William Joseph Schallert (July 6, 1922 – May 8, 2016) was an American character actor who appeared in many films and television series.
William “Bill” Schallert was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of Edwin Francis Schallert, a longtime drama critic for the Los Angeles Times, and Elza Emily Schallert (née Baumgarten), a magazine writer and radio host.He began acting while a student at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles but left to become an Army Air Corps fighter pilot in World War II. He returned to UCLA after the war and graduated in 1946. In 1946, helped found the Circle Theatre with Sydney Chaplin and several fellow students. In 1948, Schallert was directed by Sydney’s father, Charlie Chaplin, in a staging of Somerset Maugham’s Rain.
Schallert served as president of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) from 1979 to 1981, and afterwards remained active in SAG projects, including serving as a Trustee of the SAG Pension and Health Plans since 1983, and of the Motion Picture and Television Fund since 1977. (His former co-star and television daughter, Patty Duke, also served as SAG president from 1985 to 1988.) During Schallert’s tenure as SAG President, he founded the Committee for Performers with Disabilities, and in 1993, he was awarded the Ralph Morgan Award for service to the Guild.
In a 2014 interview, Schallert said that he was suffering from peripheral neuropathy, forcing him to wear leg braces while effectively confining him to a wheelchair. He said about his condition: “They help me stay balanced if I use a walker, but it’s just easier to get around in a wheelchair”. While not ruling out working on stage in the future, Schallert said “working in film or TV would be too difficult now. Besides, I did my share!”
Schallert was married to actress Leah Waggner (born Rosemarie Diann Waggner) from 1949 until her death in 2015.