Stuart Margolin, 1940-2022
by Paula Bosse
by Paula Bosse
Everyone’s favorite character actor, Stuart Margolin, has died. He grew up in Dallas (Preston Hollow) and went to Hillcrest High School — until he was sent to what sounds like a reform school in another state. A brief look through the Dallas Morning News archives shows that he appeared in local theater productions as a child — he trod the boards in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream when he was 10. As a teenager, he was active in the Courtyard Theater in Oak Lawn, a school and theater led by Robert Glenn, who had also mentored other young Dallas actors such as Jayne Mansfield, Brenda Vaccaro, Ann Wedgeworth, and… Candy Barr). When he wasn’t acting — and apparently causing enough mayhem to get sent to reform school — he was a very good, avid junior golfer who competed in many tournaments (he is shown in one very grainy photo as a 13-year-old member of the DAC Country Club team, wearing a jaunty golf cap). There is no further mention of the young Margolin after 1955, when, one assumes, the teenager was shipped off to someplace not as cushy as Preston Hollow. He starts popping up again in newspaper stories in 1967, in the early days of his long and successful career in Hollywood when he was making regular appearances on TV shows such as Love American Style.
His most-remembered role is Angel, sidekick to James Garner, in The Rockford Files. People loved this character. HE loved this character. He has said, with great affection, that he based Angel on streetwise guys he grew up with in Dallas.
In 1979, though an established working actor and director in Hollywood, he moved back to Dallas for a couple of years, working on writing projects and establishing the production company River Entertainment.
He tried for several years to establish a theater in the city, saying, “I don’t think there’s a professional theater here that is of a quality that this city deserves, a city that likes to view itself as Dallas does” (“Margolin’s Life Has Many Stages” by Joe Leydon, DMN, Apr. 20, 1980). (He was not a huge fan of the Dallas Theater Center and was especially unhappy that, in 1980, the DTC hadn’t had an Actors Equity contract in 20 years.)
At this time he also recorded a country/blues album, And the Angel Sings, of which he said:
I’m from [Dallas], and my musical influences are from this area. When I grew up in Dallas, I listened to a lot of blues — Muddy Waters, B.B. King, This record was made for the kind of people I grew up with. (The Daily Oklahoman, Apr. 22, 1980)
I just watched him in an old episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show a couple of days ago and said to myself, “I love this guy.” I was always a fan of Stuart Margolin. RIP.
Sources & Notes
Top photo from the 1955 Hillcrest High School yearbook, The Panther.
Copyright © 2022 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.