Actor Richard Erdman

John Richard Erdman (June 1, 1925 – March 16, 2019) was an American character actor and occasional film and television director. He appeared in more than 160 films and television productions between 1944 and 2017, mostly in supporting roles. He is most known for his roles in the classic films, Stalag 17 (1953), and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970). In his final years, Erdman found renewed fame through his portrayal of Leonard in the critically acclaimed comedy series Community (2009–2015).

Early life

Erdman was born John Richard Erdmann in Enid, Oklahoma. His parents divorced during his childhood. Erdman, his sibling, and his mother moved to Colorado Springs when he was a teenager. He graduated from Palmer High School, where he would perform on stage. During his youth, he worked as a paper boy for the Colorado Springs Evening Telegraph. A stage director named Newton Winburne encouraged him to try his luck in Hollywood.


Erdman started his career at Warner Bros. where he signed a studio contract. Two of his first roles were in the films Mr. Skeffington, starring Bette Davis and Claude Rains and Janie, starring Joyce Reynolds. After a few smaller roles he achieved success as a character actor in supporting roles. In a career that spanned seven decades, his best-known roles are that of the barracks chief Hoffy in Stalag 17, and the garrulous, tedious barfly McNulty in the Twilight Zone episode “A Kind of a Stopwatch”. He also appeared in The Men (1950) with Marlon Brando and the film noir Cry Danger (1951) with Dick Powell and Rhonda Fleming. In Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) he played Colonel Edward F. French, the officer who responded to the failure to transmit the warning to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

He has guest starred in a wide variety of shows such as Perry Mason, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Twilight Zone, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Dream of Jeannie, The Beverly Hillbillies, Here’s Lucy, That Girl, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, One Day at a Time, Lou Grant, Quincy, M.E., Cheers, and Murder, She Wrote.

He is also known as a voice artist, contributing to the animated shows, Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo, The Amazing Spider-Man, Johnny Quest, DuckTales, Snorks, Paddington, and Batman: The Animated Series.

He directed the 1971 TV film Mooch Goes to Hollywood. From 2009 to 2015, Erdman had a recurring role as the antagonistic and elderly community college student Leonard on Community. His last role was in 2017 in the sitcom Dr. Ken.

Personal life

Erdman married actress Leza Holland in 1948, but they divorced two years later. He was married to his second wife, Sharon Randall, from 1953 until her death in 2016. They had one daughter, Erica, who was born in 1954 and died on February 18, 2010, of an accidental overdose of prescription medicine. Erica was a poet and illustrator (The Ellyn Maybe Coloring Book) and the author of one full-length collection of poems (The Apocalyptic Kid).


Erdman died on March 16, 2019, aged 93, in an assisted-living facility in Los Angeles, California. He had been suffering “from age-related dementia” and recently had a fall.



Year Title Role Notes
1944 Mr. Skeffington Western Union Boy uncredited
1944 Janie Scooper Nolan
1944 Musical Movieland Sailor with Tour uncredited
1944 The Very Thought of You Soda Jerk
1944 Hollywood Canteen Soldier on Deck uncredited
1945 Objective, Burma Pvt. Nebraska Hooper
1945 The Horn Blows at Midnight Joe Smith scenes deleted
1945 Star in the Night Cowboy
1945 Danger Signal Bunkie Taylor
1945 Too Young to Know Tommy
1946 Janie Gets Married Lt. ‘Scooper’ Nolan
1946 Night and Day Music Store Customer uncredited
1946 Shadow of a Woman Joe
1946 So You Want to Play the Horses Eddie uncredited
1946 Deception Jerry Spencer uncredited
1946 Nobody Lives Forever Bellboy, The Marwood Arms
1947 That Way with Women Eddie
1947 Wild Harvest Mark Lewis
1948 The Time of Your Life Willie (the pinball machine maniac)
1949 Easy Living Buddy Morgan
1950 Swiss Tour Eddy
1950 The Men Leo
1950 The Admiral Was a Lady Oliver ‘Ollie’ Bonelli
1951 Cry Danger Delong
1951 You’re in the Navy Now Ens. Chuck Dorrance
1951 The Stooge Ben Bailey
1951 The Wild Blue Yonder Cpl. Frenchy
1952 Aladdin and His Lamp Mirza
1952 The San Francisco Story Shorty
1952 Jumping Jacks Pvt. Dogface Dolan
1952 The Happy Time Alfred Grattin
1953 The Blue Gardenia Al
1953 Stalag 17 Sgt. ‘Hoffy’ Hoffman
1953 Mission Over Korea Pvt. Swenson
1953 The Steel Lady Jim Evans
1955 Francis in the Navy Murph
1955 Bengazi Selby
1956 Anything Goes Ed Brent
1956 The Power and the Prize Lester Everett
1958 The Rawhide Trail Rupe Pardee
1958 Saddle the Wind Dallas Hanson
1959 Face of Fire Al Williams
1961 Marines, Let’s Go MP uncredited
1964 The Brass Bottle Seymour Jenks
1966 Namu, the Killer Whale Deke
1969 Rascal Walt Dabbett
1970 Tora! Tora! Tora! Col. Edward F. French
1973 The Brothers O’Toole Judge Quincey P. Trumbell
1974 Mr. Majestyk Dick Richard uncredited
1982 Heidi’s Song Herr Sessman voice
1984 Trancers Drunken Wise Man
1985 Tomboy Chester
1986 Stewardess School Attorney
1987 Beverly Hills Car Park Waiter
1994 The Pagemaster Pirate voice
1999 The Learning Curve Ralph
2008 Empire State Building Murders Eddie Walker
2010 The Bag John Harper


Year Title Role Notes
1952 Rebound Mason Episode: The Girl
1953 The George Burns and
Gracie Allen Show
Various Roles 3 episodes
1953–55 Where’s Raymond? Pete Morrisey 35 episodes
1955 Cavalcade of America Harry Jordan Episode: The Gift of Dr. Minot
1955 Medic Dick Hopper Episode: Glass of Fear
1955 Schlitz Playhouse Eddie McGuire Episode: The Last Out
1955–57 NBC Matinee Theater Performer 3 episodes
1955 Science Fiction Theatre Seth Turner Episode: Are We Invaded?
1956 The Ford Theatre Pepper Episode: Double Trouble
1956 Star Stage Performer Episode: Career
1956 Crossroads Performer Episode: Man on the Totem Pole
1957 West Point Cap. Don Prickette Episode: Jet Flight
1958–66 Perry Mason Various Roles 6 episodes
1958 Alfred Hitchcock Presents Charlie Brown Episode: The Crooked Road
1959 Disneyland Sergeant Jasper 2 episodes
1959 The David Niven Show Bobo Episode: Life Line
1960 The Danny Thomas Show Joe Forbes Episode: Danny, The Handyman
1960 Alcoa Theatre Matt Brent Episode: Forced Landing
1960–61 The Tab Hunter Show Richard Fairfield III 32 episodes
1962 Mister Ed Ralph Episode: Unemployment Show
1962–63 Saints and Sinners Klugie 18 episodes
1963 The Twilight Zone McNulty Episode: A Kind of a Stopwatch
1965 The Dick Van Dyke Show Buck Brown Episode: Baby Fat
1966 Green Acres Dillwell Pinkley Episode: A Home Isn’t Build for a Day
1967 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. P.T. Barkley Episode: The Suburbia Affair
1967 Gomer Pyle USMC Sergeant Gilroy Episode: Go Blow Your Horn
1968 Premiere Murphy Episode: Out of the Blue
1968 Hogan’s Heroes Walter Hobson Episode: No Names Please
1969 I Dream of Jeannie Store Manager Episode: Ride ‘Em Astronaut
1969 The Wild Wild West Mordecai Krone Episode: The Night of the Bleak Island
1970 The Beverly Hillbillies Whitehouse Guard Episode: The Clampetts in Washington
1970 Nancy Pruitt Episode: Going, Going, Going
1970 Here’s Lucy Supermarket Clerk Episode: Lucy Loses Here Cool
1971 That Girl Milton Episode: The Russians Are Staying
1975 Police Story Det. Eddie Samuels Episode: The Witness
1975 Kate McShane Frederick De Fernando Episode: Kate McShane
1975–76 The Six Million Dollar Man Vernon/Slayton 2 episodes
1977 The Bionic Woman Terrence Quinn Episode: Over the Hill Spy
1978 Alice Gene Crowley Episode: The Reporter
1979 Time Express Horace Hilling Episode: Rodep/Cop
1979 Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo Additional Voices Television Series
1979 The Amazing Spider-Man Mr. Zeider 2 episodes
1980 One Day at a Time Charlie Episode: The Amarillo Connection
1981 Space Stars Additional Voices 11 episodes
1978–82 Lou Grant Various Roles 4 episodes
1982 Quincy, M.E. Miles’ Attorney Episode: Expert in Murder
1983 The Dukes Additional voices 20 episodes
1986 Johnny Quest Additional Voices Television Series
1986 Cheers Duncan Fitzgerald Episode: Money Dearest
1986 Pound Puppies Angry Neighbor Episode: The Fairy Dogmother
1987 She’s the Sheriff Performer Episode: A Little Romance
1987 DuckTales Mayor Rufus B. Pinfeathers
King Arty (voice)
2 episodes
1987 Popeye and Son Additional Voices 13 episodes
1987 It’s a Living Ernie Episode: A Pen Pal for Your Thoughts
1988 Jessie Dr. Adams Television Movie
1988 The New Yogi Bear Show Additional Voices 4 episodes
1988 Snorks Additional Voices 3 episodes
1984–89 Murder, She Wrote Jonathan/Eggman 2 episodes
1988–89 Fantastic Max Additional Voices 3 episodes
1989 The Further Adventures of SuperTed Additional Voices 13 episodes
1989–90 Paddington Additional Voices 2 episodes
1990 Wings Howard Banks Episode: Around the World in 80 Days
1990 Timeless Tales from Hallmark voice Episode: The Emperor’s New Clothes
1990 Out of This World Judge Episode: Forget Your Troubles
1991 The New Adam-12 Man with Dementia Episode: Dementia
1991–93 The Pirates of Dark Water Additional Voices 9 episodes
1993 Batman: The Animated Series Elliot Episode: See No Evil
1994 Picket Fences Justice Stevens Episode: May it Please the Court
1995 Hudson Street Judge Broadnax Episode: Contempt
1995 Capitol Critters Voice Episode: The Bug House
1997 Beverly Hills, 90210 Mr. Perl Episode: Pride and Prejudice
2000 Felicity Howie Episode: A Good Egg
2002 Boomtown Kevin’s Dad Episode: Reelin’ in the Years
2002 Judging Amy Mr. Callahan Episode: Cause for Alarm
2002 The Bernie Mac Show Frank Episode: The Sweet Life
2004 Joan of Arcadia Mr. Hanson Episode: No Bad Guy
2006 Viagra Falls Pete Television Movie
2008 Empire State Building Murders Eddie Walker Television Movie
2009 Operating Instructions Henry Television Movie
2009–15 Community Leonard Rodriguez/Briggs 53 episodes
2015 Weird Loners Carl’s Grandfather Episode: Weird Knight
2017 Dr. Ken Richard Erdman Episode: Ken’s Big Audition

As a director

Year Title Notes Ref.
1966 The Dick Van Dyke Show 2 episodes
1971 Teenage Tease Feature Film
1971 Mooch Goes to Hollywood Television Film
1973 The Brothers O’Toole Feature Film

External Links

Actor Richard Erdman – Wikipedia

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