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I was born a character actor. I was never really a leading man type

Burgess Meredith was a great character actor. Like many such actors, he is remembered primarily for different things by different people. Some remember him as the Penguin in the Adam West era 1960s TV series of Batman.

Others remember him best as Mickey, the gravelly-voiced, ultimately warm-hearted trainer in the Rocky films. “Mickey loves ya!” was his character’s catchphrase, before he was killed off in Rocky III (an unpopular move: he later returned to the franchise).

A former merchant seaman, the Ohio-born Meredith, had initially made his mark playing classical roles on the stage and screen in the 1920s: a long way from the later roles he became known for. He played the gentle giant Lennie in the 1939 film Of Mice and Men, served in the Second World War but suffered a career setback after he boldly spoke out against the McCarthy anti-communist witch-hunts.

“If I had spent all my time in Shakespearean companies and had only done art movies,” he once said, “my position would be more dignified and more serious. I might even be a better actor. But this is America, so I'll just take amusement at being a paradox.”