Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
First Henry Gibson, then Skip Ward, now Norman Alden. Will Med Flory be the next student in the Wellman College graduating class of 1963 to leave this earth?
Tender but tough-looking Norman Alden was the oldest surviving member of nutty professor Prof. Julius Kelp's class. (In real life, Alden was pushing 40 when he donned the purple and green letterman sweater.) The prolific character actor who buoyed dozens of small roles in film and television shows in the '60's and '70's died in Los Angeles on July 27. He was 87.
Born Norman Adelberg, his television career began in 1957 with appearances on * The 20th Century Fox Hour and The Bob Cummings Show. Alden finished out the '50's with bit parts on popular network shows like Leave it to Beaver and Perry Mason*.
His small screen career eventually led to parts in big screen productions. The Nutty Professor was Alden's second performance for Jerry Lewis, his first being a cameo as a bully in The Patsy. He also provided the voice for Sir Kay in Disney's The Sword and the Stone, and was able to mask his Greek heritage long enough to play John Screaming Eagle in Howard Hawks' delightful Man's Favorite Sport?
It was far from his most meaningful performance for the director. In Hawks' Red Line 7000 (oh, for a DVD copy) Alden was on the receiving end of James Caan's oral dissertation on the similarity between new clothes and virgins: "You see this shirt?" Caan asks racing team manager Alden ."It's new. Those shoes? They're new. No one ever wore them but me. Everything I got is new. Second hand just don't appeal to me, now lay off!"
Alden officially retired from acting in 2006. Having purposely avoided both Patch Adams and K-PAX, the last time I had the privilege of watching Alden at work was as the cameraman for the world's worst director in Ed Wood, next to Pee-Wee's Big Adventure Tim Burton's only sign of intelligent life to date. Coincidence? I think not.
Alden's first marriage to Sharon Hayden produced two children and ended in divorce. He is survived by his partner of over 30 years, Linda Thieben, a son, Brent, and a daughter, Ashley; two stepsons, Randy and Kevin Thieben; a stepdaughter, Sherri Thieben; one grandson; and one step-granddaughter.
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