Bill Erwin

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Bill Erwin
Erwin in The Optimist (1983)
William Lindsey Erwin

(1914-12-02)December 2, 1914
DiedDecember 29, 2010(2010-12-29) (aged 96)
Other namesWilliam Erwin
William L. Erwin
Occupation(s)Actor, cartoonist
Years active1941–2006
Fran MacLachlan
(m. 1948; died 1995)

William Lindsey Erwin (December 2, 1914 – December 29, 2010) was an American film, stage and television actor and cartoonist with over 250 television and film credits. A veteran character actor, he is widely known for his 1993 Emmy Award-nominated performance on Seinfeld, portraying the embittered, irascible retiree Sid Fields. He also made notable appearances on shows such as I Love Lucy and Star Trek: The Next Generation. In cinema, his most recognized role is that of Arthur Biehl, a kindly bellman at the Grand Hotel, in Somewhere in Time (1980).[1]

Erwin was a self-taught cartoonist, published in The New Yorker, Playboy, and Los Angeles. He won a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award,[1] four Drama-Logue Awards, Gilmore Brown Award for Career Achievement, Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters' Diamond Circle Award, and Distinguished Alumnus Award from Angelo State University.

Early life[edit]

Erwin was born December 2, 1914, in Honey Grove, Texas.[2] He earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and a master's in theater arts from California's Pasadena Playhouse.[2] Erwin later served as a captain in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II era.[2][3][4]



Erwin acted in productions at the Pasadena Playhouse, the Laguna Beach Playhouse, the La Jolla Playhouse, and other venues in the Los Angeles area.[1]


In the late 1950s, Erwin was in such films as Man from Del Rio (1956) and The Night Runner (1957), before playing Jack Nicholson's father in The Cry Baby Killer, Nicholson's first starring role in 1958. The long out-of-print film was released on DVD on November 22, 2006. He had credited small roles in films such as The Christine Jorgensen Story (1970), How Awful About Allan (1970), Candy Stripe Nurses (1974) and Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo (1977), before he co-starred alongside Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour in the romantic fantasy Somewhere in Time (1980) as Arthur Biehl, the Grand Hotel's venerable bellman, and attended annual reunions of cast, crew, and fans of the cult classic at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Erwin also appeared in numerous films by John Hughes, with cameos in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), She's Having a Baby (1988), Home Alone (1990) and Dennis the Menace (1993). Hughes often paired him with Billie Bird playing his wife. His later film career included roles in Invitation to Hell (1984), Naked Gun 33+13: The Final Insult (1994), Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (1995), Menno's Mind (1997), Chairman of the Board (1998), Forces of Nature (1999), Inferno (1999) and A Crack in the Floor (2001).


Erwin's television credits were far more numerous in the 1950s, having appeared in such television series as I Love Lucy, Crusader, Trackdown, Colgate Theatre, Perry Mason and The Rifleman. In the 1960s, Erwin appeared in television series such as: The Andy Griffith Show, Mister Ed, Maverick, The Twilight Zone, 87th Precinct, My Three Sons, The Fugitive, Leave It to Beaver and Mannix. He played the Jury Foreman in "The Wild West" (1967) S3 E12 "The Night of the Legion of Death".

In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, he appeared in Barnaby Jones, Cannon, Gunsmoke, Married... with Children, E/R, The Optimist, Highway to Heaven, Who's the Boss?, Growing Pains, Full House, The Golden Girls, Moonlighting, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and The Drew Carey Show.

In the Seinfeld episode ("The Old Man"), for which Erwin received an Emmy Award nomination for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series,[5] he played Sid Fields, who participates in the Foster-A-Grandpa Program, which pairs him with Jerry Seinfeld. Erwin's crotchety, aggressive, foul-mouthed character ensures that the relationship is doomed from the beginning. Erwin later reunited with Michael Richards when he guest-starred on the short-lived The Michael Richards Show. In the 2000s, Erwin appeared on Monk, The West Wing, The King of Queens, Everwood and My Name Is Earl.

Other media[edit]

Bombing Manuel
Planning the Mission

After Erwin began his theatrical career with the Laguna Beach and La Jolla playhouses in 1940, he worked as ventriloquist Edgar Bergen's stage manager for Bergen's 1941 tour of the country.[6]

Due to his resemblance to William Gaines, Sam Viviano redid Erwin's character as Gaines in the MAD Magazine spoof of Home Alone where the married couple sells their ticket to Kate McAllister.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Erwin was married to actress and journalist Fran MacLachlan Erwin from 1948 to her death in 1995. They lived in the Hollywood Hills and had two sons, Michael and Timothy, and two daughters, Lindsey and Kelly.[7]


Erwin died from natural causes at his home in Studio City, California on December 29, 2010, aged 96. He lived near the production lot where Seinfeld was filmed.[8]



Year Title Role Notes
1941 Always Tomorrow: The Portrait of an American Business Sam Tompkins Uncredited
You're in the Army Now Soldier Uncredited
1948 The Velvet Touch Howard Forman Credited as William Erwin
1949 Easy Living Minor Role Uncredited
Battleground Warrant Officer Uncredited
1951 Double Dynamite Minor Role Uncredited
1952 Holiday for Sinners Usher Uncredited
1956 Man from Del Rio Roy Higgens Uncredited
1957 The Night Runner McDermott
The Shadow on the Window Policeman Uncredited
House of Numbers Bank Teller Uncredited
Jet Pilot Sergeant Uncredited
Witness for the Prosecution Juror Uncredited
1958 Gun Fever Bartender
The Cry Baby Killer Mr. Wallace
The Buccaneer Civilian Uncredited
Teenage Challenge Alton Conway Short film
1962 Rome Adventure Elderly Guest Uncredited
Terror at Black Falls Hugh "Squint" Edwards Credited as William L. Erwin
1963 Under the Yum Yum Tree Teacher Uncredited
1964 The Brass Bottle Middle-Aged Man Uncredited
1968 Counterpoint Trumpet player Uncredited
1970 The Christine Jorgensen Story Pastor
1974 Candy Stripe Nurses Principal
1977 Sixth and Main
1980 Somewhere in Time Arthur Biehl
1981 Dream On!
1983 The Taming of the Shrew Vincentio Direct-to-video
1984 Quest Short film
The Bear Alabama Alumni
1986 Stewardess School Orchestra Conductor Credited as William Erwin
1987 Planes, Trains and Automobiles Man on Plane
1988 She's Having a Baby Grandfather
Silent Assassins Dr. London
The Land Before Time Grandfather Voice
A Place to Hide
1990 Home Alone Ed (Man in Airport)
The Willies Old Man
The Color of Evening Priest
1991 Night of the Warrior Coco
The Entertainers Sam
1992 Unbecoming Age Old Man
1993 Dennis the Menace Edward Little
1994 Naked Gun 33+13: The Final Insult Conductor
1995 Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead 70-Year-Old Man
1996 Just Your Luck Pops Direct-to-video
1997 Menno's Mind Mr. Lewis
1998 Chairman of the Board Landers
Art House Monty
1999 Forces of Nature Murray
Inferno Eli Hamilton
2000 Stanley's Gig Jules Credited as William Erwin
Down 'n Dirty Janitor
2001 Cahoots Frenchy
A Crack in the Floor Harold Final film role


Year Title Role Notes
1950 The Silver Theatre Episode 27: "Coal of Fire"
1950–1951 Fireside Theatre Doctor 3 episodes
Credited as William Erwin - 1 episode
1951 The Bigelow Theatre Episode 9: "Coal of Fire"
The Stu Erwin Show Season 1 Episode 20: "High Finance"
Stars Over Hollywood Episode: "The Ageless"
Hollywood Opening Night Season 1 Episode 4: "The Ageless"
1952 Lux Video Theatre Reporter Season 3 Episode 10: "The Face of Autumn"
1954 Mama Season 5 Episode 23: "Mama & the Wild Man"
The Philco Television Playhouse Herman Credited as William Erwin
Season 6 episode 12: "The Dancers"
1955 Robert Montgomery Presents Jens Nelson Season 6 Episode 30: "P.J. Martin and Son"
Studio 57 Season 2 Episode 13: "The Girl in the Bathing Suit"
Highway Patrol Artie Season 1 Episode 12: "Phony Insurance"
1955–1956 Screen Directors Playhouse Carl / Third Conductor / 1st Gambler 3 episodes
Credited as William Erwin - 2 episodes
Uncredited - 1 episode
1956 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Fireman (uncredited) Season 1 Episode 14: "A Bullet for Baldwin"
Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Season 5 Episode 17: "The Big Payday"
Science Fiction Theatre Dr. Harold Lewis / Mike 2 episodes
Big Town 2 episodes
The Sheriff of Cochise Doctor Season 2 Episode 16: "Tough Guy"
Crusader Brenner Season 2 Episode 4: "The Girl Across the Hall"
The Man Called X Episode 2: "Code 'W'"
1956–1957 Telephone Time Newspaper Man Credited as William Erwin
2 episodes
1956–1959 Cheyenne Barber / Pvt. Poinsett 2 episodes
Uncredited - 1 episode
1957 I Love Lucy Bum Uncredited
Season 6 Episode 12: "Lucy and the Loving Cup"
Wire Service Credited as William Erwin
Episode 22: "Forbidden Ground"
Whirlybirds Fred Midgley Credited as William Erwin
Season 1 Episode 36: "Take a Little, Leave a Little"
State Trooper Neal James Season 2 Episode 3: "Madman on the Mountain"
Richard Diamond, Private Detective Sergeant Riker / Detective Ryker / Sgt. Riker 4 episodes
Uncredited - 1 episode
Code 3 Doctor Credited as William Erwin
Episode 32: "Bail Out"
1957–1958 Panic! Chauffeur / Joseph McGilbert / Interne 3 episodes
Credited as William Erwin - 2 episodes
1957–1959 Bachelor Father Court Clerk / Mr. Logan / Security Guard 3 episodes
Credited as Will Erwin - 1 episode
1957–1961 Zane Grey Theatre Various characters 7 episodes
Credited as William Erwin - 4 episodes
1957–1974 Gunsmoke Various characters 14 episodes
Credits as William Erwin or William L. Erwin
Uncredited - 3 episodes
1958 Colt .45 Clerk Season 1 Episode 15: "Dead Reckoning"
How to Marry a Millionaire Max Bigelow Uncredited
Season 1 Episode 19: "Loco Leaves Home"
The Californians Attorney Uncredited
Season 1 Episode 31: "Second Trial"
The Walter Winchell File Bellem Episode 8: "Thing of Beauty: File #29"
Sea Hunt Dr. Hugh Benedict Season 1 Episode 31: "The Big Dive"
Colgate Theatre Wilber Episode: "Macreedy's Woman"
Trackdown Man on Trail / Dawson 2 episodes
Uncredited - 1 episode
Man with a Camera Sam Bartlett Season 1 Episode 2: "The Warning"
Sugarfoot Jones Credited as William Erwin
Season 2 episode 4: "The Ghost"
Flight Palmer Owens Credited as William Erwin
Episode 17: "Final Approach"
The Danny Thomas Show Man in Dream / Emcee 2 episodes
Credited as William Erwin - 1 episode
Lawman Fred Petty Season 1 Episode 12: "Lady in Question"
1958–1959 M Squad Detective Gene / Roger Jessop 2 episodes
1958–1960 The Texan Sheriff Nick Rand / Les Cosby / Stableman 3 episodes
Credited as William Erwin - 1 episode
Have Gun - Will Travel Townsman / Clerk / Citizen 3 episodes
Credited as William Erwin - 2 episodes
Uncredited - 1 episode
1958–1964 Death Valley Days Various characters 5 episodes
1959 The Rifleman Joe Flecker Season 1 Episode 15: "The Pet"
Wagon Train Clegg Season 2 Episode 16: "The Hunter Malloy Story"
Tales of Wells Fargo Justin Peevy Season 3 Episode 21: "The Town That Wouldn't Talk"
General Electric Theater Season 7 Episode 24: "Train for Tecumseh"
Leave It to Beaver Man Season 2 Episode 26: "Price of Fame"
The David Niven Show Cashier Uncredited
Episode 1: "Fortune's Folly"
Black Saddle Kelly Credited as William Erwin
Season 1 Episode 18: "Client: Brand"
Tombstone Territory Storekeeper Season 2 Episode 11: "Grave Near Tombstone"
Markham Arthur Brookman Season 1 Episode 14: "We Are All Suspect"
Johnny Ringo Manners Episode 1: "The Arrival"
Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse Season 2 Episode 3: "Six Guns for Donegan"
Law of the Plainsman Dr. Palmer Episode 9: "The Gibbet"
1959–1963 The Twilight Zone Various characters Episode 3: "Mr. Denton on Doomsday" (1959)
Episode 5: "Walking Distance" (1959) - Uncredited
Episode 64: "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" (1961)
Episode 107: "Mute" (1963) - Uncredited
The Untouchables Various characters 5 episodes
Credited as William Erwin - 3 episodes
Uncredited - 2 episodes
1959–1966 Perry Mason Various characters 5 episodes
Credited as William Erwin - 1 episode
1960 The Detectives Manager Season 1 Episode 16: "House Call"
Bourbon Street Beat Doctor Episode 19: "The 10% Blues"
Rescue 8 Justin Season 2 Episode 29: "School for Violence"
Stagecoach West Teller Episode 1: "High Lonesome"
Coronado 9 Joe Episode 8: "I Want to Be Hated"
1960–1961 The Andy Griffith Show An Investor / George Sapley 2 episodes
Credited as William Erwin
Michael Shayne Luke / Landlord 2 episodes
1960–1962 Lassie Mr. Burton / Bob Thomas 2 episodes
Uncredited - 1 episode
1961 Rawhide Parker Credited as William Erwin
S3:E17, "Incident of the New Start"
Mister Ed Mr. Wood Credited as William Erwin
Season 1 Episode 9: "The Missing Statue"
Outlaws Townsman Uncredited
Season 1 Episode 18: "No More Pencils - No More Books"
Peter Loves Mary Bill Stanhope / 1st Non-Com 2 episodes
Credited as William Erwin
Angel Coach Credited as Bill Irwin
Episode 28: "The Little Leaguer"
The Defenders Court Clerk Season 1 Episode 3: "Death Across the Counter"
Follow the Sun Frank March Episode 10: "Little Girl Lost"
1961–1965 My Three Sons Joe Walters / Steward 4 episodes
1962 87th Precinct George Episode 30: "Girl in the Case"
Ben Casey Season 1 Episode 32: "When You See an Evil Man"
Saints and Sinners Nolan Credited as William Erwin
Episode 8: "Daddy's Girl"
Stoney Burke Episode 10: "The Wanderer"
1962–1964 The Virginian Bevers / Deputy 2 episodes
Uncredited - 1 episode
1963 The Dakotas Doctor Episode 18: "Sanctuary at Crystal Springs"
Burke's Law Fire Marshal Season 1 Episode 11: "Who Killed Purity Mather?"
The Greatest Show on Earth Food Truck Cook Episode 13: "Lady in Limbo"
1963–1967 The Fugitive Various characters 4 episodes
Uncredited - 1 episode
1964 Arrest and Trial Doctor Episode 27: "The Revenge of the Worm"
Kraft Suspense Theatre Father Daley Season 1 Episode 23: "Their Own Executioners"
1965 Profiles in Courage Ingalls Episode 21: Grover Cleveland
The Big Valley Crown Man on Train Uncredited
Season 1 Episode 1: "Palms of Glory"
1966 Shane Clerk Episode 15: "The Great Invasion: Part 1"
1966–1971 The F.B.I. Manager / Paxton 3 episodes
Uncredited - 1 episode
1967 Laredo 1st Townsman Uncredited
Season 2 Episode 15: "The Seventh Day"
The Invaders Manager Season 1 Episode 5: "Genesis"
The Guns of Will Sonnett Hotel Clerk Season 1 Episode 5: "Of Lasting Summers and Jim Sonnett"
The Second Hundred Years 2nd Salesman Episode 11: "No Experience Necessary"
Get Smart Mr. Smith Season 3 Episode 13: "The Mysterious Dr. T"
1969 Mannix Prop Man Credited as William Erwin
Season 3 Episode 4: "The Playground"
My World and Welcome to It American Conductor Episode 7: "Nobody Ever Kills Dragons Anymore"
1970 Mayberry R.F.D. Man at Convention Season 2 Episode 26: "The Mynah Bird"
How Awful About Allan Dr. Ames Television movie
Credited as William Erwin
1970–1971 Dan August Coroner 2 episodes
1971–1974 Cannon Dr. Belden / Dr. Samuel Calvert / Gas Station Proprietor 3 episodes
1973 Hunter Television movie
Barnaby Jones Atken's Defense Counsel / Customs Officer 2 episodes
1974–1981 The Waltons Dr. Frederick Grover / Senator Rogers 2 episodes
1975 The Rookies Cook Season 3 Episode 22: "Cliffy"
Huckleberry Finn Harvey Wilkes Television movie
1977 The Krofft Supershow Old Dad Episode 2: "Black Box, Parts 1 & 2"
Forever Fernwood Elmo Episode: #1.25
Lou Grant Old Man Credited as William L. Erwin
Season 1 Episode 8: "Scoop"
Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo Mr. Schneider Television movie
1979 Struck by Lightning Glenn Diamond 4 episodes
1981 Eight Is Enough Cal Fitzpatrick Season 5 Episode 9: "Bradfordgate"
The Brady Girls Get Married The Reverend Miniseries though originally intended as a Television movie
The Dukes of Hazzard Clarence Stovall Season 4 Episode 6: "The Great Bank Robbery"
The Rainbow Patch Patch Series lead
1982 Dallas Abel Greeley Season 5 Episode 21: "The Prodigal"
Moonlight Dr. Tucker Television movie
Drop-Out Father Grandpa Television movie
The Jeffersons T.J. Wheeler Season 9 Episode 8: "Death Smiles on a Dry Cleaner: Part 1"
1983 The Optimist Grizzly Veteran Season 1 Episode 2: "The Good, the Bad and the Nasty"
Ghost Dancing Joe Greyfeather Television movie
Voyagers! Eisenhowers' Neighbor Episode 19: "Barriers of Sound"
Hart to Hart Sir Gavin MacLaish Season 5 Episode 9: "Highland Fling"
Lone Star Ezra Holloway Television movie
1984 Hard Knox General Garfield Television movie
Falcon Crest Night Editor Season 3 Episode 17: "Power Play"
Invitation to Hell Walt Henderson Television movie
E/R Mr. Williams Episode 10: "Only a Nurse"
ABC Weekend Specials Specter Inspector Season 8 Episode 1: "Henry Hamilton Graduate Ghost"
1984–1987 Who's the Boss? Leon / Santa Claus / Ted 3 episodes
1985 Detective in the House Episode: "Whatever Happened To...?"
Generation John Television movie
Too Close for Comfort Captain Milarzen Credited as Bill Irwin
Season 5 episode 15: "No Deposit, No Return"
Silver Spoons Senator Platt Season 4 Episode 11: "The Barbarians"
Santa Barbara Harold Beard Episode: #1.361
1986–1987 Highway to Heaven Clarence Kelly / Santa 3 episodes
1986–1991 Growing Pains Various characters 8 episodes
1987 On Fire Joe's father Television movie
Roxie Kiner Episode 2: "Dog Days"
Punky Brewster Ben Season 3 Episode 6: "Hands Across the Halls"
1988 High Mountain Rangers Episode 1: "The Only Place to Live"
Married... with Children Hiram Massey Season 2 Episode 16: "Master the Possibilities"
1988–1990 Just the Ten of Us Mr. Pruitt / Barker / Ralphie 4 episodes
1989 Moonlighting Duncan Kennedy Season 5 Episode 9: "Perfetc"
1990 Star Trek: The Next Generation Doctor Dalen Quaice Season 4 Episode 5: "Remember Me"
1991 Quantum Leap Mr. Deever Season 4 Episode 3: "Hurricane - August 17, 1969"
Full House Mr. Ferguson Season 5 Episode 7: "The Volunteer"
Knots Landing Mr. Wineke Season 13 Episode 8: "House of Cards"
1992 The Golden Girls Mr. Hubbard Season 7 Episode 16: "Questions and Answers"
Harry and the Hendersons Guest #1 Season 3 Episode 6: "The Outing"
1993 Seinfeld Sidney Fields 2 episodes
Uncredited - 1 episode
Fallen Angels Chick Season 1 Episode 4
The John Larroquette Show Man #1 Season 1 Episode 7: "Jumping Off the Wagon"
Against the Grain Harold Episode 8: "A House is Not a Home"
1994 Burke's Law Noah Stark Season 1 Episode 6: "Who Killed Alexander the Great?"
Search and Rescue Television movie
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman Andy Tucker Season 2 Episode 6: "Operation Blackout"
1995 The Mommies Chester Season 2 Episode 7: "I Do, I Do Again"
Pig Sty Jenkins 2 episodes
Living Single Mr. Foster Season 2 Episode 27: "The Shake Up"
High Sierra Search and Rescue Will Episode 1: "If You Have to Ask the Price"
Live Shot Vernon Episode 7: "Where Towering Infernos" or simply "Towering Infernos"
The Jeff Foxworthy Show Santa Season 1 Episode 10: "Foxworthy Family Feud"
1997 Suddenly Susan Mr. Tidgely Season 1 Episode 14: "What a Card"
Grace Under Fire Old Man Season 4 Episode 21: "Quentin Gets His Gun"
The Drew Carey Show Mr. Bradbury Season 2 Episode 22: "Drew vs. Mimi: Part 2"
The Naked Truth Victor Season 3 Episode 10: "The Unsinkable Nora Wilde"
2000 The Michael Richards Show Mr. Flaherty Episode 5: "The Nursing Home"
2001 Boycott Loading Dock Man #2 Television movie
Just Shoot Me! Mr. King Credited as Bill Ewrin
Season 5 episode 17: "Where's Poppa?"
The West Wing Ronald Cruikshank Season 3 Episode 9: "The Women of Qumar"
2002 So Little Time George Episode 21: "The Volunteer"
Comedy Central Thanxgiveaway: Turkey vs. Pilgrims Grandpa Television movie
2003 Monk Hiram Hollings Season 2 Episode 5: "Mr. Monk and the Very, Very Old Man"
2004 The King of Queens Whitey Season 6 Episode 21: "Tank Heaven"
Everwood Ollie Season 2 Episode 19: "Sick"
2006 My Name Is Earl Old Man playing Ping Pong Season 2 Episode 5: "Van Hickey" (Final television role)


  1. ^ a b c "Character actor got Emmy Nod". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. January 1, 2011. p. 21. Retrieved July 28, 2018 – via Open access icon
  2. ^ a b c BILL ERWIN Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved January 23, 2022.
  3. ^ Erwin, Bill 1914- (William Erwin, William L. Erwin) PERSONAL Retrieved January 23, 2022.
  4. ^ In Memory of Bill Erwin: Star of Stage, Screen, Radio and Television Retrieved January 23, 2022.
  5. ^ "("Bill Erwin" search results)". Emmy Awards. Television Academy. Archived from the original on 28 July 2018. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  6. ^ Lentz, Harris M. III (2011). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2010. McFarland. p. 123. ISBN 9780786486496. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  7. ^ "Old man 'Seinfeld' actor Bill Erwin dies at 96". Daily News. 2011-01-04. Retrieved 2024-02-20.
  8. ^ ""Seinfeld" actor Bill Erwin dies at 96". Reuters, via, January 3, 2011. Archived from the original on January 7, 2011.

External links[edit]