Richard Mulligan Biography
Claim to Fame: Actor (The Golden Girls, Empty Nest, and Soap)
DOB: November 13, 1932
Date of Death: September 26, 2000
Diabetes Type: Unknown
An Emmy-Award winning actor celebrated for his humor, charm, and easy demeanor, Richard Mulligan is best known for playing Dr. Harry Weston on the television shows The Golden Girls and Empty Nest, and Burt Campbell on the comedy series Soap. A diverse and multifaceted actor, Mulligan’s characters possessed deep sensitivity and sincerity, while maintaining a lighthearted wit, which afforded them a steady following and brought him significant acclaim.
The veteran actor brought earnestness and intricacy to his characters due in large part to his assorted and varied beginnings. Born in Bronx, New York in 1932, the quick-witted Mulligan was one of three sons born to Ann-Elizabeth Mulligan and Robert Edward Mulligan. The younger brother of famed director Robert Mulligan, Richard developed a similar interest in acting and spent much of his youth watching and appearing in various plays and theatre productions. However, despite his love for acting, Mulligan was also a devout Catholic and initially enrolled in junior seminary before embarking on a career in the arts. Still apprehensive, Richard served in the United States Navy prior to attended Columbia University, where he ultimately resided and studied playwriting.
In 1960, Richard began a career on Broadway working as a stage manager in Tad Mosel’s play All The Way Home. However, he did not appear on stage as a performer until he landed a role in the Eugene O’Neill play Beyond the Horizon. Mulligan credits the opportunity to an unplanned twist in fate; initially set to drop off a play he had written, the young talent was asked to read lines. Mulligan read the part, hoping to learn more about acting and what actors are asked to do in preparation for a part, only to find out that the director loved him and had cast him in the part, launching Mulligan on an unintended trajectory.
After appearing in a number of well-received productions, Mulligan was offered a role in his first feature film, Love With the Proper Stranger. The film was directed by Robert Mulligan, Richard’s brother, and brought Richard to the attention of many other film and television directors, drawing him from the stage to the big, and small screen. Film director, producer, and screenwriter Blake Edwards asked Mulligan to play a character based on Edwards in the comedic film S.O.B., which resulted in a close friendship and Mulligan appearing in a number of Edward’s other films.
However, Mulligan’s fame was not fully actualized until he settled into his career as television actor and appeared on the ABC sitcom Soap. As Burt Campbell, the patriarch of the Campbell family in Soap, Mulligan was able to flex his comedic muscles and tickle his funny bone. The show ran from 1977 to 1981 and proved controversial for its absurdity and its careless discussion of taboo subject matter. Nevertheless, Mulligan maintained applause for his acting and won an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series in 1980. In 1981, he was nominated for the same award for his portrayal of Burt Campbell, but lost to Judd Hirsh from the ABC sitcom Taxi. However, Mulligan received the award again in 1989 for his role in Empty Nest portraying Dr. Harry Weston, the central figure of the show. That same year he won a Golden Globe for his performance. Mulligan continued appearing in television roles throughout the 90’s and even lent his voice to a character in Disney’s animated feature film Oliver & Company.
In 2000, while providing the voice of a character in the Nickelodeon television series Hey Arnold! Mulligan succumbed to colorectal cancer at his home in Los Angeles, California. Prior to his death, he suffered from the illness and requested his body be cremated and no funeral service be held. His ashes were divided amongst his family members and he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. According to co-stars, Mulligan was an intense actor with determination and unwavering loyalty to directors and fellow actors.
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