Conrad Janis, a prolific character actor of TV, film and stage who had already become immediately recognizable even before landing his signature role opposite Robin Williams and Pam Dawber in the hit ’70s sitcom Mork & Mindy, died March 1 in Los Angeles. hey what 94
His death was confirmed by business manager Dean A. Avedon to The New York Times.
A son of the noted New York art collectors and gallerists Sidney and Harriet Janis, Janis, who along with his brother took over the family business, the Sidney Janis Gallery, later in life, was also a successful and lifelong jazz trombonist who even at the height of his Mork & Mindy success performed regularly with his group, the Beverly Hills Unlisted Jazz Band.
Born on February 11, 1928, in Manhattan, Janis launched his acting career in the mid-1940s, appearing in what would be the first of 12 Broadway shows, 1945’s Dark of the Moon and, the same year, in the starring role of a wartime comedy titled snafu. In that film, notable for its early, if sanitized, use of the military acronym, Janis played a 14-year-old boy who sneaks into military service.
Other movie credits would soon follow (including 1946’s Margie and 1947’s The Hagan Girl starring Ronald Reagan and Shirley Temple), and frequent appearances on 1950s omnibus dramas would launch a prolific television career. By the 1960s Janis was appearing on such popular series as The Untouchables, Stoney Burke, Get Smart other My Favorite Martian. He continued well into the 1970s with roles on Banacek, Cannon, Baretta, The Waltons, Maude, Happy Days, Police Story, The Jeffersons, Quarkand Laverne & Shirleyamong others.
In 1978, Janis landed what would become his most recognizable role as Fred McConnell, the loving if overprotective father of Dawber’s Mindy in Mork & Mindy. Appearing regularly from 1978 to 1982, Janis became a familiar presence in a series that became part of the era’s cultural zeitgeist due to Williams’ breakthrough, career-making performance.
Following Mork & MindyJanis maintained a presence on television through appearances on St Elsewhere, Remington Steele, The Golden Girls, Murder, She Wrote and in a recurring role from 1997 to 2002 on the Kelsey Grammer comedy Frasier.
On the film side, Janis appeared in Airport 1975 (1974), The Happy Hooker (1975), O god! Book II (1980), Billy Crystal’s Mr Saturday Night (1992) and Ben Stiller’s cult favorite The Cable Guy (1996) starring Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick.
On Broadway, Janis had roles in, among others, The Brass Ring (1952), A Visit to a Small Planet (1957), The FrontPage (1969) and Same time, next year (1975).
In the late 1980s, Janis and brother Carroll Janis took over the Sidney Janis Gallery from their aging father and continued operating the prestigious operation throughout the 1990s.
Janis was preceded in death by wife Maria Grimm, who died in September. (Two previous marriages ended in divorce.) He is survived by son Christopher, daughter Carin, brother Carroll and other extended family.