Tuesday, September 27, 2022

From Grays to Seinfield: Tribute to Ian Abercrombie

ANY ACTOR who appeared in Young Frankenstein, Twin Peaks and then Seinfeld is a star to YT. Ian Abercrombie, who passed away at the age of 77, is known to generations of film and television fans from across the generations.

We had recognised, Chadwell-born Ian Abercrombie as Elaine’s boss on Seinfeld but did not realise that he hailed from Thurrock.

Ian was known for playing Alfred Pennyworth in Birds of Prey. He appeared as Elaine Benes’ boss, Justin Pitt during the sixth season of Seinfeld, and later as a butler on Desperate Housewives.

Abercrombie was born on 11 September 1934 in Grays.

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, Holland and Ireland.

He moved to the United States aged 17. 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 Army and stationed in 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 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.

He shared two roles with actor Clive Revill. Revill was Alfred Pennyworth in early episodes of Batman (1992), a role Abercrombie played in the television series Birds of Prey (2002). Revill was also the first actor to play Palpatine, in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980). Abercrombie portrayed the character in the animated Clone Wars series and film.

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. He portrayed evil chancellor Palpatine in the film The Clone Wars (2008) and reprised his role as Palpatine in the television adaption and its two spin-off video game.

Abercrombie died in Hollywood, California on 26 January 2012, aged 77, from kidney failure.He is survived by his wife, Gladys.

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