'The Jeffersons' actor Ned Wertimer dies at 89

10:26 AM, Jan 9, 2013   |    comments
Ned Wertimer, a prolific character actor who was perhaps best known for playing Ralph the Doorman for 11 seasons on the CBS sitcom "The Jeffersons," died on January 2, 2013. He was 89. (The Today Show)
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LOS ANGELES (NBC) -- Ned Wertimer, a prolific character actor who was perhaps best known for playing Ralph the Doorman for 11 seasons on the CBS sitcom "The Jeffersons," has died. He was 89.

Wertimer died Jan. 2 at the Sherman Village Health Care Center outside of Los Angeles from complications following a fall in his Burbank home in late November, his longtime manager, Brad Lemack, announced Tuesday.

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Wertimer had more than 100 TV credits in his career as he guest-starred on such series as "Gunsmoke," "McMillan and Wife," "Car 54, Where Are You?," "The Debbie Reynolds Show," "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," "WKRP in Cincinnati," "Mork & Mindy, "He & She" and "Family Law."

On film, he played stockbroker Fred Cates in Lucille Ball's "Mame" (1974) and had roles in "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" (1964), "The Impossible Years" (1968), "The Strongest Man in the World" (1975), "The Pack" (1977) and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (2007).

Wertimer's character of the money-hungry doorman Ralph Hart was introduced during a 1975 episode of "All in the Family" titled "The Jeffersons Move on Up." On the Norman Lear spinoff, Ralph was always looking for a tip from the increasingly annoyed tenants of the luxury high-rise Colby East building in Manhattan.

Wertimer appeared in 51 of the 253 episodes of "The Jeffersons," which was one of the longest-running sitcoms in TV history.

Wertimer was born in Buffalo, N.Y., on Oct. 27, 1923. After serving as a pilot in World War II, he attended the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and received a degree in business administration.

While at school, Wertimer was active in the Mask and Wig Club, the all-male musical troupe founded in 1889. He had major roles in its 1947 production of "Juleo and Romiet," playing Lady Montague, and in the 1948 production of "Alaska Right Away," as Senator Forghorn.

Wertimer soon found success on Broadway. He was an assistant stage manager and cast-member in "Texas L'il Darlin'," a Robert Emmett Dolan/Johnny Mercer musical that opened in November 1949, and he appeared in Garson Kanin's "The Live Wire," which opened in August 1950.

In New York, Wertimer also began to get roles in the new medium of television, appearing in many of the popular shows of the era. He became a regular guest on the children's series "The Shari Lewis Show," which highlighted his natural gifts for mimicry and improv.

In 1961, Wertimer replaced Paul Lynde in the Tony Award-winning production of "Bye Bye Birdie." He also worked in numerous national touring and stock productions of plays and musicals, including "Brigadoon," "Hatful of Rain," "Witness for the Prosecution," "A Man for All Seasons," "Cyrano de Bergerac," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Bells Are Ringing," "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" and, much later, "The Best of The Jeffersons," a re-creation of three episodes from the TV series starring its original cast.

In the mid-1960s, Wertimer moved to Los Angeles to continue his career.

Wertimer was involved in AFTRA and SAG's union contract negotiations over the years and served as a dedicated, longtime member of the board of directors of the AFTRA SAG Federal Credit Union.

Survivors include his wife Skyne, professor emerita at California State University Long Beach; his sister-in-law Eleanor; and a niece and three nephews. Services will be private.

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