Michael J. Pollard, Veteran Character Actor, Dies at 80

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Michael J. Pollard, who rose to fame in the 1967 hit film “Bonnie and Clyde” as C.W. Moss, the dimwitted gas station attendant who became a criminal accomplice, and went on to a long career as a Hollywood character actor, died on Thursday at a hospital in Los Angeles. He was 80.

A friend, Dawn Walker, said in an interview that the cause was cardiac arrest.

Mr. Pollard had been a familiar face on television since the late 1950s. He most often played likable but socially inept characters, and usually ranked fairly far down on the cast list. In two separate shows, he played the cousin of a beloved supporting character — Jerome Krebs, cousin to Maynard G. Krebs (Bob Denver) on “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” and Virgil, cousin to Deputy Barney Fife (Don Knotts), on “The Andy Griffith Show.”

He also had a memorable role in the first season of the television series “Star Trek,” in 1966, playing the creepy, mischievous teenage cult leader on a planet of children; the character turns out to be 300 years old.

But his performance in “Bonnie and Clyde,” which earned him an Academy Award nomination, raised his profile — and changed the way Hollywood saw him.

In a 1968 interview with The New York Times, Mr. Pollard noted that directors had once been frustrated by his slow, somewhat eccentric way of delivering lines, but that the success of “Bonnie and Clyde” had changed that. “They say, ‘Just do your thing, Michael, whatever it is,’” he said. “Same thing I’ve been doing for 10 years, man.”

“His thing” was evident in a scene in “Bonnie and Clyde” in which Mr. Pollard, who is supposed to be driving the getaway car for the two outlaws, ends up parking the car.

“We made that up,” Mr. Pollard told the film critic Roger Ebert in 1969. “See, I can’t drive a car. There was this guy teaching me, but I couldn’t learn. So here I was stuck in the parking place, and Penn” — Arthur Penn, the director — “said, ‘O.K., do it that way.’”A complete obituary will appear shortly.

Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting. Susan C. Beachy contributed research.


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