Harold Gould

Harold Gould
Harold Gould

Harold Gould was born in 1923 in Schenectady, New York.   He was originally a teacher before becoming an actor.   His film debut came in “Two for the Seesaw” with Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine.   His other films include “The Yellow Canary” with Pat Boone, “The Satan Bug” with George Maharis and Anne Francis and “Harper”.   His biggest success though was on television where he played the father of Valer Harper in the classic TV series “Rhoda”.   Harold Gould died in 2010.

Ronald Bergan’s  “Guardian” obituary:

Harold Gould, who has died aged 86, was categorised as a character actor, usually a euphemism for an actor who did not quite make it to the top. But it would be more accurate to describe him as a supporting actor who made invaluable contributions to innumerable television shows and dozens of films. The elegantly dressed Gould, with his grey hair and natty moustache, “supported” many a star, often in the roles of kindly uncles, fathers and husbands as well as doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers, rabbis and teachers.

The five times Emmy-nominated Gould was probably most widely known as Martin Morgenstern, Valerie Harper’s handsome smoothie father in Rhoda (1974-78), and the college professor widower who courts Rose (Betty White) in the sitcom The Golden Girls (1985-92). In the latter, Gould played Miles Webber, a mild-mannered man who turns out to have been an accountant for the mafia, much to Rose’s surprise and excitement.

In 20 episodes of Rhoda, Gould had to put up with the kvetching of Rhoda’s pushy mother Ida (Nancy Walker), while lending his daughter a sympathetic ear. In one episode, The Marty Morgan Story (1976), he touchingly confesses to Rhoda that he no longer loves Ida, and retains a secret ambition to be a bar-room pianist.

From a very early age, Gould’s ambition was to become an actor. He was born Harold Vernon Goldstein in Schenectady, New York. After serving in France as a gunner in the army during the second world war, Gould studied theatre, gaining a PhD from Cornell University, where he taught drama, speech and literature from 1948 to 1953.

After a few more years of teaching drama, Gould decided, in his late 30s, to practise what he taught and take up acting. “All of my colleagues would say: ‘What are you doing? You’re crazy to leave teaching.’ I had to take the leap.”

After various roles off-Broadway, he started to get work on television, the medium which was to be his mainstay. From 1961, Gould popped up in almost every TV series one could name, but he had to wait 11 years before he was given a featured role. This was the first appearance of Martin Morgenstern, in The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1972), of which Rhoda was one of the spin-offs.

At this time Gould also appeared in a pilot for the TV series Happy Days, playing the role of Richie Cunningham’s father, Howard. A theatrical commitment prevented Gould from resuming the role when the series was commissioned. Tom Bosley was hired to play the character in the series, which ran from 1974 to 1984.

Instead, Gould appeared in dozens of TV movies, notably, in 1980, The Scarlett O’Hara War and The Silent Lovers, in both of which he played the MGM boss Louis B Mayer. In 1986, in Mrs Delafield Wants to Marry, he played a Jewish doctor whom Katharine Hepburn wishes to marry despite her children’s objections. A splendid chemistry was created between the two leads, with Gould doing more than just supporting his legendary co-star.

At the same time, Gould took supporting roles in several features, the most notable being the Oscar-winner The Sting (1973), starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, in which he played a conman-gambler called Kid Twist. He makes a superb entrance into a gambling den, where his beautifully cut suit, homburg hat and grey kid gloves are strikingly contrasted with the other customers. At the finale, Gould is in on a great scam to deprive Robert Shaw’s Doyle Lonnegan of half a million dollars at a phony betting shop.

Among many comic cameos, Gould played a jealous lover who challenges a cowardly Woody Allen to a duel in the latter’s Love and Death (1975). Gould: “If you so much as come near the countess, I’ll see that you never see the light of day again.” Allen: “If a man said that to me, I’d break his neck.” Gould: “I am a man.” Allen: “Well, I mean a much shorter man.” The following year he played Engulf, a movie executive of Engulf and Devour (a sly reference to Gulf and Western), in Mel Brooks’s Silent Movie.

In his 70s, Gould appeared in films as different as the prison drama Killer: A Journal of Murder (1996) and the Robin Williams comedy Patch Adams (1998). In recent years, he gracefully moved into grandfather roles in films such as Stuart Little (1999), The Master of Disguise (2002), Freaky Friday (2003) and Nobody’s Perfect (2004).

Gould is survived by his wife, Lea, whom he married in 1950, a daughter, Deborah, and two sons, Joshua and Lowell.

• Harold Gould (Harold Vernon Goldstein), actor, born 10 December 1923; died 11 September 2010

The above “Guardian” obituary can be accessed online here.

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