JOHN HOYT IS DEAD; ACTOR, 86, PLAYED IN FILMS AND ON TV
John Hoyt, an actor who appeared on stage, on television and in films, died on Sunday at his home in Santa Cruz, Calif. He was 86 years old. He died of cancer, his family said.
Mr. Hoyt had a career spanning more than half a century during which he appeared in dozens of roles, from serious Shakespearean characters to comic personalities like the grandfather on the television series "Gimme A Break."
Mr. Hoyt, whose original name was Hoysradt, was born in Bronxville, N.Y. He attended Yale University, where he earned a bachelor's and a masters' degree. After two years as a history teacher at the Groton School in Massachusetts, he appeared with several regional theater groups before making his Broadway debut in 1931 in William Bolitho's "Overture."
The next year Mr. Hoyt, who was an accomplished pianist, became the "ghost" pianist, playing offstage for Katherine Cornell, who was portraying a concert artist in Sidney Howard's play "Alien Corn." He also appeared in "The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936," along with Bob Hope, Josephine Baker, Fanny Brice and others. A year later, Mr. Hoyt became a member of Orson Welles's Mercury Theater and worked with the company until he moved to Hollywood in 1945. During that time, he appeared in such plays as "Julius Caesar," "Heartbreak House," and "'Tis Pity She's a Whore." He also worked as a stand-up comedian, often leaving the theater at the end of a performance to do his comedy routine in clubs like the Rainbow Room at Rockefeller Center. Mr. Hoyt appeared in 75 films, including "Spartacus," "Blackboard Jungle," "Cleopatra," "When Worlds Collide," and "Flash Gordon." On television, he performed on "Playhouse 90" and was seen in the original pilot of the "Star Trek" series as well as episodes of "Bonanza," "The Twilight Zone" and "Hogan's Heroes." At age 77, after moving to Santa Cruz, he signed a contract with NBC to play Grandpa Kanisky on "Gimme A Break," a role he portrayed for seven years.* He is survived by his wife, Dorothy; a son, David, a stepson, Kurt L. Haveman, both of Santa Cruz, and 10 grandchildren.
*This is obviously an error.