Bill Macy, TV husband of Bea Arthur on Maude, dead at 97


Had long stage career before breakthrough role, followed by steady work in TV, film

Bill Macy is shown in 1987. He appeared in 137 episodes of Maude, the Norman Lear spinoff of All in the Family. (Lenniox McLendon/The Associated Press)

Bill Macy, the character actor whose hangdog expression was a perfect match for his role as the long-suffering foil to Bea Arthur’s unyielding feminist on the daring 1970s sitcom Maude, has died. He was 97.

Macy died Thursday night in Los Angeles, his friend Matt Beckoff said Friday. Further details weren’t immediately available from Beckoff or Macy’s wife, Samantha Harper Macy.

The stint as Walter Findlay on the CBS sitcom that aired from 1972-78 was Macy’s highest-profile in a long stage, film and TV career. He made dozens of guest appearances in series including SeinfeldHow I Met Your Mother and ER.

Maude was a spinoff to the landmark sitcom All in the Family from producers Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin. Staunch liberal Maude’s sharp exchanges with conservative Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) were so entertaining that Lear fashioned a series around Arthur, who died in 2009 at age 86.

In a 1998 interview for the TV academy foundation’s archive, Lear said he cast Macy as Maude Findlay’s husband based on his work in an off-Broadway play. In it, his character had a prolonged scene of choking to death on a chicken bone.

It was an unforgettable “tour de force” performance, Lear said.

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