Michael J. Pollard, a legendary character actor who was featured in Bonnie and Clyde, the original Star Trek, and House of 1000 Corpses, died in Los Angeles from cardiac arrest on Nov. 21, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 80.
Pollard’s breakout role was as C.W. Moss, the gas station attendant who drove getaway cars in the 1967 gangster classic Bonnie and Clyde, starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. The role got Pollard nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. In a career spanning seven decades, Pollard created many memorable characters. He led the gang of orphan children in the 1966 Star Trek episode “Miri,” which also featured Kim Darby. That same year he played character inspired by Peter Pan in in the Lost in Space episode “The Magic Mirror.” Pollard originated the role of the jealous boyfriend Hugo Peabody in the original Broadway production of Bye Bye Birdie in 1960. The cast included Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera and Julie Newmar.
Michael John Pollack Jr. was born in Passaic, N.J., on May 30, 1939. He studied at Montclair Kimberley Academy before training at the Actors Studio in New York City. He appeared on Broadway with Beatty in 1959 in Loss of Roses and would go on to play Bug Bailey in Beatty’s 1990 film Dick Tracy.
Pollard started as a journeyman TV actor, debuting as a shoeshine boy in an episode Alfred Hitchcock Presents in 1959. He played his first lead, as Homer McCauley in the TV adaptation of William Saroyan’s The Human Comedy the same year. He played Maynard G. Krebs’ (Bob Denver) cousin on a 1959 episode of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. He went on to appear as Barney Fife’s (Don Knotts) cousin Virgil on The Andy Griffith Show, and on classic series like Gunsmoke, The Lucy Show and I Spy.
Pollard played the villain, Mr. Mxyzpltk, on the 1989 series Superboy. He voiced a villain on the animated TV series Toxic Crusaders. He played a mortician on the Ray Bradbury Theater season 6 episode “The Handler.” He also appeared on episodes of Simon & Simon, and Tales from the Crypt.
On the big screen, Pollard rode with Robert Redford in the biker film Big Fauss and Little Halsey, fought fires with Steve Martin in the Cyrano de Bergerac-inspired comedy Roxanne, and played the homeless guy Bill Murray thought was Richard Burton in the Christmas comedy Scrooged. He appeared in the 1980 cult film Melvin and Howard. He played the gunslinger Billy the Kid in Dirty Little Billy (1972). He was featured in Tango & Cash, with Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone. Pollard also appeared in the horror film Skeeter in 1993. Pollard played Aeolus in The Odyssey (1997), and Stucky the autograph enthusiast Rob Zombie’s 2003 cult horror film House of 1000 Corpses.
Pollard came up with the title of the 1971 Traffic song and album The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. The actor was friends with the band’s drummer, Jim Capaldi, and was planning to make a film with him. He wrote the phrase which became the 12-minute song on a notebook during songwriting sessions.
Michael J. Pollard put the J in Michael J. Fox. When the Back to the Future actor registered with the Screen Actors Guild, another actor was registered under the name. He signed on under Michael J. Fox as a tribute to Pollard.
Pollard is survived by his daughter Holly, and son, Axel Emmett.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.