Prolific character actor John Mahoney passes away at age 77
February 5, 2018 5:27 PM   Subscribe

“The theater is my brothers, my sisters, my father, my mother, my wife." The actor died Sunday in Chicago after a brief hospitalization, Paul Martino, his manager for more than 30 years, reported. The cause of death was not immediately provided. Mahoney had never married, and did not have any children. Born in Blackpool, England, he made Chicago his adopted home.

"So I was the associate editor of a medical journal in Chicago, and I was thirty-seven, and all of a sudden I just sort of started going through this dark night of the soul... where I just... . Is this going to be it for me, am I going to be spending the rest of my life writing about cataracts and hemorrhoids... and... . just not what I wanted to do, and I was just intensely depressed all the time."

Mahoney took acting classes at the St. Nicholas Theater and finally built up the courage to quit his day job and pursue acting full-time. John Malkovich, one of the founders of the Second City's distinguished Steppenwolf Theatre, encouraged Mahoney to join Steppenwolf. In 1986, Mahoney won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his performance in John Guare's American Playhouse: The House of Blue Leaves (1987).

Mahoney's first major film role was in the 1987 Barry Levinson film Tin Men. He went on to have prominent roles in a number of acclaimed films throughout the late 1980s and 1990s, including Moonstruck, Suspect, Eight Men Out, Say Anything..., In the Line of Fire, Reality Bites, and The American President. He appeared in two Coen brothers films, Barton Fink and The Hudsucker Proxy.

He was best known for playing Martin Crane on 11 seasons of “Frasier," the father of Kelsey Grammer and David Hyde Pierce’s characters during the show’s run on NBC from 1993 to 2004. He won a SAG Award and received two Emmy and two Golden Globe nominations for his portrayal.
posted by I_Love_Bananas (80 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
 
Another one of those great “that guy” actors.

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posted by Thorzdad at 5:28 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]


I think someone else beat me to the punch on this one- I'll try to move my links etc. there, if this post gets removed.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:29 PM on February 5


Mods: This post is better than mine and should stand. Thanks!
posted by 4ster at 5:31 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]


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posted by 4ster at 5:32 PM on February 5


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An endearing bit from a 2002 interview:
[Mahoney], like the rest of Steppenwolf, loves cards - though, unexpectedly, high stakes freak him out (he prefers nickel and dime poker and has never lost more than $30 in an evening). 'I like to play cards, oh yeah. I am an obsessive person - I don't want to play cards for two hours, I want to play cards all night .' He perks up just thinking about it. 'We all meet at my house in Oak Park, or in my little cabin in Wisconsin, and have marathon sessions of a game called May-I. Laurie Metcalf springs to mind as a really cutthroat card player. John Malkovich is a moaner. He's always bitching because he didn't get any wild cards. Ha ha! And we sit there all night. Pizza, beer, potato chips, spaghetti and meatballs if we feel particularly ambitious. At Laurie's house in Hollywood she has a, waddya call it, what's that game, big board, black and white, no, not backgammon, where you throw the dice? Craps! She has a crap table. We play craps there for hours.'
posted by Iridic at 5:33 PM on February 5 [12 favorites]




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posted by valkane at 5:38 PM on February 5


When I first heard about this I thought it was about Coach from Cheers. I guess it was the Kelsey Grammar connection. And I was thinking, I thought he passed away a while ago.

Upon further thought, or what passes for thought in my head, I got it.

He was so good in Say Anything.

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posted by Splunge at 5:40 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Here is Mahoney in the "House of Blue Leaves" role for which he won the Tony Award (full-length production).
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:43 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


So much for a Frasier reunion. It wouldn't be the same without Martin Crane.
posted by Beholder at 5:45 PM on February 5 [5 favorites]


🥗🍳
posted by numaner at 5:47 PM on February 5 [12 favorites]


“I’M INCARCERATED, LLOYD!”
posted by corey flood at 5:49 PM on February 5 [17 favorites]


It's driving me crazy that there doesn't exist a clip of his newsroom scene from "Hudsucker Proxy" on YouTube. The man was magical.

So long, old Satchel Butt.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 5:54 PM on February 5 [8 favorites]


The John Mahoney/Jennifer Jason Leigh/Bruce Campbell newspaper scenes in Hudsucker Proxy are pure joy too good for this world.
posted by jason_steakums at 5:55 PM on February 5 [10 favorites]


So sorry to hear this. I saw him many years ago in “House of Blue Leaves” and have been a fan ever since. RIP.
posted by holborne at 6:01 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]




Mahoney was a great everyman character actor. He's best known for playing a cop with "blue collar" tastes, of course, but he nailed it as a college professor in Moonstruck and as the head of an environmental nonprofit in The American President. And you could easily imagine him in either walk of life with that same easy charm. He will be missed.

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posted by Cash4Lead at 6:10 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]


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posted by limeonaire at 6:12 PM on February 5


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posted by double bubble at 6:13 PM on February 5


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posted by the return of the thin white sock at 6:18 PM on February 5


Frasier Crane will be able to get rid of that horrible chair now.
posted by orange swan at 6:19 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]


Here's another great interview.

"I’m not a scene stealer. I try to do justice to the writing. I’m not intimidated by other actors at all—or directors. I don’t care who they are. But I am intimidated by writers. I hold them in the highest esteem."
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:19 PM on February 5 [10 favorites]


One of my favourite character actors. Thank you for this post; I learned things I didn't know about him--I had no idea he didn't start acting until his late 30s, for example. Amazing to think about.

I like to think of him hanging out in the afterlife with Moose, the dog who played Eddie in Frasier.

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posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:22 PM on February 5 [10 favorites]


aw geez
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posted by Glinn at 6:24 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


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posted by TedW at 6:24 PM on February 5


I saw him in House of Blue Leaves as well. Loved him in Frasier. He was just good in anything.

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posted by tzikeh at 6:27 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]




Delightful turn guest-starring on ER, Season 13, episode 3.

When an older man is brought in to the emergency room with congestive heart failure, Pratt assigns Gates to assess his condition. Later, the man's partner, Bennett Cray (JOHN MAHONEY), comes to visit and must fight with the patient's family to help keep him alive.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:28 PM on February 5


\ .
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I can't just do periods anymore, so there's a period in a recliner.
posted by Samizdata at 6:30 PM on February 5 [29 favorites]


I like to think Eddie has been keeping his chair warm for him :]
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posted by sexyrobot at 6:36 PM on February 5 [10 favorites]


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posted by sarcasticah at 6:47 PM on February 5


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posted by allthinky at 6:49 PM on February 5


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posted by Cyrie at 6:52 PM on February 5


The Chicago Tribune obit is by theatre critic Chris Jones and has some good Steppenwolf backstory.

Steppenwolf is delaying their opening night and having an informal wake.
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 6:54 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


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posted by CommonSense at 6:58 PM on February 5


I had assumed he was out but it seems like he never spoke publicly about his personal life. Nevertheless that "never married" line in the obit bugs me, although I guess that's old-fashioned thinking on my part.

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posted by sevenyearlurk at 7:09 PM on February 5 [6 favorites]


He was queer, and talked about it rather openly.
posted by PinkMoose at 7:12 PM on February 5 [9 favorites]


"I’m not a scene stealer."

But they went home with him regardless.

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posted by Halloween Jack at 7:18 PM on February 5 [10 favorites]


From the TimeOut Chicago interview linked above:

TOC: In everything I’ve read about you, I haven’t seen any mention of a partner or a romantic life.

John Mahoney: Yeah, it doesn’t exist for me anymore. [Laughs] I think that’s dead and buried. Twenty-three years ago I had cancer of the colon. I had to have major surgery, and I have a colostomy. I really couldn’t have sex after that. I’m very happy by myself and with my friends, but no, I’m definitely not involved with anybody. Nor do I ever look to be.

This makes me unaccountably sad...
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:23 PM on February 5 [15 favorites]


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posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:24 PM on February 5


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posted by Sphinx at 7:27 PM on February 5


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posted by evilDoug at 7:30 PM on February 5


So am I the only one who didn't know he was from the UK? And emigrating at age 19: it's not like he left when he was a babe in arms, so he must have had to work on the American accent. I always listen for accents, and I never heard one on him!

Loved him in every role: I am looking forward to growing old with a chair & a dog, bathing in my kids' disapproval.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:31 PM on February 5 [12 favorites]


Frasier on an endless loop is one of the few things keeping me sane currently. I was watching an episode when I heard the news. I adore John Mahoney and had been vaguely worried about this for some time now. I just ate chocolate chip cookies in his honor, from the episode where Eddie is depressed (about his missing Barbie, it turns out), and the gang ends up talking about death and they all get depressed, but then they smell Daphne's cookies baking and they are like, well, yep, we are all gonna die, and Martin will be soonest. But, meanwhile, there's cookies!!!
I'll miss him.
posted by thebrokedown at 7:36 PM on February 5 [9 favorites]


"Is it true that you made a determined effort to lose your English accent?"

John Mahoney: "Yes it is, I knew that I was going to live the rest of my life in America and I wanted to sound like a native. If I had decided to live in France or Germany I would have tried my best to speak those languages without an accent because I didn't want to stand out as a foreigner."
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:46 PM on February 5 [8 favorites]


I think one of my favorite moments in Frasier (which I recently rewatched) was when Marty imitated Daphne and did the accent better than Jane Leeves did; I remember being especially tickled when I found out that John Mahoney was from Manchester.

He was a great actor and, from what I've heard, a lovely man as well.

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posted by elsietheeel at 7:58 PM on February 5 [23 favorites]


He was so good in Say Anything.

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posted by Chrysostom at 8:24 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


When I heard about this the first place I looked was Frasier superfan Anthony Oliveira's Twitter, and he definitely delivered.
posted by Copronymus at 8:33 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


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posted by anya32 at 8:45 PM on February 5


I never knew he started late. That is inspiring...and yeah, he did get totally lucky though. But wow.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:00 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


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posted by The Toad at 9:05 PM on February 5


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my partner and I watched all of Frasier a few years ago and he was consistently awesome, sorry to have him gone.
posted by Carillon at 9:29 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


> I_Love_Bananas:
"From the TimeOut Chicago interview linked above:

TOC: In everything I’ve read about you, I haven’t seen any mention of a partner or a romantic life.

John Mahoney: Yeah, it doesn’t exist for me anymore. [Laughs] I think that’s dead and buried. Twenty-three years ago I had cancer of the colon. I had to have major surgery, and I have a colostomy. I really couldn’t have sex after that. I’m very happy by myself and with my friends, but no, I’m definitely not involved with anybody. Nor do I ever look to be.

This makes me unaccountably sad..."


Everybody needs love.

(Even bananas.)
posted by Samizdata at 9:35 PM on February 5 [4 favorites]


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posted by ZeusHumms at 9:41 PM on February 5


One of the best.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:53 PM on February 5




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posted by bryon at 10:06 PM on February 5


I was convinced Mahoney would be playing Jeremy Corbyn in some HBO movie about Brexit or such in the next year or so.
posted by The Whelk at 10:18 PM on February 5 [7 favorites]


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posted by Kattullus at 12:25 AM on February 6


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posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 2:38 AM on February 6


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posted by GrammarMoses at 3:04 AM on February 6


i grew up in Lakeview/Boy’s Town, a few blocks north of Steppenwolf’s Halsted St. theatre. i was in university but had scrounged up $18 to see Balm in Gilead on a Wednesday night. It was more than i expected; i didn’t know the written word could become that.... thanks John Mahoney, for everything.
posted by lemon_icing at 3:08 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


An actor I was always glad to see, and saw in so many things that enriched my life.

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posted by Songdog at 3:44 AM on February 6


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posted by solotoro at 6:06 AM on February 6


All the obits say "best known as Martin Crane," but to me he is always Diane Court's complicated father.

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posted by Gelatin at 6:30 AM on February 6 [6 favorites]


I always thought of "the guy who plays Frasier's dad" as "the guy who was Kid Gleason in Eight Men Out."
posted by JanetLand at 6:44 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


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posted by jim in austin at 7:09 AM on February 6


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posted by dlugoczaj at 7:23 AM on February 6


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I make their LIVES better!
posted by gauche at 8:13 AM on February 6 [4 favorites]


"Beer and pretzels, that's our game... C-H-E-R-S!"
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:07 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


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A neighbor of his wrote about his genuine spirituality and general great guy-ed-ness on FB Facebook link to a beautiful memorial (warning, it's the text attached to a photo, so it's very weirdly displayed, I think I got the url simplified right) (via @JamesMartinSJ)
posted by DigDoug at 11:30 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


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posted by filtergik at 11:40 AM on February 6


Frasier is one of my all-time favorite shows, but despite this, when I think of John Mahoney, the first line I think of is "Where's the Giant, Mansley!?!"

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posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:21 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


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posted by Hanuman1960 at 12:47 PM on February 6


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posted by heatvision at 3:03 AM on February 7


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posted by epj at 9:39 PM on February 7


When I lived in Oak Park it seemed that everyone but me spotted him at some time or other. Probably just as well. He was one of my celebrity crushes and I'm sure I would have said or done something that embarrassed me and annoyed him.

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posted by she's not there at 9:19 AM on February 10


The guy behind the Binging with Babish Youtube channel is a known Frasier fan, and he has just weighed in with tribute.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:47 AM on February 13


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