Saturday, July 23, 2022

Norman Fell


"I enjoyed acting and marveled that one could get paid for doing it."
  --Norman Fell

Norman Noah Feld (Norman Fell) was born in Pennsylvania on March 24, 1924. He was the son of Austrian Jewish immigrants who opened a restaurant in Philadelphia.  There he attended Central High School, with plans to study drama in college.  But as America entered World War 2, Fell opted to serve his country instead.

He enlisted in the now-defunct U.S. Army Air Forces and was assigned to the Fifth Air Force in the Pacific Fleet.  There he served as a tail gunner on a B-25 bomber. When the war was over, he returned to Philadelphia and studied drama at Temple University.

After graduation, Fell moved to Hollywood and began acting on television.  He guest starred on several notable series of the 50s and 60s, including Perry Mason, The Untouchables and The Fugitive.  During this time, he appeared in a made-for-tv movie that was ironically titled Three's a Crowd, though it had no relation to any of the future series.

His first film role of note was in the original 1960 version of Ocean's 11.  He'd later appear in the 1963 classic comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. Ironically, he'd also play a landlord in the 1967 Dustin Hoffman film The Graduate.

In 1970, Fell landed a series of his own, opposite up-and-coming actor Burt Reynolds.  Dan August (right) was a detective series produced by Quinn Martin that aired for one season on ABC.  Check out the intro on YouTube.

All of this is leading up to the role that Fell is most famously associated with, that of Stanley Roper on the ABC sit-com Three's Company, a show that sadly, could never be produced today.  He played the character for three seasons, earning a Golden Globe Award along the way. As Mr. Roper, Fell was notorious for breaking the fourth wall and laughing directly at the camera.  Here's a great compilation.

In 1980, he was convinced by the show's producers to leave the series for one of his own, a spin-off entitled The Ropers (left).  Though it lasted for two seasons, it was never a ratings hit and it lacked the charm of the original.  Upon its cancellation, Fell famously attempted to return to Three's Company, but found himself on the wrong side of his ABC contract.

He never hurt for work however, keeping busy for the next two decades.  In 1989, he made this memorable guest appearance on the ABC sit-com Hooperman, appearing alongside his former Three's Company co-star John Ritter.

On the morning of Thanksgiving 1998, Fell found himself too weak to get out of bed.  He was rushed to the hospital where he was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer, which was already in its final stages.  He died just two weeks later, on December 14, 1998.  He was 74 years old.

Norman Fell was cremated and his ashes were inurned at Mount Sinai Memorial Park in Los Angeles.

Location: Garden of Heritage, Columbarium of Tradition, Niche #1601, Space A
Inscription #1: Cherished and Adored Father, Grandfather and Brother
Inscription #2: A Greatly Talented and Romantic Man

Rest in peace.


  • Fell was credited with two Japanese kills during World War 2.

  • For more than 40 years, Fell managed to fool Hollywood into believing that he and Jack Klugman were bitter enemies.  In fact, the two were co-conspirators in the hoax, having grown up together as friends in Philadelphia.

  • Fell did a lot of commercial work throughout his career, including this hilarious spot for Pepto-Bismol. He also appeared in a public service announcement for the IRS, alongside future Golden Girl Rue McClanahan.

  • Fell's final on-screen appearance was in a 1998 episode of the Ellen DeGeneres sit-com Ellen.  Fittingly, he reprised his role of Stanley Roper one last time.  Check it out on YouTube.

  • Fell's replacement on Three's Company, Don Knotts, also appeared in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

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