Michael J. Pollard, Character Actor in ‘Bonnie and Clyde,’ Dies at 80


Michael J. Pollard, who rose to fame in the 1967 hit movie “Bonnie and Clyde” as C.W. Moss, the dimwitted fuel station attendant who turned a legal confederate, and went on to a protracted profession as a Hollywood character actor, died on Wednesday at a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 80.

A pal, Dawn Walker, stated in an interview that the trigger was cardiac arrest.

Mr. Pollard had been a well-known face on tv because the late 1950s. He most frequently performed likable however socially inept characters, and often ranked pretty far down on the forged listing. In two separate exhibits, he performed the cousin of a beloved supporting character — Jerome Krebs, cousin to Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver) on “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” and Virgil, cousin to Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts), on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

He additionally had a memorable function in the primary season of the tv collection “Star Trek,” in 1966, taking part in a creepy, mischievous teenage cult chief on a planet of kids.

But his efficiency in “Bonnie and Clyde,” which earned him an Academy Award nomination for finest supporting actor, raised his profile — and modified the way in which Hollywood noticed him.

In a 1968 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Pollard famous that administrators had as soon as been annoyed by his sluggish, considerably eccentric approach of delivering strains, however that the success of “Bonnie and Clyde” had modified that.

“They say, ‘Just do your thing, Michael, whatever it is,’” he stated. “Same thing I’ve been doing for 10 years, man.”

“His thing” was evident in a scene in “Bonnie and Clyde” in which Mr. Pollard, who is meant to be driving the getaway automobile for the 2 outlaws, finally ends up parking the automobile.

“We made that up,” Mr. Pollard advised the movie critic Roger Ebert in 1969. “See, I can’t drive a car. There was this guy teaching me, but I couldn’t learn. So here I was stuck in the parking place, and Penn” — Arthur Penn, the director — “said, ‘O.K., do it that way.’”

The author Nora Ephron stated it was Mr. Pollard’s face that grabbed one’s consideration. “Potato face,” she wrote in 1970 in The New York Post. “And a little like a cherub blowing friendly winds on old-fashioned maps. A little hilarious.”

He advised Ms. Ephron that he thought his face was bizarre. “When it was younger it bothered me,” he stated. “But then I became an actor and everyone started saying, ‘What a face. Wow.’ I believed all my publicity.”

He was born Michael John Pollack Jr. on May 30, 1939, in Passaic, N.J. His father was a bartender and his mom, Sonia (Dubanowich) Pollack, was a homemaker.

He is survived by a daughter, Holly, from his marriage to the actress Beth Howland, and a son, Axel Emmett, from another marriage. Both marriages ended in divorce. His sister, Ruth Coughlin, died in 2014.

He graduated from Montclair Academy in New Jersey and decided he wanted to be an actor after seeing Marlon Brando in the 1954 movie “On the Waterfront.” He enrolled at the Actors Studio in New York, where he studied with Lee Strasberg, among others.

At the Actors Studio he did a scene with Marilyn Monroe, at her request. According to Ms. Ephron, when Ms. Monroe had called him up to do the scene, she said: “Hello, this is Marilyn. The girl from class.”

He quickly proved his versatility by scoring both comic and dramatic roles in television, film and the theater, starting in 1958. He went on to act in more than 200 films and television shows.

His early TV appearances included roles in the anthology series “Lux Playhouse,” the Cold War dramatic series “Five Fingers” and a 1959 television play by Archibald MacLeish, “Secret of Freedom,” in which he played a shoeshine boy.

He appeared in two episodes of “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” again playing a shoeshine boy in one and a 13-year-old boy in the other. Thanks to his slight build, Mr. Pollard, who was 20 at the time, easily passed for characters much younger.

On Broadway, he landed a non-singing role in the original Broadway production of “Bye Bye Birdie.” A 1960 blurb in Playbill noted that he “began the season with a set of splendid notices for his performance in William Inge’s ‘A Loss of Roses.’”

Playbill added: “Following the strong impression he made as Homer Macauley in the television version of Saroyan’s ‘The Human Comedy,’ he was recruited for the Circle in the Square’s revival of ‘Our Town.’”

Multiple roles followed in quick, even overlapping, succession. They included a part in the Walt Disney family musical “Summer Magic,” opposite Hayley Mills, and another in the TV series “I Spy,” which starred Bill Cosby and Robert Culp.

In 1966, Mr. Pollard played an uncredited but memorable bit as an airplane mechanic with a runny nose in the Norman Jewison comedy “The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming.”

His breakout performance in “Bonnie and Clyde,” with a cast led by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway and also including Gene Hackman and Estelle Parsons, won Mr. Pollard not only an Oscar nomination but also a BAFTA Award, Britain’s equivalent of an Academy Award, for most promising newcomer in a leading film role.

That same year, he landed a lead role in Derek May’s “Niagara Falls,” a kind of anti-travelogue in which fictional interviews are interspersed with documentary footage.

One of Mr. Pollard’s most popular movies was “Little Fauss and Big Halsy” (1970), a motorcycle racing movie with Robert Redford that developed a cult following. (Mr. Pollard played the woebegone Fauss to Mr. Redford’s womanizing Halsy.)

Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting; Susan C. Beachy contributed research.



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