Ian Abercrombie

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Ian Abercrombie
Born (1934-09-11)11 September 1934
Grays, Essex, England, U.K.
Died 26 January 2012(2012-01-26) (aged 77)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Kidney failure
Occupation Actor, Voice Actor
Years active 1955–2012
Notable work
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Romano (1956-1978) (divorced)
Gladys Abercrombie (1984-2012) (his death)

Ian Abercrombie[1] (11 September 1934 – 26 January 2012) was an English actor.[2]

He played Alfred Pennyworth in Birds of Prey, Justin Pitt (Elaine Benes's boss) during the sixth season of Seinfeld, Rupert Cavanaugh (Ian Hainsworth's butler) in Desperate Housewives, Professor Crumbs in Wizards of Waverly Place, and Palpatine on Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Early life[edit]

Abercrombie was born on 11 September 1934 in Grays, Essex, England.[3] He began his theatrical career during the Blitz in World War II. After his footwork years during which he earned Bronze, Silver, and Gold medals in stage dancing, he performed in London, Scotland, Ireland, and the Netherlands. He moved to the United States at age 17.[3]

He made his American stage debut in 1955 in a production of Stalag 17 with Jason Robards and Jules Munshin. Many plays in summer stock, regional, and off-Broadway followed in a variety of theatrical offerings, from revues to Shakespeare (in a particularly low period, he worked as a magician's assistant for $10 a performance).

In 1957 he was drafted into the U.S. Army and stationed in West Germany as part of Special Services, where he directed the continental premiere of Separate Tables.

In the United States, he went to California for a backers'audition, which went nowhere, but he began a long film and television career. He received awards [clarification needed] for his work in Sweet Prince with Keir Dullea; Teeth 'N'smiles; A Doll's House with Linda Purl; and The Arcata Promise, opposite Anthony Hopkins. He received acclaim for the one-man show Jean Cocteau—A Mirror Image.


Abercrombie was known to cult film audiences as Wiseman in the comedy horror film Army of Darkness (1993). He guest-starred in many television series such as Seinfeld, The Nanny, Wizards of Waverly Place, Airwolf, Babylon 5, and NewsRadio.

On radio, he was heard in several productions of the Hollywood Theater of the Ear.[citation needed] Abercrombie voiced Ambrose in 2011's Oscar-nominated Rango. He also portrayed Ganthet in Green Lantern: The Animated Series, completing his work on the latest episode of Cartoon Network show just before his death.[4]

Star Wars: The Clone Wars[edit]

Abercrombie portrayed Chancellor Palpatine / Darth Sidious in the 2008 film, the television adaption, and two spin-off video games (Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes[5] and Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Lightsaber Duels). Supervising director Dave Filoni said that Ian was very excited that Darth Sidious finally was going to be seen in person and not as a hologram anymore; during Celebration VI, Filoni also mentioned that before his death, Ian did record for most of Season Five as both characters, but did not finish, so actor Tim Curry was brought in to voice Palpatine. However, Abercrombie also voiced the character in the Clovis story arc of the Lost Missions (Season Six) since it was originally a part of the Season Four, and later the Season Five, line-up. Thus, it was finished before his death. This was his final released work both on the show and in his life, shown in 2014.


Abercrombie died in Los Angeles, California on 26 January 2012 at age seventy-seven from complications due to a kidney failure.

During Celebration VI (23–26 August), there was a show called Vocal Stars of The Clone Wars hosted by James Arnold Taylor, and it included cast members Matt Lanter, Ashley Eckstein, Dee Bradley Baker, and Tom Kane. They all dedicated the show to Ian and stated that they miss him deeply.[3] Furthermore, in The Clone Wars episode "The Lawless," the opening credits honored him.


Year Title Role Notes
1974 Young Frankenstein Second Villager uncredited
1977-1983 Fantasy Island McShane/Inspector Lestrade/Bartender
1978 Battlestar Galactica Forger 7
1979 The Prisoner of Zenda Johann
1978 Sextette Rex Ambrose
1983 Journey's End
1984 The Ice Pirates Hymie
1985 Kicks Barnes
1986 Firewalker Boggs
1986 Last Resort Maître d'
1989 Warlock Magistrate #1
1988 Catacombs Brother Orsini
1990 Tales from the Crypt Fulton episode: The Switch
1990 The Flash Ghost Henchman Episode: 'Ghost in the Machine
1991 Zandalee Louis Medina
1991 Puppet Master III Dr. Hess
1992 Twin Peaks Tom Brockman
1992 The Public Eye Mr. Brown
1993 Army of Darkness Wiseman
1993 Addams Family Values Driver
1994 Clean Slate Leader
1994 Babylon 5 Correlilmurzon
1994–1998 Seinfeld Justin Pitt 7 episodes[3]
1997 The Lost World: Jurassic Park Butler
1997-2002 Days of Our Lives Hotel Manager/Jeweller/Mr. Simkins/Lawyer
1997 MouseHunt auctioneer
1998 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Old Man/German boss episode: Homecoming
2000 Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman Psychiatrist
2002 Birds of Prey Alfred Pennyworth
2004 Charmed Aramis (member of The Tribunal) Season 6 Episode 19: Crimes and Witch-Demeanors
2005 Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School Evrin Sezgin
2006 Inland Empire Henry the Butler
2006 Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties Smithee
2007-2012 Wizards of Waverly Place Professor Crumbs
2008 Star Wars: The Clone Wars (film) Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious
2008-2014 Star Wars: The Clone Wars Chancellor Palpatine/Darth Sidious His death is honored at the beginning of the episode "The Lawless" - S5E16.
2011 Rango Ambrose
2012 Green Lantern: The Animated Series Ganthet His death is honored at the end of the episode "Regime Change" - S1E10.


  1. ^ "U.S., Border Crossings from Canada to U.S., 1895-1956". Ancestry.com. 
  2. ^ "Ian Abercrombie". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-01-29. 
  3. ^ a b c d Barnes, Mike (27 January 2012). "Ian Abercrombie, Elaine's Boss on 'Seinfeld', Dies at 77". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  4. ^ Minovitz, Ethan (28 January 2012). "Ian Abercrombie, 77, was boss Mr. Pitt on Seinfeld". Big Cartoon News. Retrieved 28 January 2012. 
  5. ^ Krome Studios (6 October 2009). Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Republic Heroes. LucasArts. Scene: Closing credits, 2:30 in, Voice Talent. 

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