If you were a fan of the classic late 1950s-early 1960s coming-of-age TV sitcom, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, you probably enjoyed disliking that insufferable scion of wealth, Chatsworth Osborne, Jr., who was Dobie's romantic rival and antagonist. A decade or so before Monty Python popularized the term, Chatsworth was the very model of an upper-class twit; as one TV encyclopedia describes the character, he was "a spoiled young man who flaunted his social status, not to mention is money, to snare the attractive girls who eluded Dobie."
You may not remember the actor who made that devilish dilettante so fun to loathe. Chances are, however, that you've seen his face lots of times over the years on both the small and big screen. Steve Franken, who died in Los Angeles on Aug. 24 at age 80, was one of those workhorse character actors whose deft gifts as a comic foil and sometime villain enabled bigger stars to shine. Franken's career spanned six decades and included more than 160 TV and film roles, ranging from McHale's Navy and My Favorite Martian in the 1960s to Murphy Brown in the 1990s and The King of Queens in the mid-2000s. His last role was in the not-yet-released film Reach.
One of Franken's most memorable movie roles was this brief bit as a drunken waiter in the 1968 Blake Edwards comedy The Party.
Here are five tidbits that you may enjoy knowing about the man who played Dobie's nemesis:
- Franken, who started out as a stage actor, snared the role of Chatsworth while he was in Los Angeles doing a play. By various accounts, he was performing at the time either in the role of 19th-century thespian Edwin Booth or in a production of the musical Say Darling.
- Rod Amateau, the producer of Dobie Gillis, needed Franken's character to replace another rich-boy nemesis, Milton Armitage, who had been portrayed by future movie star Warren Beatty.
- As Chatsworth, Franken's trademark mannerism was a look of pained condescension. According to this bio sketch, Franken reportedly attributed that expression to an ulcer he'd developed at age 14, after his mother's death.
- After his Dobie Gillis role ended, Franken played another young rich guy on the TV series Tom, Dick and Mary, but disliked being typecast. For a time, he sought out roles as villains in shows such as The Wild Wild West.
- In the 200os, Franken started appearing in a new medium: video games. He did voice roles in games such as Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader and Law & Order: Dead on the Money.