Bill Erwin

William Lindsey Erwin (December 2, 1914 – December 29, 2010) was an American film, television and stage actor and cartoonist with over 250 television and film credits. A veteran character actor, he is widely known for his 1993 Emmy Award-nominated performance on Seinfeld, portraying the embittered, irascible retiree Sid Fields. He also made notable appearances on shows such as I Love Lucy and Star Trek: The Next Generation. In cinema, his most recognized role is that of Arthur, a kindly bellhop at the Mackinac Island Grand Hotel, in Somewhere in Time (1980).[1]

Bill Erwin
William Lindsey Erwin

(1914-12-02)December 2, 1914
DiedDecember 29, 2010(2010-12-29) (aged 96)
OccupationActor, cartoonist
Years active1941–2010
Fran MacLachlan
(m. 1948; died 1995)
Bill Erwin (signature).png

Erwin was a self-taught cartoonist, published in The New Yorker, Playboy, and Los Angeles. He won a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award,[1] four Drama-Logue Awards, Gilmore Brown Award for Career Achievement, Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters' Diamond Circle Award, and Distinguished Alumnus Award from Angelo State University.

Early lifeEdit

Erwin was born in Honey Grove, Texas,[2] to Lee Eugene and Ida Mae (née Lindsey) Erwin. He had a sister named Mary Gene Cosper.[3] He attended San Angelo College[citation needed] before earning his bachelor's degree in journalism at the University of Texas, graduating in 1935.[1] He completed a masters of theater arts[citation needed] at California's Pasadena Playhouse in 1941. After serving as a Captain in the United States Army Air Corps in World War II, Erwin returned to Hollywood to resume his acting career.[4] His first film role was in the 1942 film You're in the Army Now.



Erwin acted in productions at the Pasadena Playhouse, the Laguna Beach Playhouse, the La Jolla Playhouse, and other venues in the Los Angeles area.[1]


In the late 1950s, Erwin was in such films as Man from Del Rio (1956) and The Night Runner (1957), before playing Jack Nicholson's father in The Cry Baby Killer, Nicholson's first starring role in 1958. The long out-of-print film was released on DVD on November 22, 2006. He had credited small roles in films such as The Christine Jorgensen Story (1970), How Awful About Allan (1970), Candy Stripe Nurses (1974) and Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo (1977), before he co-starred alongside Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour in the 1980 romantic fantasy Somewhere in Time as Arthur Biehl, the Grand Hotel's venerable bellman, and attended annual reunions of cast, crew, and fans of the film at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan.

Erwin also appeared in numerous films by John Hughes, with cameos in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), She's Having a Baby (1988), Home Alone (1990), and Dennis the Menace (1993). Hughes often paired him with Billie Bird playing his wife. His later film career included roles in Invitation to Hell (1984), Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult (1994), Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (1995), Menno's Mind (1997), Chairman of the Board (1998), Forces of Nature (1999), Inferno (1999) and A Crack in the Floor (2001).


His television credits were far more numerous in the 1950s, having appeared in such television series as I Love Lucy, Crusader, Trackdown, Colgate Theatre, Perry Mason and The Rifleman. In the 1960s, Erwin appeared in television series such as: The Andy Griffith Show, Mister Ed, Maverick, The Twilight Zone, 87th Precinct, My Three Sons, The Fugitive, Leave It to Beaver and Mannix.

In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, he appeared in Barnaby Jones, Cannon, Gunsmoke, Married With Children, E/R, Highway to Heaven, Who's The Boss?, Growing Pains, Full House, The Golden Girls, Moonlighting, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman and The Drew Carey Show.

In the Seinfeld episode ("The Old Man"), for which Erwin received an Emmy nomination for outstanding guest actor in a comedy series,[5] he played Sid Fields, who participates in the Foster-A-Grandpa Program, which pairs him with Jerry Seinfeld. Erwin's crotchety, aggressive, foul-mouthed character ensures that the relationship is doomed from the beginning. Erwin later reunited with Michael Richards when he guest-starred on the short-lived The Michael Richards Show. In the 2000s, Erwin appeared on Monk, The West Wing, The King of Queens, Everwood and My Name Is Earl.

Other mediaEdit

After Erwin began his theatrical career with the Laguna Beach and La Jolla playhouses in 1940, he worked as ventriloquist Edgar Bergen's stage manager for Bergen's 1941 tour of the country.[4] Erwin dryly recalled, "I was in charge of the dummies."[citation needed]

Personal lifeEdit

Erwin was married to actress and journalist Fran MacLachlan Erwin from 1948 to her death in 1995. They lived in the Hollywood Hills and had two sons, Michael and Timothy, and two daughters, Lindsey and Kelly.


Erwin died from natural causes at his home in Studio City, California on December 29, 2010. He lived near the production lot where Seinfeld was filmed.[3]


Year Title Role Notes
1941 Always Tomorrow: The Portrait of an American Business Sam Tompkins Uncredited
1941 You're in the Army Now Soldier Uncredited
1948 The Velvet Touch Howard Forman
1949 Easy Living Minor Role Uncredited
1949 Battleground Warrant Officer Uncredited
1951 Double Dynamite Minor Role Uncredited
1952 Holiday for Sinners Usher Uncredited
1956 Man from Del Rio Roy Higgens Uncredited
1957 The Night Runner McDermott
1957 The Shadow on the Window Policeman Uncredited
1957 House of Numbers Bank Teller Uncredited
1957 Jet Pilot Sergeant Uncredited
1957 Witness for the Prosecution Juror Uncredited
1958 Gun Fever Bartender
1958 The Cry Baby Killer Mr. Wallace
1958 The Buccaneer Civilian Uncredited
1962 Rome Adventure Elderly Guest Uncredited
1962 Terror at Black Falls Hugh 'Squint' Edwards
1963 Under the Yum Yum Tree Teacher Uncredited
1964 The Brass Bottle Middle-Aged Man Uncredited
1968 Counterpoint Trumpet player Uncredited
1970 The Christine Jorgensen Story Pastor
1974 Candy Stripe Nurses Principal
1977 Sixth and Main
1980 Somewhere in Time Arthur Biehl
1981 Dream On!
1983 Ghost Dancing Joe Greyfeather TV movie
1984 Invitation to Hell Walt Henderson TV movie
1984 The Bear Alabama Alumni
1986 Stewardess School Orchestra Conductor
1987 Planes, Trains and Automobiles Man on Plane
1988 She's Having a Baby Grandfather
1988 Silent Assassins Dr. London
1988 The Land Before Time Grandfather Voice
1988 A Place to Hide
1990 Home Alone Ed (Man in Airport)
1990 The Willies Old Man
1990 The Color of Evening Priest
1991 Night of the Warrior Coco
1991 The Entertainers Sam
1992 Unbecoming Age Old Man
1993 Dennis the Menace Edward Little
1994 Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult Conductor
1995 Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead 70-Year-Old Man
1997 Menno's Mind Mr. Lewis
1998 Chairman of the Board Landers
1998 Art House Monty
1999 Forces of Nature Murray
1999 Inferno Eli Hamilton
2000 Stanley's Gig Jules
2000 Down 'n Dirty Janitor
2001 Cahoots Frenchy
2001 A Crack in the Floor Harold


  1. ^ a b c d "Character actor got Emmy Nod". The Los Angeles Times. California, Los Angeles. January 1, 2011. p. 21. Retrieved July 28, 2018 – via  
  2. ^ Wilson, Scott (2016). Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed. McFarland. p. 229. ISBN 9781476625997. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  3. ^ a b ""Seinfeld" actor Bill Erwin dies at 96". Reuters, via, January 3, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Lentz, Harris M., III (2011). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2010. McFarland. p. 123. ISBN 9780786486496. Retrieved 29 July 2018.
  5. ^ "("Bill Erwin" search results)". Emmy Awards. Television Academy. Archived from the original on 28 July 2018. Retrieved 28 July 2018.

External linksEdit