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William Duell

Performer
( b. Aug 30, 1923 Corinth, New York, USA - d. Dec 22, 2011 New York, New York, USA ) Male
Also known as: Darwin William Duell [Birthname]
William Duell was a diminutive character actor whose puckishness and understated comic flair enlivened Broadway shows, television series and Hollywood films.

Mr. Duell, who was less than five and a half feet tall and weighed not quite 140 pounds, was never a star, but he had a slyly roguish and perpetually boyish mug that always added spice to the roles of cabdrivers, shoeshine men, butlers and desk clerks he often played. He brought a kind of perky oddity even to serious roles.

In "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975), Milos Forman's adaptation of the Ken Kesey novel set in a mental institution (starring Jack Nicholson), Mr. Duell played Sefelt, an epileptic inmate who fears his medication. In the early 1980s, he had a regular role as Johnny, a snitch, in "Police Squad!," the spoof of police dramas, starring Leslie Nielsen, created in the mold of the hit film "Airplane!"

In 1969, in the original Broadway production of the historical musical 1776, Mr. Duell played Andrew McNair, the custodian of the Continental Congress and the man who rang the Liberty Bell to announce the nation's independence; he repeated the role in the 1972 film version.

And in the 1996 Broadway revival of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Mr. Duell played Erronius, a man in search of his sons who has been dispatched by a soothsayer to circle the seven hills of Rome seven times. At intervals during the show he would appear from backstage, trotting in from the wings, and announce the lap; by the third time he was so winded that he could only signal.

"The audience adored him," Nathan Lane, who starred in the show, said in an interview. "The first time around he'd get a huge laugh. The second time he'd get a huge laugh. The third time, he'd just hold up his fingers -- and it brought the house down."

George William Duell was named for his father, George Leon Duell, who worked for the International Paper Company. His mother, the former Eliza Janet Harrington, with whom William spent a good deal of his life -- he lived with her until her death in 2001 -- decided at some point that she didn't like her son's first name and legally changed it to Darwin. Mr. Duell never used it.

He attended Green Mountain College in Vermont, where he began acting, playing his first role, a detective, in Arsenic and Old Lace.

Mr. Duell was a Navy medic during World War II, serving stateside. He finished his undergraduate career at Illinois Wesleyan University and earned a master's degree from Yale Drama School. One classmate there, Paul Newman, helped him get a role as a pool player in the 1961 film "The Hustler," in which Newman starred.

During the 1950s, Mr. Duell appeared on many live broadcasts of television dramas. His last Broadway appearance was in a revival of The Man Who Came to Dinner, starring Mr. Lane, in 2000.

Source: The New York Times



Productions Date of Productions
The Man Who Came to Dinner
[Play, Comedy, Revival]
  • Performer: William Duell [Dr. Bradley]
Jul 27, 2000 - Oct 08, 2000
1776
[Musical, Comedy, History, Revival]
  • Performer: William Duell
    • Caesar Rodney - Replacement
Aug 14, 1997 - Jun 14, 1998
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
[Musical, Comedy, Farce, Revival]
  • Also Starring: William Duell [Erronius]
Apr 18, 1996 - Jan 04, 1998
The Marriage of Figaro
[Play, Comedy, Original]
  • Performer: William Duell [Antonio]
Oct 10, 1985 - Dec 15, 1985
The Inspector General
[Play, Revival]
  • Performer: William Duell [Pytor Ivánovich Bóbchinsky]
Sep 21, 1978 - Nov 19, 1978
Stages
[Play, Original]
  • Performer: William Duell [Colin Dickinson, Attorney for the Witness, Stanley, The Banker]
  • Understudy: William Duell [Arnold Glickman, Dundeen Dickinson, Theater Owner]
Mar 19, 1978 - Mar 19, 1978
Kings
[Special, Dance, Drama, Original]
  • Performer: William Duell
Sep 27, 1976 - Oct 18, 1976
Threepenny Opera
[Musical, Drama, Revival]
  • Performer: William Duell [Crook-Finger Jack]
May 01, 1976 - Jan 23, 1977
1776
[Musical, Comedy, History, Original]
  • Performer: William Duell [Andrew McNair]
Mar 16, 1969 - Feb 13, 1972
Illya Darling
[Musical, Original]
  • Performer: William Duell [Garbage]
Apr 11, 1967 - Jan 13, 1968
The Ballad of the Sad Cafe
[Play, Original]
  • Performer: William Duell [Horace Wells]
  • Understudy: William Duell [Merlie Ryan]
Oct 30, 1963 - Feb 15, 1964
A Cook for Mr. General
[Play, Comedy, Original]
  • Performer: William Duell [Cook]
Oct 19, 1961 - Nov 11, 1961
Threepenny Opera
[Musical, Drama, Revival]
  • Also Starring: William Duell
    • Charles Filch (Sep 30, 1955 - Sep 1961)
    • Messenger
Sep 20, 1955 - Dec 17, 1961
Threepenny Opera
[Musical, Drama, Operetta, Revival]
  • Also Starring: William Duell [Charles Filch]
Mar 10, 1954 - May 30, 1954
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