Three-time Emmy nominee David Ogden Stiers was walking-talking-acting-and singing proof of the benefits of classical theater training. Being in the right place at the right time did not hurt the TV veteran actor either. His involvement with San Francisco comedy in the late '60s, New York theater in the early '70s and quality-driven TV comedies of the late '70s gave him a broad foundation on which to craft a versatile career in the performing arts. His early, high-profile role as the erudite Dr. Charles Winchester on M*A*S*H (CBS, 1972-1983) may have laid the groundwork for decades of playing doctors, lawyers, judges, and politicians, but his credits extended far beyond that to include eloquent voice work in documentaries and dramatic characters in classic animated children's films. The multi-talent also enjoyed an additional career as a professional conductor with symphony orchestras around the country. David Ogden Stiers died at his home in Newport, Oregon of complications from bladder cancer on March 3, 2018. He was 75 years old.
David Ogden Stiers was born on Halloween of 1942 in Peoria, IL. He grew up in Eugene, OR, where his talents for playing piano, French horn, and acting hinted at a potential future in the performing arts. After a short and unsuccessful stint at Eugene's U of O, Stiers was offered an acting job with the California Shakespeare Company in Santa Clara, and spent the next seven seasons in productions of "Othello," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Twelfth Night," and other stage classics. While working in the Bay Area, he also performed with the San Francisco Actor's Workshop and the ground-breaking improv comedy group, The Committee, whose fellow cast members included Rob Reiner, Howard Hesseman and Second City improve founder, Del Close. At the age of 27, with a very long stage resume, Stiers picked up and moved to New York City to study voice and drama at the Juilliard School - one of the top performing arts conservatories in the country.
In the Big Apple, Stiers found an unprecedented amount of acting and training opportunities. There seemed to be no limits to where his career could go. John Houseman became his mentor at Juilliard, and when Houseman founded The Acting Company, Stiers was among its first players (along with fellow students Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone). He appeared in Acting Company productions of "The Lower Depths," "The Hostage" and "School for Scandal." While at Juilliard, Stiers also got his foot in the door of the symphonic world when he narrated and conducted the French musical suite, "The Carnival of Animals" at Lincoln Center. In 1974, he made his Broadway debut opposite Zero Mostel, no less, in "Ulysses in Nighttown," and helped launch Doug Henning's magical/musical hybrid hit, "The Magic Show," for which he also appeared on the soundtrack recording.
Though he had made quite a dent in the New York theater scene in only five years, Stiers was a West Coaster at heart and ready to return to California. He transitioned easily to television work and found small roles on seventies mainstays like "Kojak" (CBS, 1973-78) and "Rhoda" (CBS, 1974-78), before landing a recurring role as the stuttering, toupee-wearing, station manager on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" (CBS, 1970-77). Stiers also played a prominent part in the pilot of "Charlie's Angels" (ABC, 1976-81) and was offered a role on the show when it was picked up. In a brilliant promontory move, he declined, only to be offered a career-making gig on "M*A*S*H" less than a year later.
In 1977, Stiers joined the cast of "M*A*S*H," the award-winning sitcom that followed a team of doctors and staff stationed at the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Korea during the Korean War. The show already had a stellar reputation as one of the most highly-regarded - if not the most highly regarded - comedies on TV, with its juxtaposition of real life wartime horror and sophisticated humor. "Sophisticated" was one of the key words in casting the role of Major Charles Emerson Winchester III, a snobbish Boston blueblood and Harvard Medical School grad with a passion for Tchaikovsky, Ravel, and Mozart. His character was introduced to fill a void at the 4077 when Major Frank Burns (Larry Linville) was discharged from service. Major Winchester proved to be a whole new type of foil for Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) and B.J. Hunnicut (Mike Farrell) - due in part to his arrogance, ego, and ability to keep up with their clever wit. He initially kept his distance from the rest of the camp, but eventually he cracked and his humanity showed itself - often through his love of music. In the series finale, which remained one of the highest rated television episodes of all time, Winchester discovered a group of traditional Chinese musicians among the camp's POWs, and taught them a Mozart piece. Stiers received two Emmy nominations during his five years on the iconic series.
The end of "M*A*S*H" was the end of TV era, but the beginning of a new career focus for Stiers. He had appeared on the big screen during his "M*A*S*H" tenure with the feature films "Oh God!" (1977) and "Magic" (1978), but began landing even more film gigs with the cult fave "Better off Dead"(1985) as well as "The Accidental Tourist"(1988) and the Michael J. Fox vehicle, "Doc Hollywood"(1991). Stiers was still seen regularly in made-for-TV movies and "Perry Mason" episodes, but soon his booming baritone began to take center stage. In 1991, he began an ongoing relationship with Disney, as well as a long and lucrative career in voice-overs with his role as the narrator Cogsworth in the animated hit, "Beauty and the Beast" (1991). He followed it up with Disney's "Pocahontas"(1995), "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"(1997), and "Lilo & Stitch" (2002) - the latter of which, he also voiced sequels and a spin-off television series (Disney, 2003-06). The PBS documentary world also embraced him, and he became the dramatic, authoritative voice behind the revered Ric Burns series, "New York: A Documentary Film" (PBS, 1999), as well as "Ansel Adams," "The History of Chicago," "Nixon in China," and many science titles for the Nova series. On the other end of the cultural spectrum, the emerging field of video games was in growing need of voice-over artists, and Stiers contributed to many titles; even reprising his role as Cogsworth in "Beauty and the Beast" for the game "Kingdom Hearts II." He would, in fact, trot out Cogsworth one more time for Disney's live Broadway production of "Beauty & the Beast."
During the 1990s, Stiers also enjoyed a stint as one of Woody Allen's favored actors, joining the ensemble casts of "Mighty Aphrodite"(1995), "Everyone Says I Love You"(1996) and "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion"(2001). He continued to make guest TV appearances throughout his career, and in 2002, finally returned to the fall lineup with his first regular cast role since "M*A*S*H." Stiers played Reverend Purdy in the USA series, "The Dead Zone" (USA, 2002-07) a dark, mystical series based on the Stephen King book of the same name. Throughout his acting career, he always found time for his other great love - classical music - by conducting 50 orchestras in the United States and Canada. He maintained two positions as Associate Conductor of The Newport Symphony Orchestra and the Ernest Bloch Music Festival. Whenever possible, he enjoyed returning to the stage to perform in Shakespeare festivals. Only weeks after "M*A*S*H" was honored with a TV Land Impact Award in early 2009, Stiers came out to a celebrity blog, declaring that he was gay. Stiers next appeared on the big screen in the film "Not Dead Yet" (2009), followed by two final screen roles in Neil Stryker and the Tyrants of Time" (2017) and "The Joneses Unplugged" (2017). He also had a recurring voice role on the animated sitcom "Regular Show" (Cartoon Network 2010-17). David Ogden Stiers died at his home in Newport, Oregon of complications from bladder cancer on March 3, 2018. He was 75 years old.
Cast (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Made his feature acting debut in "Drive, He Said", credited as David Stiers
Made his Broadway acting debut in "Ulysses in Nightgown," opposite Zero Mostel
TV-movie debut, the pilot movie for "Charlie's Angels"
TV series debut as a regular, "Doc"
Joined the cast of the popular comedy-drama series "M*A*S*H"
TV miniseries debut, "The First Olympics: Athens 1896"
Gained widest film exposure to date by providing the narration and voice of "Cogsworth" the clock for Disney hit "Beauty and the Beast"
Provided character voices for Disney's "Pocahontas"
Voiced the Archdeacon in Disney's animated "The Hunchback of Notre Dame"
Had featured role in the sitcom "Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place" (ABC), dropped from series after initial midseason run
Co-starred in the CBS sitcom "Love & Money"
Co-starred in "The Majestic"
Portrayed a hypnotist in Woody Allen's "The Curse of the Jade Scorpion"
Voiced Dr. Jumba Jookiba in Disney's "Lilo & Stitch"
Was the uncredited narrator of M. Night Shyamalan's "Lady in the Water"
Returned to Broadway playing a beloved wartime general in the holiday run of "Irving Berlin's White Christmas"
Voiced Mr. Maellard on "Regular Show"
Appeared in his final role as Ralph Wilson in TV movie "The Joneses Unplugged"