Since I’ve already written about J. Pat O’Malley once when I discussed “The Fugitive” episode of The Twilight Zone, it’s only right that I go all in and do a guest star post about him. After all, he is one of my favorites anyway.
The adorable, sweet-faced actor has 242 credits listed on IMDB, and many of those are in TV Land, including recurring roles on Maude, A Touch of Grace, Wendy and Me, My Favorite Martian, Frontier Circus, Black Saddle, and The Adventures of Spin and Marty.
He also had the tendency to appear on shows multiple times, but as different characters. He appeared at least three times on Rawhide, The Twilight Zone, Death Valley Days, The Fugitive, The Real McCoys, The Virginian, Adam-12, Emergency!, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and Barney Miller.
Of his three appearances on Barney Miller, his role as Mr. Holliman in “Dirty Rat” is probably my favorite. He plays a lovable ol’ houseless man who goes to a department store for the free samples and ends up falling asleep. When he wakes up, the store is closed until Monday. He makes himself at home while waiting for the store to open, but unfortunately, he couldn’t find an alarm clock so he could wake up in time to sneak out of the store. It’s a sweet, funny character, which is usually what I think of when I think of J. Pat O’Malley.
His appearance as Old Bill in the “Messing Around” episode of Emergency! is another one of my favorites. A sweet gent who entertains the folks waiting in the ER at Rampart General while seeking treatment for the persistent ailment of loneliness, Old Bill’s health takes a turn for the serious later in the episode and the paramedics have to intervene. What I like so much about it is not just his portrayal of Old Bill, but also everyone else’s response to him. They know he’s lonely and looking for a little attention, but they also don’t doubt him when he presents with an actual health concern. It’s just that he leaves to go home before he’s seen because he doesn’t think it’s anything to worry about. I can’t imagine pulling that twist off with another actor because of how endearing Old Bill has to be for it to work.
J. Pat did a tour of the Henningverse, appearing on The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres (4 times), and Petticoat Junction (2 times); was a medicine man on F-Troop; he welcomed the Bradys to TV in the pilot for The Brady Bunch; was Rob Petrie’s grandfather on The Dick Van Dyke Show; and attempted to con Barney Fife’s landlady on The Andy Griffith Show.
His cherub face graced Westerns like Alias Smith and Jones, The Big Valley, Wagon Train, Wanted: Dead or Alive, The Rebel, Daniel Boone, Maverick, Stoney Burke, and The Wild Wild West; sitcoms like Three’s Company, Taxi, One Day at a Time, I Dream of Jeanie, Bewitched, and Hogan’s Heroes; law and order shows like Perry Mason, The Untouchables, Burke’s Law, Ironside, Quincy ME, and The Mod Squad; and PI classics like Barretta, The Rockford Files, Banacek, and Mannix.
He got soapy on Soap, thrilled on Thriller, tested his luck on Mr. Lucky, duked around with The Dukes of Hazzard, and batted around with Batman. He even had a brush with zombies on Kolchak: the Nightstalker.
And if you somehow still don’t recognize J. Pat’s face, you’ll probably recognize his voice. This singer provided the voices for characters in Disney classics such as One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Robin Hood, Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, and Alice in Wonderland.
Maybe J. Pat O’Malley didn’t stray much from type (at least not in the many things I’ve seen him in), but he played that type so well that it’s hard to think of him as anything other than somewhat lovable. And memorable.
After all, I named one of the neighborhood cats J. Patch O’Malley after him.