SIDNEY MILLER: A “FINAL EXIT” AFTER 87 YEARS
March 3, 2004
by Fred T. Beeman
His name won’t conjure up an immediate image among the public, but Sidney Miller, who passed away from a heart attack on January 9, 2004, after a showbiz career spanning at least 73 years, is easily recalled by those who remember the practical-joking kid-barber in the 1938 Oscar®-winning Spencer Tracy (Best Actor) movie, “Boys Town”. Cinemaphiles remember the scene where “Mo Kahn,” pretends to give a facial massage to “Whitey Marsh” (Mickey Rooney) but smears black shoe polish all over Rooney’s character, making the “Andy Hardy” star look like an Al Jolson clone. When Rooney’s character discovers what was done to him, he runs back to the Boys Town barber shop and gives Sidney Miller a black eye.
Mr. Miller’s enviable career in front of the camera began with the uncredited part of “Maurice Levy” in 1931’s “Penrod and Sam.” Nine more pictures would follow, before his adulthood, and his composite would list 102 movies, with his final performance being a cartoon character’s voice in 1997’s “A Christmas Carol.”
During TV’s “Golden Age,” Sidney Miller could be found on either side of the camera. A man with impeccable comedic timing, the late Jack Webb utilized Sidney’s convincing talents as a “town drunk” on three occasions: In the original “Dragnet” of the 1950s, in the 1960s reincarnation, and as a nude motorist (driving home from a “party”) on “Adam-12”. He was always in demand as a director for such TV shows as, “Bewitched,” “The Real McCoys,” “Get Smart,” “The Addams Family,” “That Girl” and “The Monkees.” He also directed several daily episodes of the original “Mickey Mouse Club” (and the ones in 1977), drawing on his own child actor experiences. to ensure that the kids were treated professionally, yet with dignity. Years ahead of his time, he ticked off a lot of people by insisting that all “stage mothers” be BANNED from the MMC set.
Sidney was an actor, director, producer, writer, songwriter (for 11 movies), singer and pianist, while also serving as Donald O’Connor’s longtime writing partner and on-air comic foil, during the days of the “Texaco Star Theatre,” beginning in 1954.
Of all the things that could be eulogized about Sidney Miller, TV series scriptwriter Mark Evanier, who worked with Sidney on occasion, summed him up succinctly by saying, “He was a nice man who did everything [and] was very good in everything he did.”
He was married to June Miller, and is survived by his son, Tony® award-winning actor Barry Miller, as well as several step-children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and a sister, Sally Horn. Our heartfelt condolences are extended to all those who knew and loved this multi-talented master of all trades.