Paul Gilbert (actor)

Paul Gilbert (born Ed MacMahon;[1] December 27, 1918 – February 13, 1976) was an American film and television actor.

Paul Gilbert
Paul Gilbert 1950s.JPG
Gilbert circa 1954.
Ed MacMahon

(1918-12-27)December 27, 1918
DiedFebruary 13, 1976(1976-02-13) (aged 57)
Years active1954–1973
Spouse(s)Barbara Crane
ChildrenMelissa Gilbert
Jonathan Gilbert


Gilbert's family were vaudeville performers, and he began his career as an aerialist until he had a fall.[1] He continued performing music, dancing and comedy.[1]

He starred in the 1954 series The Duke as a former boxer who has decided to give up his fighting career to become a respectable nightclub owner. In the pilot episode, Gilbert sings, dances, juggles and plays four instruments in the band.[1]

Gilbert played various roles and performed on numerous shows including The Spike Jones Show in 1954. He played the role of murder victim Harrison Boring in the 1964 Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Blonde Bonanza." Gilbert also appeared in other early television shows such as The NBC Comedy Hour, The Colgate Comedy Hour and Lux Video Theatre.[citation needed]

In the 1960s, Gilbert was seen on several network television series including The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Hollywood Palace, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., Good Morning World and The Dean Martin Show. An accomplished juggler, Gilbert appeared on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In as a French juggler.[2]

On May 9, 1964 (the day after her birth), Gilbert and his wife Barbara Crane adopted Melissa Gilbert,[3] who played Laura Ingalls Wilder, and her brother Jonathan Gilbert,[3] who played Willie Oleson, on the NBC TV series Little House on the Prairie.[4]


Gilbert was believed to have died suddenly of a stroke on February 13, 1976. In her autobiography, Melissa Gilbert wrote that because of suffering caused by constant pain stemming from World War II injuries, he died by suicide.[4][5]

Actress and producer Sara Gilbert (born Sara Rebecca Abeles), the daughter of Paul Gilbert's wife Barbara and her second husband, Harold Abeles, took the Gilbert surname in 1984 although she had no blood or legal ties to Paul Gilbert.[citation needed]


Year Title Role Notes
1954 So This Is Paris Davy Jones
1955 The Second Greatest Sex Roscoe Dobbs
1956 You Can't Run Away from It George Shapely
1964 3 Nuts in Search of a Bolt Joe Lynch
1965 Sylvia Lola Diamond
1965 Cat Ballou Train Messenger
1966 Women of the Prehistoric Planet Lt. Red Bradley


  1. ^ a b c d Leszczak, Bob (2012-11-02). Single Season Sitcoms, 1948-1979: A Complete Guide. McFarland. pp. 41–. ISBN 9780786468126. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  2. ^ Waldron, Vince (2001). The Official Dick Van Dyke Show Book: The Definitive History and Ultimate Viewer's Guide to Television's Most Enduring Comedy. Applause. pp. 353–. ISBN 9781557834539. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  3. ^ a b Davis, Patti. The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us: Prominent Women Discuss the Complex, Humorous, and Ultimately Loving Relationships They Have with Their Mothers. pp. 20–. ISBN 9781458772220. Retrieved February 26, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Gilbert, Melissa (2009). Prairie Tale: A Memoir (1st ed.), pg. 114. Gallery Books; ISBN 1416599177/ISBN 978-1416599173
  5. ^ Capretto, Lisa (4 November 2014). "How Melissa Gilbert Learned The Painful Truth About Her Father's Death (VIDEO)" – via Huff Post.

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