Harold J. Stone

d. November 18, 2005

Harold J. Stone, prolific character actor of film and especially television, died Nov. 18 at the Motion Picture Home and Hospital in Woodland Hills, Calif. He was 92.

Stone became one of TV’s most familiar faces in dozens of guest roles and in several series. He received an Emmy nomination in 1964 for his portrayal of an Army medic who becomes a male nurse on the CBS medical drama The Nurses. He may be best remembered as irascible magazine editor Hamilton Greeley on My World and Welcome to It, the 1969-70 NBC series based on the works of James Thurber. Stone’s role was a parody of legendary New Yorker editor Harold Ross.

One of his favorite roles reportedly was New York deli owner Sam Steinberg, outspoken father to Bernie in Bridget Loves Bernie, the 1972-73 CBS sitcom about a nice, rich Catholic girl who marries a nice, working-class Jewish boy. Sandwiched between All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show on the network’s powerhouse Saturday night lineup, the show was a hit but CBS dropped it after one season, largely because of continuing complaints from Catholics and Jews.

Stone’s first series role came in 1952 on The Goldbergs, the original Jewish sitcom of radio and early television. He took over the role of Molly Goldberg’s husband Jake when the show returned on NBC in 1952. The television series started on CBS in 1949 but was yanked off the air in 1951 when actor Philip Loeb, who played Jake, was blacklisted.

Stone was born in New York City in 1913 as Harold Hochstein, a third-generation actor who made his stage debut in Yiddish theater at age six. He studied medicine at the University of Buffalo during the Depression but was forced to drop out and fall back on acting. His first Broadway appearance came in 1939 in “The World We Make.” He was in four more Broadway plays before he traveled to Hollywood in 1946 to make an uncredited screen debut in “The Blue Dahlia.” He returned to Broadway in 1952, replacing Robert Strauss as Stosh in “Stalag 17.”

His roles got bigger and better after he appeared in Humphrey Bogart’s last picture, “The Harder They Fall,” in 1956. Bogart liked Stone and his work, recommending him to producers and directors. Stone appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Wrong Man,” “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” “Spartacus,” “The Garment Jungle,” “X — The Man with the X-Ray Eyes,” “The Chapman Report,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “Girl Happy,” “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” and “The Big Mouth.” But he really made his mark in television.

In almost 40 years of TV guest shots, Stone was equally adept at drama and comedy, appearing in the early days in Philco Television Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre, You Are There, Suspense, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Martin Kane Private Eye and Alfred Hitchcock Presents (in three episodes, including the infamous “Lamb to the Slaughter,” in which he plays one of the detectives who doesn’t realize he’s eating the murder weapon). He went on to appear in Rawhide, The Detectives, Naked City, The Rifleman, The Untouchables, Route 66, Ben Casey, The Defenders, Breaking Point, Dr. Kildare, Mr. Novak, Empire, Gilligan’s Island, The Virginian, The Trials of O’Brien, Hogan’s Heroes, Mr. Terrific, The Name of the Game, Medical Center, Police Woman, Welcome Back Kotter, Lou Grant, The Tony Randall Show, Three’s Company, Barney Miller and many others.

He also excelled at playing villains both stunningly ruthless and slyly likeable in episodes of Peter Gunn, Zorro, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Gunsmoke, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Run for Your Life, Get Smart, It Takes a Thief, Mannix, Hawaii Five-0, Mission: Impossible, Ironside, The FBI, The Rockford Files, Kojak and more.

Harold J. Stone as he appeared in “Bridget Loves Bernie.”