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Dana Elcar as Peter Thornton on MacGyver
|Born||Ibsen Dana Elcar
October 10, 1927
|Died||June 6, 2005
Ibsen Dana Elcar (October 10, 1927 – June 6, 2005) was an American television and movie character actor. Although he appeared in about 40 films, his most memorable role was on the 1980s and 1990s television series MacGyver as Peter Thornton, an administrator working for the Phoenix Foundation. Elcar had appeared in the pilot episode of MacGyver as Andy Colson (a completely different character), but was later cast as Peter Thornton, making his first regular appearance in the 11th episode of the first season.
Life and career
Elcar was born in Ferndale, Michigan, the son of Hedwig (née Anderberg) and James Aage Elcar, a carpenter and butcher. Elcar was an alumnus of the University of Michigan where he was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. Elcar was also a student of legendary acting coach Sanford Meisner. He brought this education to bear when in 1986, with fellow character actor William Lucking, he formed the Santa Paula Theater Center. Elcar sat as artistic director for six years.
He had a recurring role in the 1970s television military drama, Baa Baa Black Sheep, starring Robert Conrad, and guest starred on CBS's Mission: Impossible and Storefront Lawyers in 1970 and The Waltons in 1973. Another of his recurring roles was as Sheriff Patterson #2 on Dark Shadows. He guest starred as Judge Spencer on B. J. and the Bear in 1979. In 1980, he was cast in the role of "Chief" in the Get Smart feature film entitled The Nude Bomb (a.k.a. The Return of Maxwell Smart) that was based on the 1960s hit TV series (the role previously played by Edward Platt, who died in 1974). He also co-starred in two episodes of The A-Team in 1984 and 1985. In 1987, he was cast on Andy Griffith's legal drama, Matlock.
Elcar and his stunt/photography double, Don S. Davis, were often mistaken for each other. Elcar appeared in the hit series Knight Rider in the 1983 episode "Merchants of Death"; as a corrupt sheriff in The Incredible Hulk episode "Escape from Los Santos" (1978), in which Banner is headed to Phoenix; and as KAOS Agent Kruger in the 2-part 1969 episode of Get Smart entitled "And Baby Makes Four".
In 1991, Elcar began to develop glaucoma. This condition was written into the show, MacGyver, beginning with the sixth season episode seventeen "Blind Faith" and continuing through the remainder of that season and the entire seventh season, with Elcar's character developing the disease. The sixth season finale, Hind-Sight, was a clip show using Pete Thornton's upcoming eye surgery as a framing device. After MacGyver, Elcar made a guest appearance in "Virus", a 1993 episode of Law & Order, in which he played a man who blamed his diabetes-caused blindness on his former physician, and whose son murdered other patients as revenge.
Elcar also played a blind character on episodes of The Magic School Bus and ER. Once blind, Elcar took on the challenge of playing Vladimir in Waiting for Godot complete with white cane. This was his theatrical swan song, and he retired in 1992. Dana Elcar also starred as Col. Lard in Black Sheep Squadron .
He was survived by his son, Dane Elcar; his three daughters (Nora, Chandra and Marin); a stepdaughter (former soap opera actress and current writer Emily Prager); a sister; a half-sister; and his long-time partner, Thelma Garcia.