William Redfield: American film, television, stage, and radio actor and author (1927 - 1976)
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William Redfield
American film, television, stage, and radio actor and author

William Redfield

William Redfield
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American film, television, stage, and radio actor and author
Was Actor Stage actor Film actor Television actor
From United States of America
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender male
Birth 26 January 1927, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
Death 17 August 1976, New York City, New York, USA (aged 49 years)
Star sign Aquarius
Mother: Mareta A. George
Father: Henry C. Redfield
Children: Adam Redfield
Height: 1.77 m
The details


William Redfield (26 January 1927 – 17 August 1976) was an American film, television, stage, and radio actor and author known for his roles in Jimmy Hughes, Rookie Cop (1953), The Odd Couple (1974), and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest(1975). He also sang and danced in the role of "Mercury" in Cole Porter's musical Out of This World.

Redfield was a founding member of the Actor's Studio, New York with Lee Strasbergand Elia Kazan. He was also a frequent panelist on television talkshows, where he was considered a witty performer.

Early life

William Redfield was born as William Henry Redfield on January 26, 1927, in New York City, New York, to Henry C. Redfield (1896-1936) and Mareta A. George (1895-1991). His father was an orchestra conductor and mother was a former chorus girl on Ziegfeld Follies.



Redfield made his acting debut in 1936, aged 9, with the Broadway comedy Swing Your Lady.


1939 saw Redfield's screen debut as "Charley Smith" in director William K. Howard's crime drama Back Door to Heaven, starring Jimmy Lydon and Anita Magee.

His other Broadway credits include: Excursion (1937), Virginia (1937), Stop-over(1938), Junior Miss, Snafu, U.S.A., Barefoot Boy With Cheek (1947), Montserrat(1949), Misalliance (1953), Double in Hearts (1956), Midgie Purvis (1961), A Man for All Seasons (1961) Hamlet (1964), You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running, A Minor Adjustment (1967), and The Love Suicide at Schofield Barracks(1972).

In the years 1948-49, Redfield appeared in three episodes of the TV series Actor's Studio (credited as Billy Redfield.)

In 1953, he starred in the title role of "Jimmy Hughes" in the DuMont TV series Jimmy Hughes, Rookie Cop, alongside Wendy Drew, Rusty Lane, and David Winters.

His other television appearances include: The Philco Television Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre, The United States Steel Hour, Studio One, As the World Turns, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Naked City, Maude, Rich Man, Poor Man Book II, and The Bob Newhart Show. He is best known as "Floyd," the younger brother of "Felix Unger" (played by Tony Randall), on The Odd Couple (1974).

In 1964, he played "Guildenstern" in William Shakespeare's Hamlet directed by John Gielgud, which premiered in Toronto, was previewed in Boston and opened on Broadway on April 9, 1964, and closed on August 8, 1964, after a total of 137 performances, thus breaking the record set by John Barrymore. Richard Burton was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play 1964 while Hume Cronyn won a Tony as Best Featured Actor in a Play as "Polonius."

In 1975, he was seen playing the character of "Dale Harding" — the tense, logical, but high-strung mental patient — in the Oscar-winning film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, starring Jack Nicholson, Michael Berryman, and Peter Brocco.

He also starred in 83 episodes of the "CBS Radio Mystery Theater," which ran on CBS Radio from January of 1974 to December of 1982.

Redfield was last seen on the screen in 1977 as "Leopold Lacy" in Jonathan Kaplan's Mr. Billion, with Terence Hill, Valerie Perrine, and Jackie Gleason. The film was released posthumously after his death on August 17, 1976.


In 1967, Redfield published his memoir Letters from an Actor (Viking Press) — a colorful and personal recollection of his work in the renowned 1964 international stage production of Hamlet, starring Richard Burton and directed by Sir John Gielgud. In the book, he mentioned that his friend Marlon Brando had been considered the Great White Hope by his generation of American actors.

Personal life

Redfield's first marriage with actress Betsy Meade ended in divorce. They had two children. He was then married to Lynda Helen Bright from 26 February 1971 until his death on 17 August 1976.

His son, Adam Redfield (from his married with Lynda) is also an actor, known for his roles in the TV series The Equalizer (1985), Golden Years (1991) and Law & Order(1992).


Redfield died of a respiratory ailment complicated by leukemia on August 17, 1976, in New York City, New York. He was 49. He was diagnosed with the disease by fellow actor and and real-life psychiatrist Dean Brooks during the filming of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which was released in November 1975, around eight months before his death.

Although suffering from leukemia, he continued to perform in his last two years — in Medical Center (1976), Rich Man, Poor Man - Book II (1976), Spencer's Pilots(1976), and Mr. Billion (1977).


Year Title Role Notes 
1939Back Door to HeavenCharley Smith 
1955Conquest of SpaceRoy Cooper 
1956The Proud and ProfaneChaplain Lt. (jg) Holmes 
1958I Married a WomanEddie Benson - Elevator Operator 
1961The ConnectionJim Dunn 
1964Pão de AçúcarGary Wills 
1966Duel at DiabloSgt. Ferguson 
1966Fantastic VoyageCaptain Bill Owens 
1967All WomanTod 
1971PigeonsJonathan's Father 
1971A New LeafBeckett 
1971Such Good FriendsBarney 
1972The Hot RockLt. Hoover 
1974For Pete's SakeFred Robbins 
1974Death WishSam Kreutzer 
1975One Flew Over the Cuckoo's NestDale Harding 
1977Mr. BillionLeopold Lacy(final film role) 

Radio appearances

1952Grand Central StationIt Makes a Difference 
1955-57X Minus OneNumerous episodes 
1974-76CBS Radio Mystery Theater80 episodes 
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