Dana Elcar

Ibsen Dana Elcar (October 10, 1927 June 6, 2005) was an American television and film character actor. Although he appeared in about 40 films, his most memorable role was on the 1980s and 1990s television series MacGyver as Peter Thornton, an administrator working for the Phoenix Foundation. Elcar had appeared in the pilot episode of MacGyver as Andy Colson (a completely different character), but was later cast as Peter Thornton, making his first regular appearance in the 11th episode of the first season.[1]

Dana Elcar
Dana Elcar as Peter Thornton on MacGyver
Ibsen Dana Elcar

(1927-10-10)October 10, 1927
DiedJune 6, 2005(2005-06-06) (aged 77)
EducationUniversity of Michigan
Years active1952–2002
Katherine Frances Mead (m. 19481950)

Peggy Romano (m. 19541970)

Marianne Torrance (m. 19781995)
Partner(s)Thelma Garcia

Early life

Elcar was born in Ferndale, Michigan, the son of Hedwig (née Anderberg) and James Aage Elcar, a carpenter and butcher.[1] He was an alumnus of the University of Michigan where he was a member of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. Elcar served a tour of duty in the United States Navy.[2] He moved to New York in the 1950s to become a professional thespian.[2] He was a student of legendary acting coach Sanford Meisner. He brought this education to bear when in 1986, with fellow character actor William Lucking, he formed the Santa Paula Theater Center. Elcar sat as artistic director for six years.


In 1962, he created the role of the hit-man Ben in the U.S. premiere of Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter at the Cherry Lane Theater in Greenwich Village, New York City. That same year he was cast on the long running CBS daytime drama, The Guiding Light as Andrew Murray, the District Attorney of Los Angeles County. Later in 1962 and 1963, due to his stint on The Guiding Light, he was cast in three episodes of the NBC sitcom, Car 54, Where Are You?, and two segments of the ABC crime drama, Naked City, both set in New York City. In 1966 and 1967, Elcar played Sheriff George Patterson on the vampire soap opera Dark Shadows.[3] He played Inspector Shiller, the supervisor, in the crime drama, Baretta, starring Robert Blake.

Elcar guest starred on Get Smart, CBS's Mission: Impossible and Storefront Lawyers in 1970. In 1971, he was a guest star on Ironside. He appeared on The Waltons and Kung Fu in 1973. He had a regular role as Colonel Lard in the 1976–78 television military drama, Baa Baa Black Sheep, starring Robert Conrad, and also directed four episodes of the series. He appeared in TV disaster movies such as Heatwave! (1974) and Crisis in Mid-Air (1979).

In 1979 he played judges in Centennial and B. J. and the Bear. In 1980, he was cast in the role of "Chief" in the Get Smart feature film entitled The Nude Bomb (a.k.a. The Return of Maxwell Smart) that was based on the 1960s hit TV series (the role previously played by Edward Platt, who died in 1974). He also co-starred in two episodes of The A-Team in 1984 and 1985. In 1987, he was cast on Matlock.

Elcar and his stunt/photography double, Don S. Davis, were often mistaken for each other. Elcar appeared in the hit series Knight Rider in the 1983 episode "Merchants of Death"; as a corrupt sheriff in The Incredible Hulk episode "Escape from Los Santos" (1978), in which Banner is headed to Phoenix; and as KAOS Agent Kruger in the 2-part 1969 episode of Get Smart entitled "And Baby Makes Four".

In 1991, Elcar began to develop glaucoma. This condition was written into the MacGyver plotline, beginning with the sixth season episode seventeen "Blind Faith" and continuing through the remainder of that season and the entire seventh season, with Elcar's character developing the disease. The sixth season finale, Hind-Sight, was a clip show using Pete Thornton's upcoming eye surgery as a framing device. After MacGyver, Elcar made a guest appearance in "Virus", a 1993 episode of Law & Order, in which he played a man who blamed his diabetes-caused blindness on his former physician, and whose son murdered other patients as revenge.

Elcar also played a blind character on episodes of The Magic School Bus and ER. Once blind, Elcar took on the challenge of playing Vladimir in Waiting for Godot complete with white cane. This was his theatrical swan song, and he retired in 2002 after his ER performance.

Personal life

Elcar married Katherine Frances Mead in 1948 and divorced her in 1950.[4] He married Peggy Romano in 1954 and divorced in 1970.[5] Elcar had 4 children; Marin Elcar, Nora Elcar Verdon, Dane Elcar, and Chandra Elcar. He started losing his sight on the set of MacGyver with glaucoma, though he still continued to act.[1][6][7] His long-time partner was Thelma Garcia.[1]


On June 6, 2005, Elcar died at the Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California from pneumonia at age 77.[1][6][7]



Year Title Role Notes
1964 Fail Safe Foster
1965 The Fool Killer Mr. Dodd
1968 A Lovely Way to Die Layton
The Boston Strangler Luis Schubert
1969 Pendulum Det. J.J. 'Red' Thornton
The Maltese Bippy Sgt. Kelvaney
The Learning Tree Kirky
1970 Zig Zag Harold Tracey
Soldier Blue Capt. Battles
Adam at 6 A.M. Van Treadly
1971 Mrs. Pollifax-Spy Carstairs
A Gunfight Marv Green
1972 The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid Allen
1973 The Sting F.B.I. Agent Polk Caper film set in September 1936, involving a complicated plot by two professional grifters, directed by George Roy Hill.[8]
1975 Report to the Commissioner Chief Perna
1976 W.C. Fields and Me Agent Dockstedter
Baby Blue Marine Sheriff Wenzel
St. Ives Lt. Charles Blunt
1979 The Champ Hoffmaster
Good Luck, Miss Wyckoff Havermeyer
1980 The Nude Bomb Chief
The Last Flight of Noah's Ark Benchley
1981 Buddy Buddy Capt. Hubris
Condorman Russ
1982 Breach of Contract
1983 Blue Skies Again Lou
1984 Jungle Warriors D'Antoni
All of Me Burton Schuyler Fantasy comedy film directed by Carl Reiner.[10]
2010 Dimitri Moisevitch
1986 Inside Out Leo Gross drama film directed by Robert Taicher.[11]


Year Title Role Notes
1954 A Time to Live Dr. Clay Contract role[12]
1956 The Big Story Oscar Episode: "Zeke Scher And George MacWilliams Of The Denver Post" (S 8:Ep 11)
1957 Bernie Episode: "Charley Wigle Of The Denver Post aka Young Lovers" (S 8:Ep 26)
Cashmore Episode: "Malcolm Glover Of The San Francisco Examiner aka Car 83" (S 8:Ep 36)
1958 Lt. Alameda Episode: "Until Proven Guilty"
1959 Brenner Bartender Episode: "False Witness" (S 1:Ep 1)
The Play of the Week Guest Episode: "Burning Bright" (S 1:Ep 3)
1960 Sunday Showcase Newspaperman Episodes:
  • "The Sacco-Vanzetti Story (pt1)" (S 1:Ep 29)
  • "The Sacco-Vanzetti Story (pt2)" (S 1:Ep 30)
Omnibus Guest Epispde: "He Shall Have Power" (S 8: Ep 1)
1961 Armstrong Circle Theatre Guest Episode: "The Medicine Man" (S 12: Ep 7)
1962 The DuPont Show of the Week Dennis Wilcox Episode: "Big Deal in Laredo" (S 2:Ep 4)
Guiding Light District Attorney Andrew Murray Recurring
1963 Naked City Al Boris Episode: "Man Without a Skin" (S 4:Ep 20)
The Armstrong Circle Theatre Carl Rogers Episode: "The Embezzler" (S 14:Ep 15)
Hallmark Hall of Fame Jacob Episode: "The Patriots" (S 13:Ep 2)
1966-1967 Dark Shadows Sheriff George Paterson
1967 The Borgia Stick Craigmeyer Made for TV movie
1968 The Name of the Game Hood Episode: 1x02 "Witness"
1969 Get Smart Kruger Episode: "And Baby Makes Four: Part 2"
1970 Mission:Impossible C.W. Cameron Episode: "Flip Side"
1972-1975 Cannon Lt. Sam Levaca, Walter Ryan, John 41 1x25 Cain’s Mark, 2x07 A Long Way Down, 5x13/14 The Star
1972 Columbo Falcon
1976 Law of the Land Rev. Mr. Endicott TV Movie
1976 Baa Baa Black Sheep Col. Thomas A. Lard Appeared in 36 episodes
1978 The Incredible Hulk Sheriff Harris Episode "Escape From Los Santos" (S 2:Ep 10)
1979 Centennial (miniseries) Judge Hart Episode "The Winds of Death" (Ep 11)
1980 Galactica 1980 Mr. Steadman Episode "Space Croppers" (S 1:Ep 9)
1983 Trapper John, M.D. Jared Vennemar Episode: "Pasts Imperfect" (S 4:Ep 18)
1983 Knight Rider Strock Episode 26: "Merchants of Death"
1984 The A-Team George Olsen Episode: "Double Heat" (S 3:Ep 6)
1985 Scarecrow and Mrs. King Mitch Larner Episode: "Spiderweb" (S 2:Ep 13)
Hill Street Blues Lt. Mel Taber Episode: "Washington Deceased" (S 5:Ep 16)
Riptide Harry Silverman Episode: "Arrivederci, Baby" (S 2:Ep 21)
The A-Team Judge Leonard Mordente Episodes:
  • "Judgement Day: Part 1" (S 4:Ep 1)
  • "Judgement Day: Part 2" (S 4:Ep 2)
There Were Times, Dear Don Mason Made-for-TV-Movie directed by Nancy Malone.
Toughlove Max Wiley Made-for-TV-Movie directed by Glenn Jordan.[13]
Trapper John, M.D. Howard Bowman Episode: "Billboard Barney" (S 7:Ep 9)
1986 Murder in Three Acts Dr Strange Made-for-TV-Movie based on Agatha Christie's book Three Act Tragedy and directed by Gary Nelson.[14]
MacGyver Pete Thornton Appeared in 85 episodes (but credited in a further 40 episodes; also appeared in the 1985 pilot as character Andy Colson)[15]
1987 Matlock Arthur Hughes Episode: "The Court-Martial: Part 1" (S 1:Ep 18)
1993 For Their Own Good Sally's father
  • Made-for-TV-Movie directed and co-written by Ed Kaplan.[16]
  • Uncredited
Law & Order Robert Cook Episode: "Virus"
1995 The Magic School Bus Mr. Terese Episode: "Going Batty" (S 2:Ep 4)
2002 ER Manny Kendovich Episode: "Damage Is Done" (S 8:Ep 13) (final appearance)


  1. Nelson, Valerie J. (June 10, 2005). "Dana Elcar, 77; Veteran Actor Lost His Sight But Kept His Focus on Performing". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Publishing. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  2. Walker, Jade (June 5, 2005). "Dana Elcar". Blog of Death. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  3. "Actor Dana Elcar Dies at 77 50 Years of TV and Movies". Emmys.com. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  4. (via google news)"University of Michigan Official Publication, Volume 53". University of Michigan. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  5. "Paid Notice: Deaths FYBISH, PEGGY ROMANO". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. March 1, 1999. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  6. Associate Press Staff (June 11, 2005). "Dana Elcar, 77, 'MacGyver' Co-Star, Is Dead". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved April 23, 2014.
  7. Allis, Tim (May 13, 1991). "His Sight Stolen by Glaucoma, Macgyver Actor Dana Elcar Turns His Plight into a Moving Tv Plot Line". People. Time Inc. Retrieved January 1, 2016.
  8. "The Sting". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  9. "W.C. Fields and Me". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  10. "All of Me". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  11. "Inside Out". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  12. Hyatt, Wesley (2003). Short-Lived Television Series, 1948-1978: Thirty Years of More Than 1,000 Flops. Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland & Company, Inc. p. 59. ISBN 978-0786414208.
  13. "Toughlove". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  14. "Murder in Three Acts". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  15. "Dana Elcar - IMDb". IMDb. Retrieved February 28, 2016.
  16. "For Their Own Good". TCM database. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
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