Malachi Throne

d. March 13, 2013

Malachi Throne, veteran character actor who gained fame as Robert Wagner’s co-star in It Takes a Thief, died March 13 from lung cancer at his home in Brentwood, Calif. He was 84.

Throne was born in New York and worked in Broadway, off-Broadway and live television shows before moving to Hollywood in the late 1950s. There he became another of TV’s familiar guest stars, playing mobsters, doctors, spies, gunslingers and Nazis in episodes of Naked City, The Untouchables, The Defenders, 77 Sunset Strip, The Fugitive, The Gallant Men, Combat, Death Valley Days, The Eleventh Hour, Breaking Point, Ben Casey, The Outer Limits, The Rogues, Perry Mason, Slattery’s People, Mr. Novak, Rawhide, Kraft Suspense Theatre, The Big Valley, Iron Horse, Lost in Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Hogan’s Heroes, The Virginian, Tarzan, The Time Tunnel, Mannix and others.

He was a spy-show villain in episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Mission: Impossible, Blue Light and The Wild Wild West.

In 1966, Throne appeared in one of the first episodes of Batman as False Face, one of the lesser known villains in Batman comic book stories who was nevertheless chosen by producer William Dozier to be part of the initial group of bat-villains. False Face was a master of disguise who appeared in a cheap Halloween facemask when not disguised as someone else, meaning Throne’s own face was merely glimpsed in the show.

Throne went along with a gimmick credit that kept even the identity of the actor playing False Face a secret. In the story’s first part on Wednesday night, and at the top of Thursday night’s concluding episode, the credit read “Special Guest Villain ? as False Face.” It was only in the closing credits of the second episode that Throne received billing for the role. The character didn’t cause much of a stir and False Face never returned.

Later in 1966, Throne appeared in the landmark Star Trek episode “The Menagerie” as Commodore Mendez, the Star Fleet officer who presides over Spock’s court martial during the two-part story that incorporated extensive footage from the rejected first Star Trek pilot that starred Jeffrey Hunter as an earlier captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise. Throne also contributed to that pilot, dubbing the voice of “the keeper,” the alien who imprisons Hunter when the ship visits the planet Talos IV. With Throne now playing another character on-screen, the keeper’s voice had to be electronically altered to a higher pitch that sounded nothing like Throne. In the unaltered pilot footage released on home video, however, it’s clearly Throne’s voice that’s heard when the keeper speaks.

Twenty-five years later, Throne bookended his Star Trek connection by playing a Romulan senator in “Unification,” the two-part Star Trek: The Next Generation story in which Leonard Nimoy guest-starred as a 200-year-old Spock.

It Takes a Thief premiered on ABC in January 1968 in the waning days of the spy craze, but proved popular enough to go on to a three-season run. Robert Wagner, in his first TV series, played Alexander Mundy, one of the world’s top jewel thieves. Throne, in his only running role in a series, played Noah Bain, head of the “SIA,” as the show labeled American Intelligence. Bain was also the ex-cop who had finally sent Mundy to prison. Deciding that Mundy’s peculiar talents were needed for certain espionage assignments, Bain has him paroled to the SIA’s custody.

As preparations for the show’s third season got underway, Universal Studios and ABC were intent on signing Fred Astaire to play the recurring role of Mundy’s father, also a debonair international thief. The producers discussed dumping Throne, but changed their minds when Astaire agreed to just a handful of appearances (ultimately, he was seen in only four episodes). Throne then learned that Wagner and Astaire would film the new season’s first 10 episodes on location in Italy, while he would be left in Los Angeles to shoot a few scenes at the studio showing Bain giving Mundy his orders by telephone. Throne demanded to be released from the series rather than see his role reduced to a walk-on.

He went on to guest shots in episodes of Land of the Giants, Hawaii Five-0, The High Chaparral, Search, Cannon, Ironside, The Streets of San Francisco, The Six Million Dollar Man, Kojak, The Rockford Files, Law & Order, Babylon 5 and more.

One of Throne’s oddest credits was playing the top mobster in Metropolis in a cheesy, low-budget production of the Broadway musical “It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superman” that aired on ABC in 1975.


Malachi Throne in “It Takes a Thief,” above, and with Adam West in “Batman,” left.

Throne with William Shatner in “Star Trek,” left; with guest star Pamela Austin and Robert Wagner in “It Takes a Thief,” below; with guest star Ida Lupino in “It Takes a Thief,” bottom.