Murray Hamilton’s first uncredited roles as film extras came in 1944. These included his roles as the Crop Corps kid in ‘Song of the Open Road’, a member of soldier quartet in ‘Reckless Age’, and a soldier in ‘Something for the Boys’.
His first forays into acting included playing extras, and the lack of proper roles led him to go to New York in 1945 to try his fate on stage. This resulted in his Broadway debut as a mill hand in José Ferrer’s play ‘Strange Fruit’.
After making his Broadway debut, Hamilton struggled for a few years before eventually landing the role of a shore patrol officer in the play ‘Mr. Roberts’ (Feb 18, 1948 - Jan 06, 1951). This launched his career and there was no turning back.
Hamilton quickly made his presence felt on TV as well by appearing in three episodes of ‘The Billy Rose Show’ in 1951. The same year also saw him getting officially credited for roles in movies like the Oscar-nominated ‘Bright Victory’ and ‘The Whistle at Eaton Falls’.
In 1952, he portrayed the role of Bubber Reeves on stage in ‘The Chase’, and received positive reviews for it. He also had several appearances in the TV series ‘Mister Peepers’, which ran from 1952 to 1953.
The year 1953 was an immensely successful one for Hamilton as he made several appearances on TV. These included roles in ‘The Gulf Playhouse’, ‘The Revlon Mirror Theater’ and multiple roles in ‘Repertory Theatre’.
Although more and more roles in TV series were falling into his lap, Hamilton didn’t sever his ties with theatre. In 1954, he portrayed the critically acclaimed role of Robert E. Lee Prewitt in the production of ‘Stockade’. Prominent critic Brooks Atkinson praised his honest portrayal and “steel-like spirit”.
By the end of 1954, Hamilton was a familiar face on TV. This was largely due to his fine acting in shows like ‘The Man Behind the Badge’ and ‘Inner Sanctum’.
He continued his successful run in TV shows in 1955. With stellar performances in ‘Justice’, ‘Studio One in Hollywood’, and ‘Kraft Theatre’, he was able to show his versatility.
Continue Reading Below
In 1956, Hamilton starred in two movies, ‘Toward the Unknown’ and ‘The Girl He Left Behind’, which were modestly successful. A year later, he made appearances in TV series like ‘Conflict’ and ‘The Loretta Young Show’.
He was also cast in multiple movies in 1957, including ‘The Spirit of St. Louis’ and the biographical drama ‘Jeanne Eagels’. By now, one thing was becoming clear to him. He was getting substantial parts, but many of them were similar character roles.
The year 1958 saw Hamilton’s excellent portrayal of gangster John ‘Johnny’ Davis Hale in the TV series ‘Perry Mason’. He also made several appearances on the show ‘The Silent Service’ and had a recurring role in ‘Gunsmoke’. He won the audiences over with his performances in movies like ‘Too Much, Too Soon’ and ‘No Time for Sergeants’, both released in 1958.
In 1959, his most notable portrayals were as Alphonse Paquette in the movies ‘Anatomy of a Murder’ and Sam Crandall in ‘The FBI Story’. He also earned praise for playing Mr. Death in the TV series ‘The Twilight Zone’.
The versatile actor managed to break his typecasting curse for a short time by making two comedic appearances in 1959 and 1960. His appearance as Steve Baker in the comedy series ‘Love and Marriage’ showed his funny side to the audience.
He impressed critics with his portrayal of the overly passionate and unsavory director Dion Kapakos in the play ‘Critic's Choice’ (Dec 14, 1960 - May 27, 1961). His excellent portrayal of a street-wise tough guy in the series ‘The Untouchables’ (1960 – 1962) became a defining role of his career.
Hamilton’s successful run as a character actor continued in 1960 with appearances in critically acclaimed roles in the shows ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ and ‘The Witness’.
In 1961, he was seen on TV shows like ‘Way Out’ (1961) and had multiple roles in ‘Naked City’ and ‘Route 66’. The only movie he acted in 1961 was ‘The Hustler’, which went on to win two Oscars.
In spite of the regret of being typecast, he remained dedicated and “true to the part as it is written”. From 1962 to 1966, he was seen in multiple roles on the TV shows ‘The Defenders’ and ‘Dr. Kildare’.
Continue Reading Below
Some of his major roles in 1963 included playing Wally Sanders in the movie ‘13 Frightened Girls’ and the recurring role of Eddie Nichols in the show ‘The Doctors’.
The next two years were particularly busy for the esteemed actor with appearances in TV shows like ‘The Trials of O’Brien’, ‘The Man Who Never Was’ and ‘The Fugitive’ (1965 – 1966). He was also seen in the movie ‘See You In Hell, Darling’ in 1966.
One of his most famous roles to date, that of Mr. Robinson, the husband of Mrs. Robinson, in the iconic movie ‘The Graduate’ came in 1967.
From 1968 through 1970, Hamilton appeared in a number of hit movies like ‘The Boston Strangler’, ‘The Brotherhood’, and ‘If It's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium’, to name a few.
There was no shortage of work for him during the next few years as he continued appearing in TV movies like ‘Vanished’ (1971), the series’ ‘Mission: Impossible’ (1972), and ‘Police Story’ (1973 - 1975).
In 1973, he played a small role in the Oscar-winning film ‘The Way We Were’. Some of his more notable works over the next few years include the movie ‘Jaws’ (1975) and the TV show ‘Canon’ (1973 – 1975).
He was also cast in movies like ‘Murder at the World Series’ in 1977 and ‘Casey’s Shadow’ in 1978. The year 1979 saw him appear in a number of successful and critically acclaimed movies, including ‘The Amityville Horror’ and ‘1941’.
Hamilton’s failing health due to lung cancer had started to slow him down in the 1980s, but he still appeared in the TV shows ‘Mama’s Family’ (1984) and ‘Murder, She Wrote’ (1984).
In his later years, roles became more difficult to come by but he still got offers with the help of his friend, actor George C. Scott. ‘The Golden Girls’ TV series and the movies ‘The Last Days of Patton’ and ‘Whoops Apocalypse’ were his last major roles in 1986.