Sometimes good character actors are just as memorable as the most prominent leading stars. That was certainly the case for Burt Mustin, who is recognizable for appearing in some of the most beloved sitcoms of all time. Whether you remember him from his days as Gus the Fireman on Leave It to Beaver or Jud Fletcher on The Andy Griffith Show, chances are you know Burt Mustin's face. One of the most interesting things about him though isn't his lengthy resume of TV shows he appeared on over the years. It's the fact that he didn't even appear in front of the camera until he was 67 years old.
Burton Hill Mustin grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, later receiving his degree in civil engineering from Pennsylvania Military College's class of 1903. Over the years, he worked as a car salesman and eventually became an agent for the Better Business Bureau. By the time he eventually retired in Tucson, Arizona with his wife Frances, he had occasionally dabbled in acting and singing as a hobby. But that was about it. He was in for a real surprise when director William Wyler was in the audience for his stage production of Detective Story. Wyler told Mustin to consider a professional acting career and even cast him in his film version of Detective Story starring Kirk Douglas and Eleanor Parker. Mustin explained his fascinating life story in a particularly charming interview on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.
Just like that, Mustin's life was starting over in his late 60s and he moved to Los Angeles to pursue more acting work in Hollywood. He appeared as the "old man" on pretty much every classic TV series you could think of -- My Three Sons, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Dragnet, Bonanza, The Twilight Zone, The Red Skelton Hour, Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Love American Style, Bewitched, and more. He had small roles on All In The Family, The Lone Ranger, Petticoat Junction, The Monkees, The Lucy Show, Sanford and Son, Gunsmoke, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Brady Bunch, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Jack Benny Program, and Get Smart. His IMDB just goes on and on and on.
He appeared in 14 episodes of Andy Griffith, even crossing over into Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., and Mayberry R.F.D. At the very end of his career, Mustin appeared in a few episodes of Phyllis as Arthur Lanson, the love interest of Mother Dexter. Just a few months later in 1977, Mustin passed away in Glendale, California at the age of 92. Quite a way to end such a legendary career! While you may not have realized his name, you definitely know Burt Mustin's face and should fondly remember him as one of the most iconic character actors of his time.