SHELDON LEONARD Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Sheldon Leonard                                                                 
Born: 22 February 1907 New York City, New York                                       
Died: 10 January 1997 Beverly Hills, California                                       
Sheldon Leonard (February 22, 1907 - January 10, 1997) was a pioneering American     
film and television producer, director, writer, and actor.                           
Leonard was born Sheldon Leonard Bershad in New York City, the son of middle         
class Jewish parents Anna and Frank Bershad. As an actor, Leonard                     
specialized in playing supporting characters, especially gangsters or "heavies",     
in films such as It's a Wonderful Life (1946), To Have and Have Not (1944), and       
Open Secret (1948). His trademark was his especially thick New York accent. In       
the cult classic Decoy, Leonard uses his "heavy" persona to create the hard-boiled   
police detective Joe Portugal. In the 1950s, Leonard provided the voice of lazy       
cat Dodsworth in two Warner Bros. cartoons directed by Robert McKimson.               
In radio, Leonard played an eccentric racetrack tout on The Jack Benny Program       
in the late 1940s and early '50s. His role was to salute Benny out of the blue       
in railroad stations, on street corners, or in department stores ("hey Bud, come     
here a minute"), ask Benny what he was about to do, and then proceed to try to       
argue him out of his course of action by resorting to inane and irrelevant           
racing logic. Ironically, as "The Tout," he never gave out information on horse       
racing, unless Jack demanded it. One excuse the tout gave was "Who knows about       
horses?" He also appeared frequently on "The Adventures of the Saint," often         
playing gangsters and heavies, but also sometimes in more positive roles.             
But he is better known as the producer of hugely popular television series,           
including The Danny Thomas Show (1953 - 64), The Andy Griffith Show (1960 - 68),     
The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961 - 66), and I Spy (1965 - 68). He also was briefly       
the star of his own television show "Big Eddie", where he played the owner of a       
large sports arena. The show lasted only one season.                                 
The character of Andy Taylor was introduced in a 1960 episode of "The Danny           
Thomas Show," which led to the series of "The Andy Griffith Show." Leonard is         
informally credited with inventing what we now know as the spinoff on TV,             
although the concept began on radio two decades earlier with Fibber McGee and         
Molly spinning off The Great Gildersleeve.                                           
Leonard also has the distinction (along with author Mickey Spillane) of being         
the first Miller Lite spokesmen. Using his trademark accent, he told the             
audience I was at first reluctant to try Miller Lite, but then I was persuaded       
to do so by my friend, Large Louis. One of his last acting roles was a guest         
appearance on the TV series Cheers, in which he played the proprietor of "The         
Hungry Heifer," Norm Peterson's favorite eating establishment.                       
Leonard died at 89, and was buried at Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver       
City, California. He was recently given a posthumous tip of the hat in the           
situation comedy, Big Bang Theory. The lead characters are named Sheldon and