Michael Vale

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Michael Vale (June 28, 1922 – December 24, 2005) was an American commercial actor famous for being the longtime sleepy-eyed mascot "Fred the Baker" for donut chain Dunkin' Donuts, with his famous catchphrase "Time to make the donuts." He was featured for 15 years until he retired in 1997, having done more than 1,300 television commercials. Vale also reprised the role for commercials for the short-lived Dunkin' Donuts Cereal. He died of complications from diabetes at age 83 in Manhattan, New York City at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He was cremated.

Personal life[edit]

Vale was born in Brooklyn, New York, and studied acting at the Dramatic Workshop in New York City with classmates Tony Curtis, Ben Gazzara, and Rod Steiger.

Growing up in Brooklyn, Vale was dubbed "the actor" by his childhood friends because of his ability to imitate ballplayers and celebrities. After serving in the U.S. Army Signal Corps in Europe during World War II, he studied at the Dramatic Workshop at The New School in New York.

Career[edit]

One of his earliest appearances was in a summer stock production of George Bernard Shaw's "Androcles and the Lion". Vale later described his modest role: "I was thrown to the lions." Vale was a longtime spokesman for Kraft Foods' Breakstone line of cottage cheese and sour cream products, for whom he portrayed long-suffering dairy owner "Sam Breakstone". The focus on those commercials is Sam's dedication to quality, usually with Sam having a comedic "eureka" moment on how to make a better product. The humanizing touch given "Sam Breakstone" was his irascibility, usually dramatized when a black-and-white dog would bite his pants-cuff and not let go, while "Sam" screamed, "Go away! Get away from me! Let me go!" These moments came at the end of each commercial, just as "Sam" would have perfected one of his ideas.

Vale appeared in several television series, including Car 54, Where Are You? in the 1960s and The Cosby Show in 1987. On the big screen, he was a cab driver in A Hatful of Rain in 1957 and a jewelry salesman in Marathon Man in 1976. The actor described working with British leading man Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man as "the most wonderful experience of my life."

He got the Dunkin' Donuts gig by chance: Vale was told that another actor was to be cast in the role of the baker, but he was encouraged to come to the audition anyway in case he was needed as an extra. The other actor never showed, however, and Vale got the part and unlikely stardom. "Making the donuts put three kids through college," he once commented.

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