by Carmel Dagan, Variety.com
Martin Milner, who starred on TV on “Adam-12” with Kent McCord and, earlier, on “Route 66” with George Maharis, died Sunday night, Diana Downing, a representative for his fan page, confirmed. He was 83.
Milner was also known for his roles as a jazz guitarist in the brilliant 1957 film “Sweet Smell of Success” and in the 1967 camp classic “Valley of the Dolls.”
Milner began acting in movies while a teen, after his father got him an agent, first appearing in the 1947 classic “Life With Father.” The film starred William Powell and Irene Dunne, and thus Milner, along with his co-star Elizabeth Taylor, bridged the generations in Hollywood between the golden age and contemporary era.
He appeared as Officer Pete Molloy alongside Kent McCord’s Officer Jim Reed in NBC’s “Adam-12” from 1968-75. Molloy was the seasoned, savvy veteran bringing along Reed who was, at first, a rookie.
The innovative series had a more realistic quality than previous cop shows: The partners, on which the show narrowly focused, would patrol with no idea what they would encounter through the course of the day, and viewers got to witness the highs and lows in their lives.
Milner had a long association with Jack Webb, whose Mark VII Ltd. produced “Adam-12” and had produced “Dragnet” since 1951. After Webb and Milner met on the set of the movie “Halls of Montezuma” in 1950, Webb cast Milner in various roles on “Dragnet” in the early ’50s, first on radio and then when the crime drama transitioned to TV, where Milner appeared in six episodes of “Dragnet” from 1952-55.
Milner even appeared as a drummer in the Webb-directed 1955 feature “Pete Kelly’s Blues.” (The actor did not know how to play the guitar, so he was not really playing in “Sweet Smell of Success.”)
Webb later chose Milner to star in “Adam-12” and directed the pilot episode; as a producer, Webb liked to do crossover episodes between his various series for promotional purposes; Officers Molloy and Reed were introduced on episodes of “Dragnet” and also appeared on episodes of the brief Mark VII show “The D.A.,” starring Robert Conrad, as well as on “Emergency.”
“Route 66” ran on CBS from 1960-64, about a decade before “Adam-12” and resolutely not produced by Webb: Written and lensed across North America and inspired by the spirit of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” the series followed Milner’s Tod Stiles and George Maharis’ Buz Murdock as they traveled from town to town in a Corvette, exploring social issues and the changing cultural landscape.
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