Paul Reed

Paul Reed

Birthday: June 16, 1909
Born Place: Highland Falls, New York, USA
Birth Name: Sidney Kahn
Height: 5' 6" (1.68 m)


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Another mop-faced, gruff-looking character who belongs in the “Where have I seen that face?” category, Paul Reed enjoyed a long and varied career on radio, Broadway musicals, TV and commercials. Though smaller in stature, his imposing figure and ability to command made him seem much taller in his shoes. Surprisingly, one would deem his features ideal for films, but he hardly made a dent, with the exception of some minor work in a couple of comedy duds of the late 1960s. Best recalled for his balding, beleaguered police captain on the police station comedy Car 54, Where Are You? (1961), he played to amusing effect the “slow burn” nemesis to blundering officers (and future Munsters) Fred Gwynne and Al Lewis. The show, which co-starred another dunderhead on duty, Joe E. Ross, featured plain-faced but superb character actors. It ran for only two seasons but it has since reached cult status.

Reed was born Sidney Kahn in Highland Falls, New York, on June 16, 1909, one of seven children born to Russian-Jewish immigrants. His father died when he was very young and the children were spread out among several orphanages. It was the older children who eventually were able to reunite the broken family, and they set up residence in Brooklyn. As a teenager Paul already had set his mind on an acting career and earned his stripes as a radio singer initially billed as “Paul Roberts”, then as “Paul Reed”. With his heart set on making it on The Great White Way, he took his first Broadway bow at age 31 in a 1940 revival of the musical operetta “The Gondoliers.” A strong and forceful presence, Paul had runs that included the operettas “Trial by Jury” (1940) and “La Vie, Parisienne” (1942), as well as “Up in Central Park” (1945), “Carnival in Flanders” (1953), “By the Beautiful Sea” (1954) and “Here’s Love” (1963), but it was his participation in a quartet of original Broadway musical treasures that is most notable–“Guys and Dolls” (1950), “The Music Man” (1957), “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” (1961) and “Promises, Promises” (1968).

On TV Paul served as a hot-headed foil for Sid Caesar in a couple of his variety showcases, Caesar’s Hour (1954) (during the 1956 season) and Sid Caesar Invites You (1958). He then hit his TV peak as Capt. Martin Block on “Car 54, Where Are You?”, whose misadventures took place in a Bronx police station. Following this show, he played Cara Williams’ blustery boss on the aptly titled The Cara Williams Show (1964), then hung around making guest appearances on the popular sitcom circuit. They included episodes of The Munsters (1964) (of course), as well as The Donna Reed Show (1958), Bewitched (1964) and The Beverly Hillbillies (1962), usually playing some sort of authority figure (military officer, business executive, politician, etc.).

Two of the three films Paul appeared in during the late 1960s were unfortunate showcases that their top comedy stars would just as soon forget. The critics reviewing Dick Van Dyke’s Fitzwilly (1967) and Phyllis Diller’s Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady? (1968) were none too kind to them and the comedies themselves quickly tanked at the box office. Paul more than made up for it in other mediums.

In later years the veteran character actor could be spotted in commercials, which lasted well into the 1990s as a white-haired octogenarian. The actor passed away on April 2, 2007, at age 97 at the Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, Connecticut. He was survived by his long-time wife of nearly 60 years, June MacLaren, a former Broadway dancer (“Lady in the Dark,” “Something for the Boys”) whom he met after returning to his role in the musical “Up in Central Park” in 1947. He was buried in Pemaquid, Maine. His beloved wife June died above seven weeks later and was interred next to him.

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