The blog’s favorite character actors: Murray Hamilton

Murray Hamilton, left, with Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws.

Part of an occasional series.

Murray Hamilton, after a long career as a character actor, has been reduced to a meme in the 21st century.

In Jaws (1975), Hamilton played a mayor who didn’t care about the safety of the citizens of his town. The mayor just wanted to be sure everybody went to the beach despite a killer shark.

These days, various social media postings refer to the “mayor from Jaws.” This is amid a pandemic when a lot of politicians are talking about “opening” the economy without seeming to care that much about safety.

The thing is, Hamilton had a long career as an actor. He often played unsympathetic characters (such as the mayor in Jaws). But he sometimes played sympathetic characters such as James Stewart’s partner in 1959’s The FBI Story.

Hamilton was also among the members of the unofficial group of the QM Players,  who frequently appeared as guest stars on various series produced by Quinn Martin.

One of Hamilton’s best performances was in an episode of The Twilight Zone, One for the Angels. Hamilton plays the character of Death and portrays him as a bureaucrat. He has a quota to meet.

A canny street merchant (Ed Wynn) tricks Death. So Death instead movies to take the life of a young girl. The merchant distracts Death with the best sales pitch he’s ever made. Death misses the appointed time to take the girl’s life. So the merchant will be taken in place of the young girl.

Before they go, the merchant asks where they are going. Death reassures him they are going up, toward heaven.

Hamilton died in 1986 at the age of 63. Here’s a clip from one of his appearances on The FBI, the QM-produced series.

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