Martin Milner, who starred in two 1960s TV classic, passed away Sunday (September 6) at the age of 83. Milner’s career started with the 1947 film Life With Father, starring Williams Powell, Irene Dunne and Elizabeth Taylor, when he was just 16 years old, but he gained fame first with the role of Tod Stiles on Route 66 (1960-64) opposite George Maharis, and then as Officer Pete Malloy, opposite Kent McCord, on Jack Webb’s Adam-12, which began in 1968 and ended in 1975.
Milner had a long association with Jack Webb after they had roles in Halls of Montezuma. Webb cast Milner in six episodes of the original Dragnet between 1952 and 1955, and then in the film Pete Kelly’s Blues. As Webb was putting Adam-12 together, he featured Milner and McCord on an episode of the revival of Dragnet in 1968. The characters crossed over to Webb’s The D.A. (starring Robert Conrad) in 1971 and also appeared in the pilot episode of Emergency! which Webb directed.
After Adam-12 ended, Milner starred in the TV version of Swiss Family Robinson, but that series lasted only one season. Milner went on to appear in guest roles in various TV series and starred in several TV movies. He even played two different roles on The New Adam-12 in 1990 and 1991, one of them being Pete Malloy, now a Captain. In the 1989 TV movie Nashville Beat, Milner reunited with McCord to once again play two police officers fighting an increase in gang activity in Nashville.
While Milner did get his start in films, he became frustrated with the bit parts he was getting. In 1951’s I Want You, Milner’s character was central to the film but the New York Times review failed to mention him by name. By 1956, Milner was getting more roles in television, but he still had a few movie roles before hitting it big with Route 66.
In 1957, Milner appeared with Burt Lancaster in two films, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and The Sweet Smell of Success, in which Milner played a jazz guitarist. Milner had no idea how to play the guitar and his musical performance is dubbed. Milner also had supporting roles in Marjorie Morningstar with Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly, and Compulsion with Orson Welles and Dean Stockwell. He was also featured in William Castle’s 13 Ghosts before Route 66 changed everything.
Milner stopped acting in 1997 after an appearance on Diagnosis Murder, then co-hosted a radio show in Southern California about fishing, Let’s Talk HookUp, which ran for several years. He also owned a 24-acre avocado farm where he lived with his family.
Milner’s film highlights include The Wreck of the Hesperus, Sands of Iwo Jima, Louisa, Operation Pacific, The Captive City, My Wife’s Best Friend, Battle Zone, The Sabre and the Arrow, an uncredired role in Dial M for Murder, Mister Roberts, Francis in the Navy, Screaming Eagles, Valley of the Dolls, and The Swiss Family Robinson.
TV appearances include The Lone Ranger, The Stu Erwin Show, The Great Gildersleeves, West Point, Science Fiction Theatre, Crossroads, The Life of Riley, Wagon Train, Rawhide, Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse, Playhouse 90, Steve Canyon, The Millionaire, The Twilight Zone, Gidget, Laredo, The Virginian, 12 O’Clock High, The Rat Patrol, Columbo, Hurricane (TV movie), Flood! (TV movie), SST: Death Flight (TV movie), Police Story, Black Beauty (TV miniseries), Crisis in Mid-air (TV movie), The Last Convertible (TV miniseries), The Littlest Hobo, Fantasy Island, Masquerade, Airwolf, MacGyver, Life Goes On, RoboCop, and Murder, She Wrote.