Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Martin Milner

Martin Milner died a few days ago. I remember him from Adam-12, which I used to watch as a kid. It's a corny period piece, with dated jargon. Typical of Jack Webb productions, it took very idealistic and sanitized view of policing. And I expect the pacing would drag by contemporary standards.

It was notable for the onscreen camaraderie between Milner and co-star Kent McCord–which extended to offscreen camaraderie. They maintained their friendship right up to Milner's death. 

Milner was a bland, but likable actor who had a knack for making friends–due to the fact that his family moved frequently when he was a kid. Stationed at Fr. Ord, Milner befriended future actors David Janssen, Richard Long, and Clint Eastwood. His big break came when he won a gin rummy game with Jack Webb, who couldn't pony up at the time, but repaid him by giving him jobs. 

In fact, he made two popular buddy series: Adam-12 and Route 66. The latter had the added attraction of being in the road movie genre. That goes all the way back to ancient yarns like the Odyssey and the Epic of Gilgamesh (another buddy story).

Milner was very down-to-earth. As he said in an interview:

Mr. Milner had no illusions about his place in the Hollywood firmament and seemed not to be particularly concerned about it.

“The really big stars have a drive that made them into superstars,” he said in an interview with The Toronto Star in 1994. “They can’t turn it off when they have that success. I certainly was not driven by a great dedication that made me succeed or else.”

In that respect he reminds me of Victor Mature, another actor who retired early after he made enough money to live on comfortably for the rest of his life.

Unlike many Hollywood actors, Milner was married to the same woman (for 64 years!) He made keeping his family together a priority:

Because filming was done on location around the country, Milner spent much of his time away from his home in Sherman Oaks, California, where his wife Judy and 1-1/2-year-old daughter Amy remained when the series started filming. On location in New Orleans for a month, he recalled phoning his wife. Judy informed him that their daughter had told her playmates that she did not have a father. As Milner put it in an interview with Silver Screen in February 1963, "she couldn't understand why I wasn't around. I had been gone for a month, and she figured I was gone for keeps."  It was then that he and Judy decided the family would stay together on this Route 66 adventure. Judy and Amy joined him for the remainder of filming for the season.  
Milner had a huge rack built on top of his new Chevy Green Briar sports wagon to carry luggage and belongings and built extra cribs or beds as needed to accommodate his growing family. While filming went on during the daytime, Judy dropped off and picked up Amy from preschools (a new one in each town), bought groceries, went to laundromats and dry cleaners, and shopped for two of her favorite things, antiques and pewter.

I don't know that he was a Christian. I've read he was a churchgoing Methodist, but that doesn't tell you much. However, his unpretentious life exemplified certain common grace values that are rare in his circles. 

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