When I devoted myself wholeheartedly to the television series St. Elsewhere, I didn’t know that the actor who donned Dr. Daniel Auschlander’s white coat brought practically the whole history of Hollywood with him. I just knew the performance was flinty and wily, suffused with wry humor, keen attentiveness, and a welling humanity that provided a perfect counterbalance to some of the more brusquely ingenious, metanarrative tomfoolery happening elsewhere within the hospital drama. It was the connections Norman Lloyd made that led him to the role of the cancer-stricken chief of services at Boston’s nobly downtrodden St. Eligius Hospital. Because of his friendship with actress Blythe Danner, he was invited to a part she cohosted with her husband, Bruce Paltrow, just as he was first mounting the show. While chatting with Lloyd about the project, Paltrow realized his dinner guest would be ideal for the part. Auschlander was meant to appear in only four episodes, his disease felling him in what was meant to be the first of many casualties on a show that was ruthless for its day in delivering mortality to significant characters. Instead, Lloyd was too good to shuffle his sawbones off the mortal coil too early. Thanks to what Lloyd referred to as “the longest remission on record,” he endured through all six improbable seasons, all the way to “The Last One.”
Like the character he guided through more than one hundred and thirty episodes, Lloyd lasted. He is likely the only actor to be directed on film by Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Renoir, Charles Chaplin, Peter Weir, Martin Scorsese, and Judd Apatow. He was a member of Orson Welles and John Houseman’s Mercury Theatre troupe and crossed paths with Elia Kazan at the start of his career as a theater director. He appeared in the 1939 TV movie The Streets of New York, which was one of the very first dramas made for the bold new medium, and logged time upon the Starship Enterprise. When he directed a five-part docudrama about Abraham Lincoln for the nineteen-fifties television series Omnibus, one his second unit directors was a fledgling filmmaker named Stanley Kubrick. If it’s not quite accurate to say Lloyd did it all, he impressively, deftly danced across the whole range of twentieth century dramatic entertainment.
Lloyd’s friend Dean Hargrove insisted “His third act was really the best time of his life.” His long life, and his enviable lucidity as his years picked up a golden tinge, meant he was regularly invited to expound upon his grand career. He did so with grace and charm, eagerly and eloquently speaking about the craft that filled his life and the dazzling array of gifted collaborators who saw in him a kindred soul. He was a creator and a storyteller, embracing his revered place as if he understood the rare, special opportunity he had to be essentially the last to speak for an entire era of theater, film, radio, and television. He made a splendid ambassador.