UPDATED with statement from SAG-AFTRA: William Shallert, former SAG president and co-star on The Patty Duke Show, died on May 8 in Los Angeles. He was 93. Including stints on Star Trek, the 1967 pic In the Heat of the Night, an uncredited appearance in Steve Martin’s The Jerk and HBO’s True Blood among many others, the character actor’s career spanned from 1947-2014, when he appeared in an episode of 2 Broke Girls. SAG-AFTRA today confirmed Shallert’s passing.
“Bill Schallert’s remarkable career put him in the rare position of being able to understand actors at all levels of the business,” SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris said in a statement “He worked virtually every SAG contract, he appeared opposite movie stars and background performers, he was a series regular and an uncredited bit player. He turned this knowledge and experience into service for his fellow actors. Despite leading the union during a very difficult time, Bill maintained his integrity and commitment, a commitment that extended into many more years of board service. I am especially pleased that Bill lived long enough to see the SAG-AFTRA merger become a reality as he was one of the pioneers of that effort.”
A governor of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Schallert was also at then-SAG HQ on Wilshire Boulevard on March 30, 2012, when SAG and AFTRA became one in an overwhelming vote by members.
With that, Schallert was perhaps best known on screen for his role as the patriarch Martin Lane in The Patty Duke Show during its 1963-66 run on ABC. Schallert had played a similar role as the often-pulling-his-hair-out English teacher Leander Pomfritt on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis from 1959-62 on CBS.
As a union leader, Schallert led the Screen Actors Guild from 1979-81, before being defeated for re-election by Ed Asner. In terms that may feel familiar to many today, Schallert’s tenure saw a 13-week strike for the actor’s union over the pay they were to receive for being on cable shows. He later said that the proudest accomplishment of his time in office was the establishment of a committee for actors with disabilities.