‘MacGyver’ actor Dana Elcar dies at 77

TV News | Jun 10th, 2005

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VENTURA, California (AP) — Dana Elcar, the round-faced, balding actor whose real-life struggle with blindness was written into his role on the TV adventure series “MacGyver,” has died. He was 77.

He died Monday of complications from pneumonia at Community Memorial Hospital in Ventura, his family said.

“MacGyver” ran on ABC from 1985 to 1992. Elcar played the best friend and boss of the crime-fighting title character, played by Richard Dean Anderson.

“At a time when I had very little business being called an actor, he made things so easy for me,” Anderson said. “It was a learning experience that was very warm and loving for all seven years.”

Elcar, who suffered from glaucoma, told producers he was going blind after four seasons with “MacGyver,” so they adapted his character to match his medical condition. By the end of the show’s run, he had become almost completely blind.

“The fact that you are losing your eyesight does not mean you have forgotten how to act,” Elcar, in a speech to the National Federation of the Blind in 1991, recalled producers telling him.

Elcar’s television career spanned 50 years. He played in other drama series, including “Baretta” opposite Robert Blake and the Robert Conrad series “Black Sheep Squadron.”

Elcar also appeared in at least 40 films, including “The Sting,” “2010,” “All of Me” and “The Learning Tree.”

He starred in off-Broadway plays, including the first American productions of Harold Pinter’s “The Dumb Waiter” and “The Caretaker,” Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milk Wood” and Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot.”

Running away from home in Ferndale, Michigan, at age 13 may have led Elcar to an acting career, his son, Dane Elcar, said. He became separated from a friend in a town far from home, and spent the night watching “Citizen Kane” at an all-night theater.

“That kind of sparked him to be an actor. He watched it four or five times in one night,” Dane Elcar said.

In addition to his son, Elcar is survived by three daughters, a stepdaughter, a sister, a half sister and longtime companion Thelma M. Garcia.