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‘Frasier’ Dad John Mahoney is Dead
John Mahoney, who played the dad in TV’s Frasier, has died at the age of 77. Mahoney’s manager, Paul Martino confirmed that the actor died Sunday in Chicago while in hospice care, according to the Chicago Tribune. The cause was throat cancer.
Though best known as Kelsey Grammer’s father on the hit NBC sitcom, Mahoney began his career in his 40s, relatively late in life, when he started performing with John Malkovich and Gary Sinise at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre company.
In 1986, Mahoney won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his Broadway debut as Artie Shaughnessy, a small-time songwriter aching to move up in the world, in John Guare’s The House of Blue Leaves. His performance is really something. The show had a murderers’ row of a cast—Stockard Channing, Swoosie Kurtz, Ben Stiller, to name a few—but Mahoney’s wounded humanity makes it nearly impossible to watch anyone else. A Lincoln Center staging of the play is up on YouTube in its entirety, and is worth a couple of hours of your time.
Mahoney specialized in playing these kinds of upbeat but disillusioned men, wearied by an unkind world but struggling to do the right thing. His Kid Gleason, unwitting manager of the crooked 1919 Chicago White Sox in Eight Men Out, is a heartbreaker. In 1988’s Say Anything, he played the father of Ione Skye’s Diane, who disapproves of John Cusack’s Lloyd and will end up in prison for embezzling from a nursing home, yet we still find ourselves caring for him. A look into those eyes convinces you he’s doing what he’s doing out of love. He was so vulnerable it hurt you.
John Mahoney and Kelsey Grammer on the set of Frasier.
That’s why it’s so surprising that his breakout role was such a hard-ass. For all 11 seasons of Frasier, a highly successful spin-off of the long-running NBC hit Cheers, Mahoney played the titular character’s dad, Martin Crane, who moves in with his son at the onset of the show. Playing a no-nonsense former cop, Mahoney served as a comedic counterweight to the cerebral psychiatrist played by Grammer. Mahoney was nominated for an Emmy and Golden Globe for the role, and won a Screen Actor’s Guild Award in 2000.
During his 35-year career, the Blackpool, England-born actor—who came to the US at the age of 19—also appeared in The American President, Moonstruck, and Reality Bites.