Kenneth Mars RIP
February 14, 2011 10:56 PM   Subscribe

Perhaps you remember him as the esteemed author of sure-fire flop Springtime for Hitler, or as an inspector with an artificial arm in Young Frankenstein, or maybe even for his impersonation of Henry Kissinger singing Bachman-Turner Overdrive's Takin' Care of Business ( I must hear this. I must.) Maybe you don't remember him at all, as he was a prolific voice actor and character actor. A That Guy. But if you do remember him, you probably remember him making you laugh really, really hard, which is a wonderful thing to be remembered for. I am sad to report that Kenneth Mars passed away on Saturday, February 12th, from pancreatic cancer.
posted by louche mustachio (45 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I first noticed him as the hotelier on Malcolm in the Middle.

Of course, I would have heard him a million times in The Little Mermaid and The Land Before Time, which were on pretty constant repeat when I was a youngster.

Since seeing The Producers, though, he's been indelibly seared into my brain as a Nazi nutjob. (In a good way.)

posted by Sys Rq at 11:48 PM on February 14, 2011

posted by lapolla at 12:16 AM on February 15, 2011

As W.D. 'Bud' Prize, he struggled mightily against the myths and misconceptions surrounding chinodontia. We will not see his like again. Good night, sweet prince.

posted by Kinbote at 12:27 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

My earliest memory of Kenneth Mars was as a 'wacky neighbor' on the 1967 sitcom He & She, which was as sophisticated as TV comedy got in the '60s (and not too sophisticated for 12-year-old me). I have followed him and the rest of the cast (Richard Benjamin as He, Paula Prentiss as She, Jack Cassidy, Hamilton Camp) ever since. Also, if you ever get to see the '80s Twilight Zone episode where he played The Tooth Fairy trying to cheer up a despondent dentist, it'll make you forget all about his Nazi songwriter... for a moment.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:04 AM on February 15, 2011

I love Young Frankenstein, need to have an in memoriam viewing now.
posted by Corduroy at 1:17 AM on February 15, 2011


posted by gc at 1:28 AM on February 15, 2011

What an inspired brilliant goofball especially in Springtime for Hitler:

Churchill...Churchill...vat could he paint!! Hitler, now zere vass a painter!!! He could paint a complete apartment, in von afternoon!!

Two coats!!

posted by Skygazer at 1:39 AM on February 15, 2011 [3 favorites]

First became aware of him in What's Up Doc. He was a classic. His turn as the chief of police in Young Frankenstein was hilarious.
posted by gallois at 1:57 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by mosk at 1:58 AM on February 15, 2011

Me and my son watched Young Frankenstein on Sunday (13th), it's one of my favourite films and it made me happy that my son loved it too. Both of us thought the one-armed inspector stole the show. Kenneth Mars, you were a funny guy. RIP.
posted by jiroczech at 2:06 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

"Der Führer does not say, 'Achtung, baby.'"

He was hilarious. Mr. Mars' IMDB profile shows that he was a part of 198 live and cartoon shows and movies. I daresay he made every one of them memorable.

posted by zarq at 2:28 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

The recording of "Anything Goes" I grew up listening to had Kenneth Mars as British upper-class twit Sir Evelyn Oakleigh. When I found out he was the same guy who got the written-for-Peter-Sellers role in The Producers, my head just about exploded.

Here he is inviting Eileen Rodgers to misbehave, Cole Porter style. Farewell to a fantastic actor.
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:12 AM on February 15, 2011

posted by Faint of Butt at 3:38 AM on February 15, 2011

A msn who was good as well as a good actor. :( .
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:08 AM on February 15, 2011


The original Producers is the funniest movie ever (or at least the funniest movie without the Marx Brothers). His performance was a big reason for that. It was one of those things that are pure inspiration -- you can't imagine how he could have come up with half of what he was doing.

And he was hysterical on Fernwood Tonight. And Young Frankenstein.

Pure inspiration. The world's a slightly less magical place without him.
posted by PlusDistance at 4:19 AM on February 15, 2011

posted by Smart Dalek at 4:38 AM on February 15, 2011

posted by Thorzdad at 4:51 AM on February 15, 2011

posted by steambadger at 4:51 AM on February 15, 2011

Goodnight, sweet Nazi Merman Prince.
posted by FatherDagon at 4:55 AM on February 15, 2011

There is a moment in "What's Up, Doc," where he passes his hands through his hair and calls out "I too have an announcement to make!" as the camera swirls around him, that is one of my favorites in cinema. It's just so exciting.

The man managed to steal that movie, "Young Frankenstein," and "The Producers." Extraordinary.

My girlfriend was quite depressed on the news of him dying. She had planned to write him a letter to tell him how much she loved him.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:59 AM on February 15, 2011

I first became aware of him in The Producers, enjoyed his scene-stealing in Young Frankenstein, and was delighted to see him in an otherwise bland episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

"Often, often! he would say to me, 'Franz! ....Ooowww!'"

posted by AugieAugustus at 5:10 AM on February 15, 2011

I met him once through his daughter, who's very active in the Portland theater community. He was a great guy and truly one of the funniest. Reading through the FPP and realizing who it was talking about left me pretty crestfallen.

I'm glad so many of his amazing moments and characters are captured forever.
posted by Muttoneer at 5:53 AM on February 15, 2011

"Vootschteps! Vootschteps!"

That is still the single funniest scene I have ever seen, in a very funny movie. RIP Inspector Kemp.
posted by emjaybee at 5:58 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

"No, I am Hugh!"
posted by billcicletta at 6:24 AM on February 15, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by grubi at 6:28 AM on February 15, 2011

Mel Brooks always assembled the best casts for his movies. The ensemble comedy work in Young Frankenstein is unmatched. Kenneth Mars, Madeline Kahn, Cloris Leachman ..amazing.
posted by judson at 6:35 AM on February 15, 2011

Aw dang, The cartoon-addict kid in me would like to say goodbye to Dr. Gunther Hunterhanker, Tuskerninni , Vulcan , Buzz, Professor Screweyes, and Lord Triton.
posted by The Whelk at 7:38 AM on February 15, 2011

Nerd friendly biography.
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 7:39 AM on February 15, 2011

posted by mikelieman at 7:56 AM on February 15, 2011

Actually, my (our) introduction came from Square One and Mathnet, specifically "The Problem of the Trojan Hamburger." He played a birthday clown named Hans Ballpeen, hailing from somewhere in the Eastern Bloc; his mannerisms and expressions made a forgettable character into someone I still remember 24 years later.

Hans: "Pick a card, any card, out of de paaaack... and show it to everybody else... annnnd put it back in de pack."

George Frankly: "Ace of clubs!"

Hans: "Let's try dat one again... but this time, DON'T TELL ME VAT IT ISS!"

That's how I found out yesterday; my brother posted that exchange on my Facebook wall. Funny what we consider meaningful.

posted by Madamina at 7:58 AM on February 15, 2011 [2 favorites]

I liebed him.
posted by Danf at 8:04 AM on February 15, 2011

"All right, they just robbed the Flyer outside our town and that makes it our responibility to get after them... now, you'll have to bring your own horses. How many of you can bring your own guns?"

[No hands are raised.]

"Okay, how many of you will want me to supply you with guns?"

[No hands are raised.]

He was quite capable of taking a tiny role with a couple dozen words of dialogue and making an impression on the audience without overwhelming the story. That is a brilliant character actor.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:05 AM on February 15, 2011

posted by heatvision at 8:39 AM on February 15, 2011

One of my favorite quotes from "What's Up, Doc?"...
Hugh: Don't touch me, I'm a doctor.
Judge Maxwell: Of what?
Hugh: Music.
Judge Maxwell: Can you fix a hi-fi?
Hugh: No.
Judge Maxwell: Then shut up!

posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 9:18 AM on February 15, 2011 [4 favorites]

posted by galadriel at 9:27 AM on February 15, 2011

posted by cookie-k at 10:04 AM on February 15, 2011

posted by Ber at 10:49 AM on February 15, 2011

posted by evilcolonel at 10:59 AM on February 15, 2011

posted by condour75 at 1:53 PM on February 15, 2011

posted by spacely_sprocket at 3:52 PM on February 15, 2011

I am very sad as Kenneth Mars gave me some of the best, most memorable bouts of laughter I have ever had. However, being reminded of What's Up Doc is always a pleasure. When I'm particularly sad, it's one of those movies that I know I can use to get up far enough to see the end of whatever is making me feel so low.

Thank you, Mr. Mars.

posted by ltracey at 6:19 PM on February 15, 2011

Ah, damn.

posted by faineant at 10:32 PM on February 15, 2011

My intro was through his role as King Triton, but over the years, he really gave me a lot of laughs and pleasure. It was always fun picking up that it was him during various voice roles. And his live action character roles were just classic. I was honestly sad to hear of his passing.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:52 PM on February 15, 2011

Oh how many times his Franz made me laugh, and still does.
posted by asusu at 8:05 PM on February 19, 2011

« Older “How do you juggle it all?”   |   Anu-Anulan & Yir's Daughter Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments