Richard Mulligan
Richard Mulligan in Benson Soap 1977 (cropped).JPG
Mulligan in 1977
Born(1932-11-13)November 13, 1932[1]
DiedSeptember 26, 2000(2000-09-26) (aged 67)
Years active1962–2000
Patricia Jones
(m. 1955; div. 1960)

(m. 1966; div. 1973)

Lenore Stevens
(m. 1978; div. 1990)

Rachel Ryan
(m. 1992; div. 1993)
RelativesRobert Mulligan (brother)

Richard Mulligan (November 13, 1932 – September 26, 2000) was an American character actor known for his roles in the sitcoms Soap (1977–1981) and Empty Nest (1988–1995),[1]. Mulligan was the winner of two Emmy Awards (1980 and 1989)[2] and one Golden Globe Award (1989).[3] Mulligan was the younger brother of film director Robert Mulligan.

Early life and career

Mulligan was born on November 13, 1932, in New York City. He served in the Navy in the early 1950s during the Korean War and later studied to become a playwright at Columbia University.[4][5] After college, he began working in theatre, making his debut as a stage manager and performer on Broadway in All the Way Home in 1960. Additional theatre credits included A Thousand Clowns, Never Too Late, Hogan's Goat, and Thieves.

Mulligan made a brief, uncredited appearance in the 1963 film Love with the Proper Stranger, which was directed by his elder brother. He starred with Mariette Hartley in the 1966–67 season comedy series The Hero, in which he played TV star Sam Garrett. Garrett had starred in a fictional series as Jed Clayton, U.S. Marshal. The Hero lasted for 16 episodes. Another notable TV appearance was on the I Dream of Jeannie episode "Around the World in 80 Blinks", as a navy commander accompanying Major Nelson (Larry Hagman) on a mission. He also appeared in the season-13 episode "Wonder" of the Western TV show Gunsmoke.

1970s to end of career

Mulligan's most notable film role was as General George Armstrong Custer in Little Big Man, whom he portrayed as a borderline psychotic. He also appeared in the disaster movie spoof, The Big Bus (1976), where he was reunited with Larry Hagman from I Dream of Jeannie, and in the 1966 film The Group, in which he played Dick Brown, Harold's (Hagman) New York artist friend. In 1975, he starred in a radio adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Oblong Box" heard on the CBS Radio Mystery Theater.

Mulligan at the 1991 Emmy Awards
Mulligan at the 1991 Emmy Awards

Mulligan's best-known roles in television were as Burt Campbell in the sitcom Soap (1977–81), for which he won a Best Actor Emmy Award, and as Dr. Harry Weston in the NBC series Empty Nest, a spin-off of The Golden Girls in which his character had appeared in a couple of episodes. Empty Nest ran for seven seasons, and Mulligan won a Best Actor Emmy Award as well as a Golden Globe Award for his performance. He also played Secretary of State William Seward in Lincoln (1988), a TV movie based on Gore Vidal's novel.

Mulligan returned to perform on Broadway and in films, in which he usually played supporting roles. A notable exception was the black comedy S.O.B. (1981), in which he played a leading character, Felix Farmer, a Hollywood producer-director based upon the film's actual producer-director, Blake Edwards. The film starred Julie Andrews and William Holden, and also featured Larry Hagman. Mulligan was cast as Reggie Potter in the television series Reggie (1983). Lasting for only six episodes, it was a loose adaptation of the popular BBC series The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin. In the 1984 film Teachers, he played an eccentric high-school history teacher (who in one scene teaches the Battle of the Little Bighorn, once more dressed as General Custer).

In 1985, he guest-appeared The Twilight Zone episode "Night of the Meek", where he took on the role of Henry Corwin, an alcoholic department-store Santa Claus who becomes the genuine article, in the remake of the 1959 Christmas episode "The Night of the Meek", the character Art Carney had played in the original version. The next year, he appeared in another episode of the series, "The Toys of Caliban".

Mulligan lent his voice to Disney's 1988 animated film, Oliver & Company, as the oafish Great Dane named Einstein. His final performance was a voice-over on Hey Arnold! in 2000 as the voice of Jimmy Kafka, the long mentioned, but never seen former friend of Arnold's grandpa.


Mulligan married four times. He was first married to Patricia Jones from 1955 to 1960, with whom he had a son, James.[6] That was followed by marriages to Joan Hackett from January 3, 1966, to June 1973 and Lenore Stevens from 1978 to 1990. His last marriage was to adult film actress Rachel Ryan on April 27, 1992, which only lasted to early 1993.


On September 26, 2000, Mulligan died of colorectal cancer at his home in Los Angeles.[7] He was 67 years old. At his own request, his remains were cremated and there was no funeral service. Mulligan was survived by his son James Mulligan from his first marriage, and two brothers, Robert and James.[8]


In 1989, Mulligan won both the Emmy Award and the Golden Globe Award for Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for portraying Dr. Harry Weston in Empty Nest (1988–1995). On September 30, 1993, he received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his work in the television industry, located at 6777 Hollywood Boulevard.[9][10]



Year Title Role Notes
1962 40 Pounds of Trouble Bellhop Uncredited
1963 Love with the Proper Stranger Louie Uncredited
1964 One Potato, Two Potato Joe Cullen
1966 The Group Dick Brown
1969 The Undefeated Dan Morse
1970 Little Big Man George Armstrong Custer
1971 A Change in the Wind
1972 Irish Whiskey Rebellion Paul Lachaise- Alcoholic Actor
1972 Harvey Dr. Lyman Sanderson TV movie
1973 From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler Mr. Kincaid
1974 Visit to a Chief's Son Robert
1976 The Big Bus Claude Crane
1978 Having Babies III Jim Wexler TV movie
1979 Scavenger Hunt Marvin Dummitz
1981 S.O.B. Felix Farmer
1982 Trail of the Pink Panther Clouseau's father
1983 Malibu Charlie Wigham TV movie
1984 Jealousy Merrill Forsyth TV movie
1984 Meatballs Part II Coach Giddy
1984 Teachers Herbert Gower
1984 Micki + Maude Leo Brody
1985 Doin' Time Mongo Mitchell
1985 The Heavenly Kid Rafferty
1986 A Fine Mess Wayne 'Turnip' Parragella
1986 Babes in Toyland Barnie / Barnaby Barnicle TV movie
1988 Lincoln William H. Seward TV Mini-Series
1988 Oliver & Company Einstein Voice
1996 London Suite Dennis Cummings TV movie
1997 Dog's Best Friend Fred TV movie


Year Title Role Notes
1962 The Defenders Lt. Summers Episode: "The Empty Chute"
1963 Car 54, Where Are You? Patrolman Episode: "The Curse of the Snitkins"
1963 Route 66 County Prosecutor Episode: "Shadows of an Afternoon"
1966–1967 The Hero Sam Garret 16 episodes
1967 The Rat Patrol Major Lansing Episode: "Take Me to Your Leader Raid"
1967 Mannix Dr. Bob Adams Episode: "Beyond the Shadow of a Dream"
1967 Gunsmoke Jud Pryor Episode: "Wonder"
1969 I Dream of Jeannie Wingate Episode: "Around the World in 80 Blinks"
1970 The Most Deadly Game Jordan Episode: "Witches' Sabbath"
1971 Love, American Style George Episode: "Love and the Jury"
1971 Police Surgeon Kramer Episode: "A Taste of Sun"
1971 Bonanza Dr. Mark Sloan Episode: "Don't Cry, My Son"
1971 Bonanza Farley Episode: "Kingdom of Fear"
1971 The Partridge Family Dr. Jim Lucas Episode: "Why Did the Music Stop?"
1972 Circle of Fear Tom Episode: "House of Evil"
1973 Diana Jeff Harmon 2 episodes
1973 The Partridge Family Mr. Lipton Episode: "The Diplomat"
1975 Medical Story Dr. Ted Freeland Episode: "The Right to Die"
1975 Matt Helm Jack Harte Episode: "Dead Men Talk"
1976 Little House on the Prairie Granville Whipple Episode: "Soldier's Return"
1976 Switch Andy Rowen Episode: "The Argonaut Special"
1976 Charlie's Angels Kevin St. Clair Episode: "Night of the Strangler"
1976 Spencer's Pilots Babcock Episode: "The Matchbook"
1976 The McLean Stevenson Show Lloyd Episode: "Oldie But Goodie"
1976 Gibbsville Ben Episode: "Saturday Night"
1977 Hunter Dr. Harter Episode: "Mirror Image"
1977 Kingston: Confidential Harlan Scott Episode: "Triple Exposure"
1977 Dog and Cat Brother Saul Episode: "Brother Death"
1977 The Love Boat Ron Larsen Episode: "Ex Plus Y"
1977–1981 Soap Burt Campbell 82 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
1978 The Love Boat Mark Littlejohn Episode: "Where Is It Written?"
1979 $weepstake$ Dewey Episode: "Dewey and Harold and Sarah and Maggie"
1983 Reggie Reggie Potter 6 episodes
1985-1986 The Twilight Zone Henry Corwin, Ernie Ross 2 Episodes: "Night of the Meek", "The Toys of Caliban"
1986 Highway to Heaven Jeb Basinger Episode: "Basinger's New York"
1988–1995 Empty Nest Dr. Harry Weston 170 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Television Series Musical or Comedy (1990–91)
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (1990–91)
Nominated—Viewers for Quality Television Award for Best Actor in a Quality Comedy Series (1990–91)
1988–1989 The Golden Girls Dr. Harry Weston 3 episodes
1991–1993 Nurses Dr. Harry Weston 4 episodes
1995 The John Larroquette Show Richard Hemingway Episode: "An Odd Cup of Tea"
1997 The Angry Beavers Old Gramps Episode: "Fish and Dips"
2001 Hey Arnold! Jimmy Kafka Episode: "Old Iron Man", (final appearance)


  1. ^ a b c Van Gelder, Lawrence (September 29, 2000). "Richard Mulligan, 67, Actor On 'Soap' and 'Empty Nest'". The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Richard Mulligan". Television Academy. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  3. ^ "Richard Mulligan". Golden Globes. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  4. ^ Lowry, Brian; King, Susan. "From the Archives: Richard Mulligan; Starred in Sitcoms 'Soap,' 'Empty Nest'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on September 26, 2016. Retrieved December 11, 2021.
  5. ^ Bergan, Ronald (October 5, 2000). "Richard Mulligan; Brilliant comic actor behind crazy star of TV cult series, Soap". The Guardian. London. Retrieved December 11, 2021.
  6. ^ Kaufman, Joanne; Bacon, Doris (May 29, 1989). "Choosing Career Over Marriage, Workaholic Richard Mulligan Tries to Feather His Empty Nest". People. Retrieved December 11, 2021.
  7. ^ Lentz, Harris M. III (June 1, 2001). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2000: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. McFarland. p. 165. ISBN 978-0786410248. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
  8. ^ Ferino, Brett (September 28, 2000). "Emmy-winning star of 'Soap' Richard Mulligan dead at 67". Sitcoms Online Message Boards: Forums Archive. Associated Press. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  9. ^ "Richard Mulligan". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved 8 April 2016.
  10. ^ "Richard Mulligan". Hollywood Star Walk: Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2016-10-04.