Liam Dunn

Liam Dunn (November 12, 1916 – April 11, 1976[1]) was an American character actor.

Liam Dunn
Carol Burnett with Liam Dunn in Twigs, 1975
Born(1916-11-12)November 12, 1916
DiedApril 11, 1976(1976-04-11) (aged 59)
Years active1947–1976

Life and career

The New Jersey native's early career was spent in television in series such as Bonanza, Room 222, Alias Smith and Jones, Mannix, and Gunsmoke.

Dunn's breakout role was as the judge (and Barbra Streisand's character's father) in the 1972 film What's Up, Doc?, for which he was noticed by Mel Brooks, who was in the process of forming a stock company of actors. Dunn went on to appear in Brooks films, Blazing Saddles (1974) as 'Rev. Johnson', Young Frankenstein (1974) as 'Mr. Hilltop', and as the 'Newsvendor' in Silent Movie (1976). He also appeared in several Walt Disney Productions, such as The World's Greatest Athlete (1973), Charley and the Angel (1973), Herbie Rides Again (1974) and Gus (1976).

He frequently portrayed characters who were verbally and/or physically abused in a slapstick way. Additional television credits include Twigs, All in the Family, Barney Miller, McMillan & Wife, Rhoda, Sanford and Son, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and several episodes of the Disney anthology television series. Additional film credits included roles in Catch-22 (1970), The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972), A Reflection of Fear (1972), Emperor of the North Pole (1973), Papillon (1973), Killer Bees (1974), Bank Shot (1974), At Long Last Love (1975), The Night That Panicked America (1975), Peeper (1976) and High Velocity (1976).

Liam was a warm and witty presence and occasionally enjoyed smoking pot with his young friends. However, he had serious emphysema and often had to use oxygen, from a relatively small, green tank. Nevertheless, he smoked cigarettes. Asked why, he replied, "I can't stop." (I lived next-door to Liam on Stanley Hills Place, Los Angeles 90046 during 1972. [Our rented house was sold or we would have been there longer.])

Dunn collapsed on the set of Disney's The Shaggy D.A. (1976), during the filming of the roller rink sequence, and died soon after on April 11, 1976, from emphysema in Granada Hills, California.[1] John Fiedler was brought in to complete the role as dog catcher. Though only 59 at his death, Dunn always looked much older than he was,[2] and he was cast accordingly.


1972|| Sanford & Son || Gus ||

Year Title Role Notes
1947That's My ManReporterUncredited
1972What's Up, Doc?Judge Maxwell
1972The Great Northfield Minnesota RaidDrummer
1972A Reflection of FearCoroner
1973The World's Greatest AthleteDr. Winslow
1973Charley and the AngelDr. Sprague
1973Emperor of the North PoleSmile
1973PapillonOld Trustee
1974Blazing SaddlesRev. Johnson
1974Herbie Rides AgainDoctor
1974Killer BeesZeb Tucker
1974Bank ShotPainter
1974Young FrankensteinMr. Hilltop
1975At Long Last LoveHarry
1975The Night That Panicked AmericaCharlie
1975PeeperBilly Pate
1976Silent MovieNewsvendor
1976GusDr. Morgan
1976High VelocityBennett
1976The Shaggy D.A.DogcatcherUncredited


  1. Willis, John (1977). John Willis' Screen World. 28. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
  2. Leszczak, Bob (2014). The Odd Couple on Stage and Screen: A History with Cast and Crew Profiles and an Episode Guide. McFarland. p. 46. ISBN 9781476615394. Retrieved 29 May 2018.
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