Actor Dana Elcar died June 6 at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, California, of complications from pneumonia. He was 77.
Elcar, who appeared in more than 150 television productions and feature films in a career that spanned more than 50 years, was perhaps best known for the role of Peter Thornton, Richard Dean Anderson’s boss on the ABC series MacGyver.
The son of Danish immigrants, Ibson Dana Elcar was born October 10, 1927, in Ferndale, Michigan. At 18 he joined the U.S. Navy, and in the 1950s he moved to New York City to study with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse. He made his Broadway debut in 1955 in Roald Dahl’s The Honeys, opposite Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy.
Elcar also worked steadily off-Broadway, appearing in such landmark plays as the first American productions of Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter and The Caretaker, Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. He continued to appear in stage productions throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and eventually began to appear on television as well.
After moving to Los Angeles in 1968, Elcar added movies to his resume, and eventually appeared in more than 40, including The Learning Tree, The Sting, The Champ and All of Me. But it was on television that he made his most enduring impression. In addition to MacGyver, he had regular roles on Baretta and Baa Baa Black Sheep, and appeared in guest spots on dozens of series, including The Defenders, Mannix, Gunsmoke, Get Smart, Hawaii Five-O, The Partridge Family, Kung Fu, Falcon Crest and Matlock.
Upon relocating to the West Coast, Elcar founded two theater companies—the L.A. Actor's Theater and the Santa Paula Theater Center. He also directed episodes of Baa Baa Black Sheep, The Rockford Files and MacGyver.
Late in life, Elcar developed glaucoma, which eventually led to the loss of his eyesight. When his condition developed, it was written into MacGyver. He later played blind characters in episodes of Law & Order and ER.
Elcar is survived by his companion, Thelma M. Garcia, three daughters and a son.