Oliver Burgess Meredith (November 16, 1907 – September 9, 1997),known professionally as Burgess Meredith, appeared as irascible, gruff Jewish boxing trainer Mickey Goldmill in the first three Rocky films. actor in theatre, film, and television, who also worked as a director. Active for more than six decades, Meredith has been called "a virtuosic actor "who was "one of the most accomplished actors of the century." Meredith has been called "a virtuosic actor" Meredith won several Emmys and was nominated for Academy Awards. Meredith be default was the oldest principle castmember in the franchise and following his death, costar Tony Burton had become the holder of that title until his own passing in 2018.
He graduated from Hoosac School in 1926 and then attended Amherst (OH) College as a member of the Class of 1931. Meredith served in the United States Army Air Forces in World War II reaching the rank of Captain (O-3). He was discharged in 1944 to work on the movie The Story of G.I. Joe, in which he starred as the popular war correspondent Ernie Pyle.
Burgess extensively worked in theatre, film and TV. He is known for his roles as the Penguin in the 1960s Batman TV series and for his work in the Rocky films as Mickey Goldmill.
In 1933, he became a member of Eva Le Gallienne's Civic Repertory Theatre company in New York City. Although best known to the larger world audience for his film and television work, Meredith was an influential actor and director for the stage. He made his Broadway theatre debut as Peter in Le Gallienne's production of Romeo and Juliet (1930) and became a star in Maxwell Anderson's Winterset (1935), which became his film debut the following year. His early life and theatre work were the subject of a The New Yorker profile. He received acclaim playing in the 1935 revival of The Barretts of Wimpole Street starring Katharine Cornell. She subsequently cast him in several of her later productions. Other Broadway roles included Van van Dorn in High Tor (1937), Liliom in Liliom (1940), Christy Mahon in The Playboy of the Western World (1946), and Adolphus Cusins Major Barbara (1957). He created the role of Erie Smith in the English language premiere of Eugene O'Neill's Hughie at the Theatre Royal in Bath, Somerset, England in 1963. He played Hamlet in avant-garde theatrical and radio productions of the play.
A distinguished theatre director, he won a Tony Award nomination for his 1974 Broadway theatre staging of Ulysses in Nighttown, a theatrical adaptation of the "Nighttown" section of James Joyce's Ulysses. Meredith also shared a Special Tony Award with James Thurber for their collaboration on A Thurber Carnival (1960).
Early in his career, Burgess attracted favourable attention, especially for playing George in a 1939 adaptation of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and as war correspondent Ernie Pyle in The Story of G.I. Joe (1945). He then was featured in many 1940s films, including three -- Second Chorus (1940), Diary of a Chambermaid (1946) and On Our Merry Way (1948) -- co-starring then-wife Paulette Goddard. He also played alongside Lana Turner in Madame X. As a result of the House Committee on Un-American Activities investigation into Communist influence in Hollywood, Meredith was placed on the Hollywood blacklist, resulting in a seven-year drought of work.
Meredith was a favourite of director Otto Preminger, who cast him in Advise and Consent (1962), In Harm's Way (1965), Hurry Sundown (1967), Stay Away Joe (1968) as Elvis Presley's character's father, Skidoo (1968) and Such Good Friends (1971). He was the Penguin in the Batman movie of 1966 based on the popular ABC-TV series. Meredith played Rocky Balboa's trainer, Mickey Goldmill, in the first three Rocky films (1976, 1979 and 1982), to great acclaim. Even though his character died in the third Rocky film, he returned briefly in the fifth film, Rocky V (1990). He played an old Korean War veteran Captain J.G. Williams in The Last Chase with Lee Majors. He appeared in Ray Harryhausen's last stop-motion feature Clash of the Titans (1981), in a supporting role. He also appeared in the campy family film Santa Claus: The Movie (1985). In his last years, he played Jack Lemmon's character's father in Grumpy Old Men (1993) and its sequel, Grumpier Old Men (1995).
Burgess was nominated for Academy Awards in the Best Supporting Actor category for his roles in The Day of the Locust (1975) and Rocky (1976). Another notable role was as Goldie Hawn's landlord in Foul Play (1978) where he had a supporting role opposite comedian/actor Chevy Chase and actress Goldie Hawn.
Meredith appeared in four different starring roles in the acclaimed anthology TV series The Twilight Zone, tying him with Jack Klugman for the most appearances on the show. In the famous "Time Enough at Last", a 1959 episode of The Twilight Zone, Meredith plays a henpecked bank teller who only wants to be left alone with his books. In the 1961 episode "Mr. Dingle, the Strong", Meredith plays the title character, a timid weakling who, as the subject of a space alien's experiment on human nature, suddenly acquires superhuman strength. In "Printer's Devil", Meredith portrayed the Devil himself, and in "The Obsolete Man" he portrayed a librarian, sentenced to death in a future, dystopian totalitarian society. He would later play two more roles in Rod Serling's other anthology series, Night Gallery. Meredith was the narrator for Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1983. He did not receive on-screen credit for his narration (this was so that he could do the job for scale rather than charge his usual minimum fee); as compensation for Meredith's uncredited work, his name was inserted into the dialogue in a scene between Dan Aykroyd and Albert Brooks.
Burgess appeared in various television programs, including the role of Chris, III, in the 1962 episode "Hooray, Hooray, the Circus Is Coming to Town" of the NBC medical drama about psychiatry, The Eleventh Hour starring Wendell Corey and Jack Ging. He also guest starred in the ABC drama about psychiatry, Breaking Point in the 1963 episode titled "Heart of Marble, Body of Stone".
Meredith appeared in various western series too, such as Rawhide (four times), The Virginian (twice), Wagon Train, Branded, The Wild Wild West, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, Laredo and Daniel Boone.
In 1963, he appeared as Vincent Marion in a five-part episode of the last season of the Warner Brothers ABC-TV detective series 77 Sunset Strip. He starred three times in Burke's Law (1963–1964), starring Gene Barry. Meredith also played The Penguin in the popular ABC-TV series Batman. His role as the Penguin was so well-received that the show's writers always had a script featuring the Penguin ready whenever Meredith was available. He and Cesar Romero's Joker are tied for number of appearances on the show.
Autobiography and personal life
In 1994, Meredith published his autobiography, So Far, So Good. In the book he confessed that he suffered from violent mood swings which were caused by cyclothymis, a form of Bipolar disorder. Burgess was married four times, including to actresses Margaret Perry and Paulette Goddard. His last marriage (to Kaja Sundsten) lasted 46 years, and produced two children, Jonathon (a musician) and Tala (a painter).
- "Burgess Meredith dies at 89 - Sept. 10, 1997". CNN. 1997-09-10. http://www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/9709/10/meredith.obit/. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
- "24 X 7". Infoplease.com. 1907-11-16. http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0281490.html. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
- "Burgess Meredith, 89, Who Was at Ease Playing Good Guys and Villains, Dies - New York Times". Nytimes.com. 1997-09-11. http://www.nytimes.com/1997/09/11/movies/burgess-meredith-89-who-was-at-ease-playing-good-guys-and-villains-dies.html. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
- "Lakewood Lore - Burgess Meredith". Lkwdpl.org. 1997-09-10. http://www.lkwdpl.org/lore/lore31.htm. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
- Turner Classic Movies (tcm.com)
- TCM/AFI Notes: The Story of G.I. Joe, Turner Classic Movies/TCM.com, first accessed September 16, 2011.
- The New Yorker, April 3, 1937, pp. 26-37.