Thank you, Kevin and Pegge, for sharing this with us. This is
indeed sad news, but it's near impossible to think about Bill Erwin
without a smile -- and that's about as good an epitaph as anyone might
wish for. I know the obvious Twain quote here is the one about even the
undertaker being sorry, but I prefer the one about wrinkles indicating
where the smiles have been. You knew him as a dear friend, and I'm
guessing that his glorious character actor's face was not only the cause
of many such smile-induced wrinkles but also a road map of them.
Those of us who attended the 2001 Elmira conference will recall --
with a smile, of course -- Bill's incredibly infectious enthusiasm and
unbelievable energy. We'll also recall your sweet devotion to a
And, on a personal note, I'll always cherish Bill's wonderfully
gracious and generous remarks after the presentation about Horton
Foote's "The Shape of the River" -- a presentation that I wouldn't have
dared to attempt without the support, advice and encouragement of two
people named Kevin and Pegge.
Much of what I learned about Bill's love of Twain I got second-hand
from Kevin, Pegge and Kent Rasmussen. And that was as illuminating as it
This is certainly a life and a career to be celebrated -- a
"working actor" playing his part to the fullest. If you have a free hour
or so, check out Bill Erwin's credits on IMDB. This is by no means a
complete list, but it is staggering in the range of roles and years.
Chances are, whether you know it or not, you've been touched by a Bill
Erwin performance. On just the TV front, he appeared in episodes of
everything from "The Twilight Zone" and "The Andy Griffith Show" to
"Seinfeld" and "Monk." In 2001, my then-5-year-old daughter was most
thrilled about her dad meeting "the voice" of the grandfather in the
animated "The Land Before Time."
My favorite Bill Erwin credit, though, is the older Arthur in the
1980 film version of my old pal Richard Matheson's "Somewhere in Time"
("Bid Time Return"). Getting to chat up Bill about his participation in
this lovely movie was another highlight of that magical 2001 conference.
It's a blustery, overcast New Year's Day in Northeast Ohio, but there
sure is a blaze of warmth in those memories.
On 1/1/2011 11:56 AM, Kevin J. Bochynski wrote:
> We wanted to share the news of the passing of Bill Erwin, a valued friend
> and long-time member of the Mark Twain Forum. Bill died at the age of 96 on
> December 29, 2010, at his home in Studio City, CA. Many Forum members may
> remember Bill from the 2001 conference at Elmira. He officially retired from
> acting at 91 after a career that spanned seven decades. Bill was an avid
> reader and lover of Mark Twain and appeared many times as Twain in print and
> television ads. He also played "Harvey Wilks" in the 1975 TV-movie,
> "Huckleberry Finn." Bill wrote, produced, and starred in the 1997 one-man
> show, "Twisted Twain."
> Though it is hard to lose a wonderful friend at any age, we are comforted to
> know that Bill had a great life. When asked, he always responded that the
> accomplishment of which he was most proud was his loving family.
> Kevin and Pegge Bochynski