Cliff Osmond, Prolific Character Actor, Dies at 75

December 28th, 2012

Universal Pictures

Cliff Osmond, left, with Jack Lemmon, in a scene from “The Front Page” in 1974.

Cliff Osmond, a prolific character actor on film and television and an instructor who estimated that he had taught more than 10,000 actors, died on Saturday at his home in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. He was 75.

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The cause was pancreatic cancer, his daughter, Margaret Ebrahim, said.

Mr. Osmond appeared in many films, most notably four Billy Wilder comedies. Mr. Osmond played the private investigator Purkey in “The Fortune Cookie,” the first film starring both Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau; the amateur songwriter Barney in “Kiss Me, Stupid,” alongside Dean Martin, Kim Novak and Ray Walston; a police officer in Mr. Wilder’s version of “The Front Page,” which also starred Mr. Lemmon and Mr. Matthau; and another police officer in “Irma La Douce.”

Mr. Osmond wrote on his Web site that during the making of “Kiss Me, Stupid,” while he struggled to carry a tune, Mr. Wilder remarked, “Cliff has the musical ear of van Gogh.”

He appeared on television more than 100 times over four decades on shows including “Gunsmoke,” “All in the Family” and a 1962 episode of “The Twilight Zone” titled “The Gift.”

Mr. Osmond drew on his wealth of experience to become a well-regarded acting teacher to entertainers like Armand Assante and Carlos Alazraqui.

Clifford Osman Ebrahim was born on Feb. 26, 1937, in Jersey City. (He took the professional name Osmond, a variation of Osman, early in his career.) He grew up in Union City, N.J., and graduated from Dartmouth College in 1959.

He later received a master’s degree in business administration from the University of California, Los Angeles.

In addition to his daughter, he is survived by his wife, Gretchen Ebrahim; a son, Eric; and a granddaughter.

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