A Tribute to
By Todd Sestero

In General

So you may ask why I am doing a page on Allan Melvin, which, BTW, is long overdue.  Since I do railfan guides, and have a bunch of pages on railroad signals, doing a tribute page is not something I normally do.  He was my uncle by marriage, being married to my father's sister (my aunt), Amalia Faustina Sestero.  They were married in 1944.

Allan Melvin was born on February the 18th, 1923 in Kansas City MO.  He died on January the 17th, 2008 - he was 84.  Allan is buried in Westwood Memorial Cemetery in Los Angeles CA, where MANY of Hollywood's favorites are laid to rest.  Carroll O'Conner is only a few feet away, and Betty Page, a famous pin-up model from the WWII era, rests next to him.  The cemetery is located at 1218 Glendon Avenue in Westwood, with an entrance from Glendon Avenue.

His parents moved from Kansas City to New York City when he was young, unsure of the exact timing.

After going to college in New York, he started off with his acting career playing Corporal Steve Henshaw in 142 episodes of the Phil Silvers show from 1955 to 1959.  The show was filmed in New York.

After the Phil Silvers show, he/they decided to pack up and head to Los Angeles to further his career.

For some reason, even though he was only in 8 episodes of The Brady Bunch (1969-1974), he is most remembered for playing Sam the Butcher, Alice's boyfriend.

In 1971, he started his friendship with Carroll O'Conner by playing one of his bowling buddies Barney Hefner in All in the Family (1971-1979).  After All in the Family stopped filming in 1979, he recurred his role in 95 episodes of Archie Bunker's Place (1979-1983).

In addition to doing on screen parts, Allan was one of the few in the business that had a knack for doing almost anything he wanted with his voice, and because of this, did the voiceovers for many cartoons, including The Magilla Gorilla Show (1964-1965), The Flintstones (1963-1966), The Atom Ant Show (1965-1966), The Secret Squirrel Show (1965-1966), The Smurfs (1984-1987), The Jetsons (1985-1987), and the voice of Bluto on Popeye and Son (1987)

Although IMDB has that Allan went to portraying "good guys" after work for playing "bad guys" dried up, as I heard it, he instead wanted to be known for portraying the good guys and making people laugh.

To be in the presence of Allan was "a trip".  He was ALWAYS funny, even when he wasn't even trying, which, I don't think he had to try very hard at.  No matter where we were, almost everything that came out of his mouth was funny, even when talking about mundane things - like discussing how to fix something.

Allan loved building models when he was younger.  I remember as a kid seeing at least a dozen model airplanes hanging from the ceiling in the back room of the house in New Rochelle.... it's too bad they didn't make it in the move out to L.A. :-(

I think most of Allan's success was due to the wide variety of facial expressions he could come up with - they were all great as the picture below illustrate!

For many years, Allan and Amalia used to spend their summers in Traverse City MI, and had two different houses on Lake Leelanau.  For a few years, they also enjoyed having a second house in Laguna Beach - nice place with a nice view!

My sister was very lucky to have lived in Los Angeles for 20 years, and got to see Allan and Amalia all the time.  I only got the chance to visit them back in 1970, 1978, 1994, and 2004 for Allan's 80th birthday, and the two or three times I was able to make it to Traverse City when they were there.

Allan and Amalia had two daughters: my cousins Mya and Jennifer.  Mya passed away in 1971, while her sister Jennifer lives in the Boston area with her husband Jon.  Jennifer and Jon have one son, Jon Jr, and goes by the name of JJ - he still lives in the L.A. area.

  My cousin Mya, maybe 1970ish.

His wife, by the way, passed away in December of 2020, barely a month away from reaching her 101st birthday!!!  RIP

  Amalia in 2010.

Amalia, Jennifer, and me on her 100th birthday, January 12th, 2020.

Allan's History from the L.A. Times (Jan 19, 2008):

Allan Melvin, a popular character actor who played Cpl. Henshaw on the classic 1950s sitcom “The Phil Silvers Show” and later portrayed Archie Bunker’s neighbor and friend Barney on “All in the Family,” has died. He was 84.

Melvin, who was in the original Broadway cast of “Stalag 17" in the early 1950s, died of cancer Thursday at his home in Brentwood, said his wife of 64 years, Amalia.

During his five-decade career, Melvin made guest appearances on numerous TV shows, including playing different roles on at least eight episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” and playing Dick Van Dyke’s old Army buddy on “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”

He also played Sgt. Charlie Hacker on “Gomer Pyle: U.S.M.C.”; portrayed butcher Sam Franklin -- Alice the housekeeper’s boyfriend -- on “The Brady Bunch”; and continued playing Barney when the hit “All in the Family” became “Archie Bunker’s Place.”

Melvin, who appeared in only one movie -- the 1968 Doris Day comedy “With Six You Get Eggroll” -- also did voice-over work in cartoons, including providing the voices of Magilla Gorilla and Bluto on “Popeye.”

He worked on numerous TV commercials as well, including playing Al the Plumber in the Liquid-Plumr commercials for 15 years.

After launching his show business career in the sound effects department of NBC radio in New York in 1944, Melvin began acting on radio soap operas and then moved into live television.

At the same time, he did movie star impressions in Manhattan in a nightclub act written by his friend Richard Condon, who later wrote “The Manchurian Candidate.”

Melvin’s stand-up act led to his winning “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts” radio show in the late 1940s.

He was playing Reed in “Stalag 17,” the hit 1951-52 Broadway play set in a German POW camp during World War II, when he first caught Silvers’ attention.

“The Phil Silvers Show,” originally titled “You’ll Never Get Rich,” was set on an Army base in Kansas and ran from 1955 to 1959.

As Cpl. Henshaw, Melvin was the right-hand man to Silvers’ con-man extraordinaire, Sgt. Ernie Bilko.

“He was brilliant” as Henshaw, Mickey Freeman, who played Pvt. Zimmerman on the show, told The Times on Friday.

In recent years, when fans would ask Freeman how many surviving cast members were left, he would reply, “Allan Melvin and me -- that’s a high mortality rate for a noncombatant unit.”

Noting that Melvin “was a great mimic of voices,” Freeman recalled an episode in which an officer arrived at Ft. Baxter to stop the men from gambling. One of the ways the officer did that, Freeman said, was to make them listen to his wife lecture on art.

But the woman had an unusual twitch -- pulling on her skirt -- and Bilko and the other soldiers placed bets on how many times she would do that during her lecture.

Freeman recalled that Melvin, as Henshaw, was positioned outside the lecture hall with a microphone, broadcasting to the other soldiers on the base -- “ ‘She’s up to 42 now . . . 43 . . . 44, and she’s not even breathing heavy.’ He made a whole racetrack thing out of it,” Freeman said. “He was wonderful.”

Melvin was born Feb. 18, 1923, in Kansas City, Mo. His family soon moved to New York City, where he graduated from Columbia University as a journalism major.

Melvin retired from acting about 10 years ago -- long after becoming a household face who was used to people spotting him in public and saying, “Hey, Henshaw” or “Hey, Sam the Butcher.”

“I’ve enjoyed the stuff I’ve done,” he told People magazine in 1996, “but the one you’re getting paid for, that’s what you enjoy most.”

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his youngest daughter, Jennifer Hanson; and grandson JJ.


Back in 1978, my sister and I took a trip out to Los Angeles together, after waiting in line all weekend for a one dollar ticket on Southwest, when they were doing a promo for the start of their service from Baltimore to Los Angeles.  While we were visiting, we went on a number of rides in his convertible Mercedes, and we had to duck down in the back seat, because people kept pointing at him.... we were not used to the attention as he was :-) :-)  My sister Robin was also involved "in the business", although she was a "behind the scenes" kind of person, producing shows for the most part.

Back between 1998 and 2002, I used to have a job that took me to Minneapolis about 4 or 5 times a year.  On this one trip, I had to change my flight to come back a day early in order to make it to another customer.  So I'm sitting at the airport having lunch on one of the concourses.  The tables sat out in the middle of the concourse, next to a moving walkway.  I'm sitting there minding my own business, and the next thing I know, I see my aunt and uncle riding by in one of the courtesy carts.  I yelled out to them, and fortunately, they heard me and got the driver to stop.  I climbed onboard, and went into the VIP lounge with them and chatted until it was time for my flight.  A few weeks later, I was at a party, and asked a math professor who taught at Hopkins, what the chances were of that extremely rare coincidence, and he had no idea where to even start figuring out the odds of it.  Now, to further drive up the odds, if I had decided to eat at some other restaurant at the airport, I would not have seen them; I could have been facing the other way while eating, and have never seen them at all; if I had not changed my flight, I would not have seen them; and, they always flew on Northwest, usually transferring in Detroit, but because of a difficulty in scheduling thru Detroit on this trip, they had to transfer at MSP for the continuation to Traverse City.  If anyone has any idea what kind of odds we're taking about, I sure would like to hear what you think they were.

Back in June of 2001, when Carroll O'Conner died, Allan was on vacation in Traverse City.  Allan did not like flying, so he did not return to Los Angeles for his funeral.  He was distraught by this, because he considered Carroll to be one of his best friends.

So, OK, when Allan and Amalia started off with this marriage thing, they lived in New Rochelle NY, living on the bottom floor of my grandparents house.... Do we all remember why that town rings a bell?  Rob and Laura Petrie lived there (the Dick Van Dyke show).  Allan appeared in the show in 1963 as one of Rob's former Army buddies, one of two to replace another actor who played the part, but left to do another show.


Here is Allan and Amalia around the time they were married in 1944....

Here is a young Allan in (probably) 1946, with his firstborn Mya, in what looks like Central Park.

Not sure where these are from, they were just laying around in a big box full of family pictures....

at lunch in Traverse City MI

at lunch in Traverse City MI

at lunch in Traverse City MI

From the Andy Griffith show.....

Allan appeared on the Andy Griffith show eight times between 1962 and 1967, each time appearing as a different character.

From My Favorite Martian.....

Allan appeared in just two episodes of MFM during the years of 1964 to 1966.

From the Phil Silvers show.....

Allan played Corporal Henshaw on The Phil Silvers Show for a run of 143 episodes between 1955 and 1959.

The Dick Van Dyke Show.....

Allan appeared in eight episodes of the show in a variety of roles, including: Sol Pomerantz, Guard Jenkins, Gun Drummer, Harrison B. Harding, Sam Pomerantz, and Sam Pomeroy.

From Gomer Pyle.....

Allan appeared in 16 episodes of Gomer Pyle as Sgt. Charley Hacker (1965-1969).

From the Brady Bunch.....

On the Brady Bunch, Allan played Sam the butcher, AKA, Sam Franklin, in eight episodes between 1969 and 1974.  Sam and Alice were boyfriend/girlfriend, and eventually got married.

From All in the Family.....

Allan played Barney Hefner, who was Archie's best friend, and a regular at Kelsey's Bar in 25 episodes of the show between 1972 and 1979.

From Archie Bunker's Place.....

In this continuation of All in the Family, Allan reprised his role of Barney Hefner in 94 episodes of the show between 1979 and 1983.

From Lost In Space.....

Alan only appeared in one episode of Lost In Space (West of Mars, 1966), but provided some voiceovers in one other episode.
(This listing does not show up on the Wikipedia page).

From the Liquid Plumr Commercials.....

Does anyone remember seeing Allan in the Liquid Plumber commercials of the late 70's/early 80's???



Before moving to Los Angeles, Allan and Amalia lived in New Rochelle NY at 73 Circuit Rd, the house was owned by Amalia's parents, my grandparents.  The house and grounds was the largest in the neighborhood, of which 55 Circuit Road used to be part of before it was given to my parents as a wedding present.  It was originally a carriage house, which was later converted into a home.  The house also had what we called a "doll house", a small playhouse for the kids, and a formal Italian style garden.  Their daughter Mya lived on the third floor.  The house originally had a servants room, with its own stairway down into the first floor kitchen.

Below, you can see how large the grounds around 73 Circuit Rd is compared to the neighboring homes.

Their home in the Brentwood area of L.A. for some 50 years....

After my aunt made the decision to sell the house in Los Angeles, and move to Boston to be close to her daughter, she sold the LA house, and the buyers did the typical thing of tearing it down to put a McMansion in it's place :-)  In looking at the aerial view, it looks like they also put in a new (smaller) pool, and tore down the pool house which also served as a guest house!

Their second home of two on Lake Leelanau in Traverse City MI.
With scenes like this, you can understand why they loved coming here, and had the hardest time leaving at the end of the summer -- When I would come here to visit (which wasn't nearly enough), I know I had the hardest time leaving myself because it was just, sooooo.... beautiful, peaceful, and restful....

If you come to Hollywood for a visit, you should try to plan a quick trip to the Westwood Village Cemetery, for a good number of Hollywood's greatest are buried here!!
It's very odd that Allan and Bettie were born and died in the same years!..... Amalia passed away in 2020 at the spry ole age of 100!

References, and further information:



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