Bill Erwin

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Not to be confused with the comedic actor and clown, Bill Irwin.
Bill Erwin
Bill Erwin.jpg
Bill Erwin (c. 1918)
Born William Lindsey Erwin
(1914-12-02)December 2, 1914
Honey Grove, Texas, U.S.
Died December 29, 2010(2010-12-29) (aged 96)
Studio City, Los Angeles, U.S.
Resting place Cremation
Occupation Actor
Years active 1941–2006
Spouse(s) Fran MacLachlan (predeceased her husband); four children

William Lindsey "Bill" Erwin (December 2, 1914 – December 29, 2010)[1] was an American film, stage and television actor with over 250 television and film credits. As a veteran character actor, he was widely known for his role of Sid Fields, an embittered, irascible man on Seinfeld[2] – for which he received an Emmy nomination – as well his appearances on shows such as I Love Lucy and Star Trek: The Next Generation.[3]

Erwin was a self-taught cartoonist, published in The New Yorker, Playboy and Los Angeles.[2] He won a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, four Drama-Logue Awards, Gilmore Brown Award for Career Achievement, Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters' Diamond Circle Award, and Distinguished Alumnus Award from Angelo State University.[2]

Background and personal life[edit]

Erwin was born in Honey Grove, Texas. He attended San Angelo College before earning his bachelor's degree in journalism at University of Texas at Austin, graduating in 1935. He completed a masters of theater arts in California at the Pasadena Playhouse in 1941. After serving as a Captain in the United States Army Air Corps in World War II, Erwin returned to Hollywood to resume his acting career. His first film role was in 1942 in "You're in the Army Now", with Phil Silvers.



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 1980 romantic fantasy Somewhere in Time as Arthur Biehl, the Grand Hotel's venerable bellman, and attended annual reunions of cast, crew, and fans of the film 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 33⅓: 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).


His 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, The Fugitive, and Mannix.

In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, he appeared in Barnaby Jones, Cannon, Gunsmoke,(Married With Children as William H Massey ) E/R, Highway to Heaven, Who's The Boss?, Growing Pains, Full House, The Golden Girls, Moonlighting, and Star Trek: The Next Generation. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Erwin played Dr. Dalen Quaice, a friend and mentor of Dr. Beverly Crusher. He was the first character to disappear in the episode "Remember Me".

In the Seinfeld episode ("The Old Man"), for which Erwin received an Emmy nomination for outstanding guest actor, he played Sid Fields, who participates in the Foster-A-Grandpa Program, which pairs him with Jerry Seinfeld. Erwin's crochety, 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]

Erwin began his theatrical career as ventriloquist Edgar Bergen's stage manager for Bergen's 1941 tour of the country. Erwin dryly recalled, "I was in charge of the dummies."[citation needed]

Family and death[edit]

He lived in the Hollywood Hills with his wife, actress/journalist Fran MacLachlan Erwin (who predeceased her husband). The couple had two sons, Michael and Timothy, and two daughters, Lindsey Thomas Erwin and Kelly Erwin. Erwin had a sister, Mary Gene Cosper.[2]

Bill Erwin died at his home on December 29, 2010, in Studio City, Los Angeles from natural causes, near the production lot where Seinfeld was filmed.[2]


  1. ^ "Obituary: Bill Erwin". 1 January 2011. Archived from the original on 21 January 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e ""Seinfeld" actor Bill Erwin dies at 96". Reuters, via, January 3, 2011. 
  3. ^ "BILL ERWIN Character actor got Emmy nomination". LA Times, January 1, 2011. 

External links[edit]