Barney Martin

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Barney Martin
Barney Martin 76-78.JPG
Born(1923-03-03)March 3, 1923
Queens, New York
DiedMarch 21, 2005(2005-03-21) (aged 82)
Studio City, California
Years active1956–2000

Barney Martin (March 3, 1923 – March 21, 2005) was an American actor, comedy writer and New York City Police Department detective. He is best known for playing Morty Seinfeld, father of Jerry, on the sitcom Seinfeld.

Early life[edit]

Born in Queens, New York, Martin served in the U.S. Army Air Force as a navigator during World War II and then was an NYPD officer for twenty years, working his way up to detective. He got his start as a comedian while still a police officer, giving humorous presentations to the deputy commissioners.

Martin once commented that many Jewish Seinfeld fans told him how much his character reminded them of their fathers. Martin himself was of Irish Catholic extraction.[1]


Entering show business as a stand-in for Jackie Gleason in The Honeymooners in 1955-56 and as a part-time writer for Steve Allen in the 1950s, he was discovered by Mel Brooks, who cast him in The Producers. The next year he played the role of Hank in Charly. He went on to act in dozens of films, including the role of Liza Minnelli's unemployed father in the hit 1981 film Arthur and its 1988 sequel, Arthur 2: On the Rocks.

Martin with the cast of the Tony Randall Show in 1977

On television, he appeared in two episodes of The Odd Couple, once in a very early episode as an irate fellow juror infuriated with Felix Unger's pestiness, and four years later as a fellow subway train passenger. Shortly after, Martin co-starred with Tony Randall for two seasons in The Tony Randall Show as court reporter Jack Terwilliger.[2] Throughout the run of this show he had second billing only to Randall himself. In 1979 he was cast as the title character in Norman Lear's final TV series concept, McGurk: A Dog's Life. Martin was cast to play a character similar to Lear's earlier creation, Archie Bunker, but played as a dog. Only the pilot was completed. In 1990, he co-starred with Valerie Bertinelli and Matthew Perry in the CBS sitcom Sydney. In 1987, he appeared in the pilot episode of 21 Jump Street as Johnny Depp's partner. In 1993, Martin played the recurring role of "Pete Peters" on the Don Rickles sit-com Daddy Dearest. Although he was the third actor to portray Jerry's dad, Morty, in the 90's sitcom Seinfeld, he is the one most associated with the role.

In 1975, Martin originated the role of Amos Hart in Chicago. He appeared in many more musicals during his career, most notably South Pacific, The Fantasticks and How Now, Dow Jones.[2] Much of Martin's work has been in television, where he had a long career as a character actor. He played a gangster called the "Cheese Man" in a Golden Girls episode. He played a love interest for Thelma Harper in the Hawaii episode of Mama's Family, and he played the father of Frank Fontana on Murphy Brown. He appeared in an episode of Full House as Ranger Roy, the host of a popular kids' TV show. In 1981, he portrayed Ralph Marolla, father of Liza Minnelli's character in the film Arthur and the following year appeared on Barney Miller in the episode "Obituary".[3]


On March 21, 2005, he died of bladder cancer in Studio City, Los Angeles, California at age 82. Upon his death, he was cremated and his ashes returned to his family.[4]


  1. ^ Connor, Tracy (March 25, 2005). "Seinfeld's Dad on TV Dies at 82". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on August 15, 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Barney Martin, 82, Actor on 'Seinfeld,' Is Dead". The New York Times. Associated Press. March 25, 2005. Retrieved August 13, 2018.
  3. ^ "Barney Martin, 82; Veteran Actor Played Father on 'Seinfeld'". Los Angeles Times. March 24, 2005.
  4. ^ Wilson, Scott (August 22, 2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons. 1 (3rd ed.). McFarland. p. 481. ISBN 978-0786479924.

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