Carl Ballantine | Actor, entertainer, 92
Carl Ballantine, 92, the comedy magician and character actor who was part of the PT boat crew on the 1960s sitcom McHale's Navy, died in his sleep Tuesday at his home in Hollywood Hills, Calif., said his daughter, Saratoga.
As an actor, he was best known for playing crew member Lester Gruber on McHale's Navy, a 1962-66 series that starred Ernest Borgnine.
"He was a natural; everything to him had humor," said Tim Conway, who played the bumbling Ensign Parker on the show. "I only knew him from seeing him on The Ed Sullivan Show, which I thought was the funniest thing I ever saw, the magic act that wasn't working."
Mr. Ballantine made his biggest impact as a comically inept magician variously billed as "The Amazing Ballantine," "The Great Ballantine" and "Ballantine: The World's Greatest Magician."
In 2007, Steve Martin presented Mr. Ballantine with the Lifetime Achievement Fellowship from the Magic Castle in Hollywood.
Mr. Ballantine performed at the Palace Theatre in New York and in Las Vegas in the '40s. He later took his act to TV, appearing on programs including the Garry Moore and Dean Martin shows, as well as The Hollywood Palace and The Tonight Show.
He performed his act for the last time at the It's Magic show at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles last fall, his daughter said, "to great acclaim, I might add. His timing was still fantastic."
He appeared in a number of films, including The Shakiest Gun in the West and Mr. Saturday Night. He made guest stints on numerous series, sometimes appearing as a magician; he showed up on Fantasy Island as the Great Zachariah, on Night Court as the Fabulous Falconi, and on Cosby as the Great Ballantine.
He did occasional cartoon voice-overs and hundreds of voice-overs for commercials, including one for the California Raisins in which he voiced the Raisins' talent agent, a Claymation character that resembled him.
His wife of 45 years, actress Ceil Cabot, died in 2000.
- Los Angeles Times