) to Ellen (1997, as Mr. Roper). His other regular series role was as Nathan Davidson on the sitcom Needles and Pins (1973). Born on March 24, 1924, he died on December 14, 1998, at age 74 of bone marrow cancer. Norman was married three times, to Dolores Pikoos from 1951 to 1954, Diane Weiss from 1961 to 1973, and Karen Weingard from 1975 to 1995.
The role you know him best for is also the one that was his television acting debut: Lionel Jefferson, son of George and Louise Jefferson on All in the Family. He played the next-door neighbor of Archie and Edith Bunker from 1971 to 1975, and then joined Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford on the spin-off series, The Jeffersons, for the first season. Demanding more screen time, he was let out of his contract by series creator Norman Lear, returning to the role of Lionel in seasons six through eight (Damon Evans, who was not related, took on the part while he was gone). He appeared in several TV movies and portrayed Arnold Simms in the TV miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man (1976). Mike was a regular on Danny Thomas’ medical sitcom The Practice (1976 to 1977); and he is the co-creator of the Maude spin-off, Good Times, which ran from 1974 to 1979. He died of throat cancer at age 57 in 2006. He was married to Helena Jefferson from 1976 until her death in 2002. He has two daughters, Carlena and Tammie.
“Calling Dr. Bombay, Calling Dr. Bombay, come right away.” Such was the chant that Elizabeth Montgomery’s Samantha Stephens would use to get the warlock doctor, played by Bernard Fox, to pop in for a house call — usually in the midst of some adventure. The British actor was born on May 11, 1927. His film career went from 1956’s Soho Incident to 1999’s The Mummy, for a total of 33 movies. Beyond many guest-starring roles, he was a regular or recurred on Sixpenny Corner as Tom Norton (1955 to 1956), Three Live Wires as Malcolm (1961), The Danny Thomas Show as Alfie Wingate (1962 to 1963), The Andy Griffith Show as Malcolm Merriweather (1963 to 1965), Hogan’s Heroes as Colonel Crittendon (1965 to 1970) and 19 episodes of Bewitched (1966 to 1972). He was born May 11, 1927, in Port Talbot, Glamorgan, Wales. He died on December 14, 2016, at age 89 of heart failure. He was married to Jacqueline Fox, their wedding taking place in 1962. He has two children.