Hollywood has lost another wonderfully colorful supporting player: The always-enjoyable Kenneth Mars, veteran of dozens of films (most notably by Mel Brooks and Woody Allen), has passed away at the age of 75 after a battle with cancer. To a big section of my generation (to say nothing of my dad's), Mars was a face first and a "name" second -- but we loved him no less for that.
To a child watching 'Young Frankenstein,' for example, there's a lot of stuff that might fly right over his or her head. But the particularly silly contributions from Kenneth Mars and Marty Feldman stand out like huge neon flowers to an 8-year-old movie freak. His hilariously bizarre performance as Inspector Kemp was always one of my favorites, but once I got a little older and saw Mars' work in 'The Producers,' I knew that this man was a specifically gifted comedian. Simply put: It takes some real talent to play a Hitler-adoring Nazi lunatic in a broad farce and NOT come off as ugly, distasteful or unpleasant. Mr. Mars' performance as Franz Liebkind was none of those things.
But Mel Brooks wasn't the only employer who enjoyed Kenneth Mars. Disney tapped the man to play the rather important role of Ariel's over-protective papa in 'The Little Mermaid,' Woody Allen hired the man for 'Radio Days' and 'Shadows and Fog,' and Mr. Mars also provided strong character work for directors like Herbert Ross ('Protocol'), Michael Ritchie ('Fletch'), and Alexander Payne ('Citizen Ruth'). The man did seemingly triple the TV work that he did on the silver screen, but fans of both media have lost a fine companion today.
Hit the jump for some of our favorite Mars moments. And of course, our deepest condolences to the late actor's family. He will be missed.