Mailbag: Who Was That Doctor?

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Actor William Daniels, shown in this 1986 photo, starred in St. Elsewhere and Grey's Anatomy. (AP Photo)

If it’s Thursday, this must be the mailbag.

Q: On “Grey’s Anatomy,” Cristina (Sandra Oh) made friends with an old doctor at another hospital. He recently dropped dead while performing surgery. He is a wonderful, seasoned actor. Please tell me where I have seen him before.

A: Possibly in another TV hospital. The actor was William Daniels, 85, who played Dr. Mark Craig on St. Elsewhere, a role that earned him five Emmy nominations and two wins. Even as he was doing Elsewhere, he was heard but not seen as the voice of the car KITT on Knight Rider. Younger viewers may also know him as George Feeny on Boy Meets World, while another generation will remember him playing Dustin Hoffman’s father in The Graduate (despite Daniels being just 10 years older than Hoffman). And that’s a small sample of the roles he has played in a long and often distinguished career.

Q: Help! I cannot find the movie “American Hot Wax” anywhere on DVD. I believe the studio was Paramount, and it starred Tim McIntire as Alan Freed. His performance was brilliant. Also appearing were Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Laraine Newman, Jay Leno and Fran Drescher. This movie is a must see for anyone who enjoys rock ’n’ roll.

A: Indeed it is. In spite of historical inaccuracies, it’s a tuneful look at its era, and McIntire — a fine character actor who died in 1986 — was very impressive. Unfortunately, the movie has not found its way to an authorized DVD (and I don’t recommend bootlegs). I have to believe there are music-rights issues (whether involving the songs or the performers) that have kept it out of circulation.

Q: In the movie “W./E.,” there is some beautiful music that I would like identified. When Edward first meets Wallis at one of his social gatherings, partners change and he dances with her. Can you identify the music for their dancing?

A: From what I can find, that is the song Lujon, by the great Henry Mancini. While it has not been used as much as Mancini classics like Moon River, this is not its only inclusion in a film soundtrack; it was also used in Two Lovers, Sexy Beast and The Big Lebowski.

Q: On “Last Man Standing,” are the oldest daughter and her son the same actors from last season?

A: No. Alexandra Krosney, who played daughter Kristin during the Tim Allen comedy’s first season, was dropped in favor of Amanda Fuller, whom you may remember from a stint on Grey’s Anatomy. Kristin’s son Boyd, played by Luke and Evan Kruntchev during the first season, is now being played by Flynn Morrison. And there was another change you did not ask about: Nick Jonas, who guest-starred as Boyd’s father, Ryan, in the first season, has been replaced by Jordan Masterson.

Entertainment site Zap2it noted that Fuller is older than Krosney and “the age difference afforded the show the opportunity to retool the family dynamic.” And, in the process, Boyd became a noticeably older child than in the first season. As for Ryan, Jonas’ availability was limited; when the show decided to expand the role, it recast with Masterson.

Q: In the 1980s, I saw a movie on TV called something like “The Wise Men.” It took place in modern time. The plot revolved around three men in a retirement home or minimum security mental institution. Three camels got loose from a circus. It ended with one of the Wise Men, a former Army medic in the Vietnam War, saving the life of a baby in a homeless tent city. I have been unable to locate it on the Web. Is it available?

A: First of all, the movie was called The Three Kings. It starred Jack Warden, Stan Shaw and Lou Diamond Phillips as inmates of a mental institution who get to play the three wise men in a Christmas pageant, and who then believe they are the three wise men. TV and movie veteran Stirling Silliphant, an Oscar winner for the screenplay of In the Heat of the Night, wrote the script. The movie aired on ABC in 1987 and many people remember it fondly. Unfortunately, I do not know of an authorized release of it on DVD.

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Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and in the HeldenFiles Online blog at He is also on Twitter and Facebook.

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