Sep. 28th, 1923
New York City, New York, USA
Guest TV Roles
Howard Dale Converse
Dr. Charles Nolan
Russell L. 'Russ' Rankin
Harrison (segment "Love and the Visitor")
This veteran New York-born character actor was named after his great-grandfather, Lincolnesque politician William Windom. Born in 1923, he attended Williams College and the University of Kentucky, among others, before serving the Army during WWII. Following the armistice, he studied at both Fordham and Columbia universities in New York City before settling on an acting career. Trained at the American Repertory Theatre (1946-1961), he made his minor Broadway debut with the company in November of 1946 with revolving productions of "Henry VIII," "What Every Woman Knows," "John Gabriel Borkman" and "Androcles and the Lion." The following year he continued building up his Broadway resume with roles in "Yellow Jack" and as the White Rabbit in a production of "Alice in Wonderland."
In the early 1950s a new avenue opened up to him: television. For the duration of the decade he shifted between stage, which included Broadway roles in "A Girl Can Tell" (1953), "Mademoiselle Colombe" (1954), "Fallen Angels" (1956), "The Greatest Man Alive" (1957) and "Viva Madison Avenue!" (1960), and TV drama, with stalwart work in such programs as "Robert Montgomery Presents" and "Hallmark Hall of Fame."
Major attention came Windom's way on TV moving into the following decade. In addition to hundreds of guest appearances on the most popular shows of the day ("Combat!," "The Fugitive," "All in the Family," "Dallas," "Highway to Heaven"), his standout work included a co-starring role opposite the luminous Inger Stevens in the popular light comedy series "The Farmer's Daughter" (1963). On the show Windom portrayed widower Glenn Morley, a congressman who eventually falls in love with his pert and pretty Swedish governess Katy Holstrum (Stevens). Prior to this success, both he and Ms. Stevens had been singularly recognized for their sterling performances on various episodes of "The Twilight Zone." Following this success, Windom enjoyed critical notice as the cartoonist/protagonist whose vivid imagination causes problems on the homefront on the Thurberesque weekly series "My World and Welcome to It" (1969). Despite the show's critical merit and Windom's "Best Actor" Emmy win, the show, years ahead of its time, lasted only one season. Decades later Windom would play James Thurber on stage in a one-man show.
The native New Yorker went on to essay a number of loungy Southerners and down-home types with incredible ease--both heroes and villains. He offered strong support in his film debut as Gregory Peck's opposing counsel in the Alabama-based To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), and went on to play prelate Norman Vincent Peale's father in One Man's Way (1964) starring Don Murray (I). Windom demonstrated the maturity to carry off the character even though he was only 5 years older than Murray. He also delivered a variety of pungent roles in such films as The Detective (1968) (as a closeted gay married man), Robert Altman (I)'s Brewster McCloud (1970) (as a mayor facing a series of murders) and The Man (1972) (as a rascist politician).
Growing slier and stockier over the years, Windom provided TV audiences with a colorful gallery of ingratiating, cantankerous and often times unscrupulous characters. He became a regular for over a decade on the Angela Lansbury whodunnit series "Murder, She Wrote" (1984), joining the show in its second season as Dr. Seth Hazlitt. He briefly left 'Murder" to work on another series, "Parenthood" (1990), which was based on the highly popular 1989 movie starring Steve Martin (I). Here, Ed Begley Jr. took over the Martin part and Windom assumed Jason Robards's patriarchal role as Begley's father. The show was off the air within a few months, however, and Windom was invited back to the mystery series -- a semi-regular until the show folded in 1997.
In addition, he has reprised a "Star Trek" part as Commodore Matt Decker; appeared in scores of mini-movies; given voice to various book readings; presented a second one-man show, this time that of combat reporter Ernie Pyle; and continues to film at age 80+, his latest being Yesterday's Dreams (2005). The five-times-married Windom has been wed to writer Patricia Veronica Tunder for 31 years. A chess, tennis and sailing enthusiast, he has four children.
- His great grandfather, politician William Windom (1827-1891), served in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate as a Republican for Minnesota; later became Secretary of the Treasury under James Garfield and Benjamin Harrison. His own character of Glen Morley in _"The Farmer's Daughter" (1963)_ (qv) was also a congressman from Minnesota.
- He's owned seven different small boats since 1953 and won numerous sailing trophies.
- Five-year-old William Windom was a pupil of kindergarten teacher 'Margaret Hamilton' (qv) until she threw him out for rambunctious behavior.
- Windom bought a small island for $1.00 in Windom, Minnesota, so named for his great-grandfather, a one-time member of Lincoln's Kitchen Cabinet. The island's a wildlife refuge.
- Chess enthusiast.
- Married five times, he has four children: Rachel, Heather Juliet, Hope and Rebel Russell, the youngest.
- During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army with the 508th parachute infantry.
- Has been profiled in Chess Life magazine twice (he is a tournament player with a penchant for unusual openings; one of his positions had turned up in a Chess Life problem column before the magazine interviewed him). The second time, in 1988, he appeared with his friend, 'Claude Akins' (qv) (who had been on _"Murder, She Wrote" (1984)_ (qv) as "Captain Ethan Craig" the season before Windom became "Dr. Seth Hazlitt") playing a game in Windom's back yard. During an interview for the article, Windom said that he planned to have a large Rook (the castle-shaped piece) made of Nubian marble and cap it with a compass rose, "and one day my ashes will be buried underneath it".
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