Kenneth Mars, Führer-Loving Playwright in The Producers, Dies

Character actor, who also appeared in Young Frankenstein, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and countless TV shows, was 75

By Natalie Finn Feb 16, 2011 2:00 AMTags

It wouldn't have been Springtime for Hitler without Kenneth Mars.

The veteran film and TV character actor, who played a Führer-feting playwright in The Producers, died Saturday at his home in Granada Hills, Calif. He was 75 and had suffered from pancreatic cancer.

Mars, a native of Chicago, started acting in the early 1960s, lending his voice to The Jetsons before going on to bit roles in Gunsmoke and Car 54, Where Are You?

But in 1968, Mel Brooks cast Mars in The Producers as batty auteur Franz Liebkind, who ultimately can't handle the smashing success of the musical Springtime for Hitler, in which leading man Lorenzo St. DuBois (Dick Shawn) plays Adolf Hitler as fabulously gay. It's a riot.

Will Ferrell played the role in the remake-based-on-the-Broadway-musical, but Mars' version was the cult classic.

In a career spanning the rest of his life, Mars also appeared in Brooks' Young Frankenstein, as well as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, What's Up, Doc? with Barbra Streisand, The Parallax View with Warren Beatty, and Woody Allen's Radio Days and Shadow and Fog. He made numerous TV guest appearances, as well, on shows ranging from Party of Five to Hannah Montana.

Another major mark he made in pop culture: The Northwestern grad was also the voice of Ariel's father, King Triton, in The Little Mermaid. He could also be heard over the years in Thumbelina, the Nickelodeon show Rugrats and The Land Before Time movies.

Mars was survived by a wife and two children.