Barney Martin

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Barney Martin
Barney Martin 76-78.JPG
Born(1923-03-03)March 3, 1923
DiedMarch 21, 2005(2005-03-21) (aged 82)
Years active1956–2000
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branchUS Army Air Corps Hap Arnold Wings.svg United States Army Air Forces
Battles/warsWorld War II

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 New York City, 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 from an Irish Catholic family.[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 pesty personality 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 second actor to portray Jerry's dad, Morty, in the 90s sitcom Seinfeld, he is the one most associated with the role, as the first actor, Phil Bruns, only appeared in one episode.

In 1975, Martin originated the role of Amos Hart in the Broadway musical Chicago, in which he introduced the song "Mr. Cellophane". 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]

In 1990, Martin was cast as the fictional father of Jerry Seinfeld, Morty Seinfeld in the sitcom Seinfeld. His first appearance was in season 2's "The Pony Remark". Martin replaced Phil Bruns who first portrayed the character in his first appearance in Season 1's "The Stake Out". He took on the role upon showrunners Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld deciding they wanted the character of Morty Seinfeld to be harsher, as they thought Bruns was too laid-back for the character.[4] He retained this role until the series ended in 1998.


On March 21, 2005, he died of bladder cancer in Studio City, Los Angeles, California at age 82. He was cremated, and his ashes were returned to his family.[5]


Year Title Role Notes
1956 The Wrong Man Juror Uncredited
1959 Odds Against Tomorrow Car Accident Driver Uncredited
1961 The Young Doctors Bus Driver Uncredited
1963 Love with the Proper Stranger Sidney Uncredited
1967 The Producers Göring
1968 Charly Hank
1970 Lola Doorman - Efficient but Fat
1978 Movie Movie Motorcycle Cop (segment "Baxter's Beauties of 1933")
1979 Hot Stuff Kiley
1981 Arthur Ralph Marolla
1988 Arthur 2: On the Rocks
1989 Deadly Weapon Mayor Bigelow
1989 Pucker Up and Bark Like a Dog Rudy Phillips
1991 Golden Girls Karl "Cheeseman" Moran
1992 Hero Court Official Uncredited
1991-1998 Seinfeld Morty Seinfeld


  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. ^ Seinfeld Seasons 1 & 2: Notes about Nothing - "The Stake Out" (DVD). Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.
  5. ^ 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.

External links[edit]