William “Biff” McGuire, whose Broadway career spanned over seven decades and included a role in the original 1958 South Pacific, died according to a statement released on April 1. He was 94 years old.
His death was announced by the Seattle Rep, a theater with which McGuire has shared a long history. He has appeared in over 30 productions there, including Saint Joan (1979-80), Noises off (1986-1987), and A defect in the ointment (1993-94). With dozens of films to his credit, he appeared in scenes with Al Pacino in Serpico, Steve McQueen in The Thomas Crown affair, and Alan Arkin in The heart is a lone hunter. Biff was also a regular on television from the late 1940s to early 2000s. In his seventies, he was nominated for Two Tony’s for his roles in The young man from Atlanta (1997) and Morning is at seven (2002).
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In 1960 he was cast opposite British actress Jeannie Carson in a 1960 revival of Finian’s Rainbow. They married in November that year and then performed in the original national tour of Camelot. He played King Arthur while Carson played Guinevere. It was only the beginning of their love affair and their acting partnership. Together, they moved to the Pacific Northwest to bring the works of playwrights including Shakespeare, Shaw and Ibsen to life.
Former Seattle Rep. Doug Hughes’ former associate art director remembers the late actor as “reserved, even shy in real life.” However, Hughes says Biff gained “an almost scary confidence once he took the stage.”
McGuire got his famous nickname playing soccer while growing up in Camden, Connecticut. He attended the University of Massachusetts, where he studied agricultural engineering and then left to join the United States Army in the midst of World War II. Stationed in England, he studied theater, directing, radio and television, eventually focusing on set design, before returning to theater.
In a 2004 talkinbroadway interview, McGuire attributes his love for the theater to his large family and his love for entertaining them. “We had all these big family gatherings on Saturday nights, and everyone had to do something, so that was my theater. I shared it with a very large family, ”Biff recalls.
McGuire is survived by his wife, two children and two grandchildren.
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