A character actor worked continuously throughout his 50-year-plus career, with credits that include “Stalag 17,” “Army of Darkness,” “Rango” and “Wizards of Waverly Place.”
Ian Abercrombie, a busy character actor who gained recognition as Elaine Benes’ (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) eccentric boss Mr. Pitt on NBC’s Seinfeld, died Thursday in Hollywood. He was 77.
Abercrombie seemed to be always working, appearing in scores of films, TV shows and theater productions during his 50-year-plus career in show business. The British actor made his American stage debut in 1955 in a production of Stalag 17 opposite Jason Robards, played the Wise Man in Sam Raimi’s comedy-horror film Army of Darkness (1972) and was 800-year-old wizard Professor Crumbs on Disney Channel hit Wizards of Waverly Place.
Abercrombie also had a recurring role as Palpatine/Darth Sidious on George Lucas’ animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars, did voice work on animation hit Rango this year and, just before his death, completed his work on the latest episode of the Green Lantern animated series for Cartoon Network.
In seven episodes of Seinfeld, Abercrombie played Justin Pitt, Elaine’s picky boss who eats his candy bars with a knife and fork and wears white knee socks. He fired Elaine after he became convinced she had tried to murder him using a deadly drug interaction, with Jerry (Jerry Seinfeld) as an accomplice.
Abercrombie’s film credits start with Von Ryan’s Express (1965) and include They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969), The Molly Maguires (1970), Young Frankenstein (1974), Puppet Master III (1991), The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing and Charm School (2005) and Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties (2006).
On television, he was a regular on the WB Network series Birds of Prey and also worked on such shows as Get Smart, Hunter, L.A. Law, Dynasty, Northern Exposure, NewsRadio, Murphy Brown, Desperate Housewives and dozens of others.
Born Sept. 11, 1934, in Grays, Essex, England, Abercrombie performed on stages in London, Holland, Ireland and Scotland before coming to America at age 17 in 1951. His other theatrical credits include Mary Stuart (with Marsha Mason), The Crucifer of Blood (with Charlton Heston as Sherlock Holmes), The Vortex (with Rupert Everett) and The Arcata Promise with Anthony Hopkins.
Abercrombie was a founding member and former board member of BAFTA-LA as well as a board member for the Actors Fund of America.
Survivors include his brothers Douglas, Donald and Alex.
Born: 9/11/1934, Grays, Essex, English, U.K.
Died: 1/26/2012, Hollywood, California, U.S.A.
Ian Abercorombie’s westerns actor, voice actor:
The Quest (TV) – 1976 (Englishman)
Wild Wild West – 1999 (British Dignitary)
Rango – 2011 [voice of Ambrose]