Bill Mumy

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Bill Mumy
Bill Mumy by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Mumy at Phoenix Comicon in May 2013
BornCharles William Mumy, Jr.
(1954-02-01) February 1, 1954 (age 60)
San Gabriel, California, US
Other names"Art Barnes"
OccupationActor
Years active1959–present
Spouse(s)Eileen Joy Davis
ChildrenSeth Mumy
Liliana Mumy
Website
www.billmumy.com
 
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Bill Mumy
Bill Mumy by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Mumy at Phoenix Comicon in May 2013
BornCharles William Mumy, Jr.
(1954-02-01) February 1, 1954 (age 60)
San Gabriel, California, US
Other names"Art Barnes"
OccupationActor
Years active1959–present
Spouse(s)Eileen Joy Davis
ChildrenSeth Mumy
Liliana Mumy
Website
www.billmumy.com

Charles William "Bill" Mumy, Jr. (/ˈmmi/; born February 1, 1954), is an American actor, musician, pitchman, instrumentalist, voice-over artist, and a figure in the science-fiction community. He is perhaps best known for his work as a child actor in film and television throughout the 1960s, then credited as Billy Mumy.

The red-headed Mumy came to prominence in the 1960s as a child actor, most notably as Will Robinson, the youngest of the three children of Professor John and Dr. Maureen Robinson (played by Guy Williams and June Lockhart, respectively) and friend of the nefarious and pompous Dr. Zachary Smith (played by Jonathan Harris), in the 1960s CBS sci-fi television series Lost in Space.

He later appeared as a lonely teenager, Sterling North, in the 1969 Disney film, Rascal, with Steve Forrest. He was cast as Teft in the 1971 film Bless the Beasts and Children. In the 1990s, he had the role of Lennier in the syndicated sci-fi TV series Babylon 5, and he also served as narrator of A&E Network's Emmy Award-winning series, Biography. He is notable for his musical career, as a solo artist and as half of the duo Barnes & Barnes.

Early life and career[edit]

Mumy was born in San Gabriel, the son of the former Muriel Gertrude Gould and Charles William Mumy, Sr., a cattle rancher.[1] He began his professional career at the age of six, and has worked on more than four hundred television episodes, eighteen motion pictures, various commercials, and scores of voice over work, as well as working as a musician, songwriter, recording artist and writer.

Television career[edit]

Among Mumy's earliest television roles was as 6-year-old Willy in the 1960 episode "Donald's Friend" of the NBC family drama television series, National Velvet, starring Lori Martin as an aspiring thoroughbred rider.

Mumy is remembered as a player in CBS's original Twilight Zone (1959 to 1964). In the episode "It's a Good Life" (November 1961), he plays a child who terrorizes his town with psychic powers (a role he later reprised along with his daughter Liliana Mumy, in the It's Still a Good Life episode of the second revival series; he also had a cameo in the remake of "It's a Good Life" in the 3rd segment of Twilight Zone: The Movie). Mumy was in an episode on the Jack Benny Program in S13/EP12 (1962)titled "Jack and the Crying Cab Driver". Mumy also played the character of young Pip, a boy who enjoyed playing with his father but was always ignored, in the episode "In Praise of Pip" (September 1963), and the character of Billy Bayles, a boy who talks to his dead grandmother through a toy telephone, in the episode "Long Distance Call" (March 1961). He also wrote the story for the episode Found and Lost in the second revival of The Twilight Zone.

Mumy in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode Bang! You're Dead, 1961

In 1961, Billy was cast on CBS's Alfred Hitchcock Presents television series in "The Door Without a Key." The same episode features John Larch, the actor who played his father on the Twilight Zone's episode of "It's a Good Life." The same year, he starred as little Jackie in the episode Bang! You're Dead, which also featured actress Marta Kristen, who played his sister Judy on Lost in Space.

Mumy was cast as Mark Murdock in the 1962 episode "Keep an Eye on Santa Claus" of the ABC drama series, Going My Way, starring Gene Kelly as a Roman Catholic priest in New York City and loosely based on the 1944 Bing Crosby film of the same name. His fellow guest stars in the segment were Cloris Leachman, Steve Brodie, and Frank McHugh.[2]

In 1963, at the age of eight, young Mumy appeared in Jack Palance's ABC circus drama The Greatest Show on Earth, loosely based on a former Charlton Heston film. He was further cast in 1963 as Miles, a parentless boy, in the Perry Mason episode, "The Case of the Shifty Shoebox." He portrayed Freddy in the 1963 episode, "End of an Image," on the NBC modern western series, Empire, starring Richard Egan as rancher Jim Redigo.

In 1964, he was cast as Richard Kimble's nephew in ABC's The Fugitive in the 15th episode entitled "Home Is The Hunted"; as Barry in the NBC medical drama The Eleventh Hour, episode "Sunday Father"; as himself three times in the ABC sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet; in the Disney film For the Love of Willadena; and as a troubled orphan taken home with Darrin and Samantha Stephens in ABC's fantasy sitcom, Bewitched episode "A Vision of Sugarplums" (December 1964).

Mumy was reportedly the first choice to portray the role of Eddie Munster in the 1964 CBS situation comedy The Munsters, but his parents objected because of the extensive make-up. The role instead went to Butch Patrick. Mumy did appear in one episode as a friend of Eddie's. In 1965, he guest starred on an episode of NBC's I Dream of Jeannie "Whatever Became Of Baby Custer?" as a neighborhood kid, who witnesses Jeannie's magic.

Mumy as Will Robinson, 1965

In 1973, he played a musician friend of Cliff DeYoung in the TV movie Sunshine, and later reprised the role in Sunshine Christmas and in the TV series Sunshine.

In 1974, he played Nick Butler in the pilot episode of NBC's The Rockford Files.

He is perhaps best known for his role as Will Robinson on the CBS science fiction television series Lost in Space (1965–1968), as well as for his role as ambassadorial aide Lennier in the syndicated series Babylon 5 (1994–1998). Mumy has garnered praise from the science fiction fandom for his portrayal of these two characters.

In 1996, he was a writer and co-creator of the show Space Cases, a Nickelodeon television show with themes similar to Lost in Space.

He played a Starfleet member in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Siege of AR-558" (November 1998). To his delight (since, as Lennier, he always appeared onscreen in prosthetic makeup), he played a human character who assists Ezri Dax in turning cloaked Dominion mines against an army of Jem'Hadar.

Recent acting performances can be seen in a 2006 episode of Crossing Jordan and the Sci Fi original film A.I. Assault.

Voice-over career[edit]

Mumy has narrated over 50 episodes of the Arts & Entertainment Channel's Biography series, as well as hosting and narrating several other documentaries and specials for A & E, Animal Planet network, The Sci Fi Channel, and E!. His voice over acting talents can be heard on animated shows like Ren and Stimpy, Scooby Doo, Batman: The Animated Series, Steven Spielberg's Animaniacs, Little Wizard Adventures, The Oz Kids and Disney's Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and Doc McStuffins. He also voices dozens of national commercials, such as Farmers Insurance, Ford, Bud Ice, Blockbuster, Twix, Oscar Mayer, and McDonald's.

Billy Mumy in 1965

Music[edit]

Mumy is an accomplished musician who plays guitar, bass, keyboards, banjo, mandolin, harmonica, and percussion. Among his various musical credits, Mumy has recorded and written songs with America, toured with Shaun Cassidy, and played in Rick Springfield's band in the film, Hard to Hold. He also created the band The Be Five with other Babylon 5 actors, and fronts another band called Seduction of the Innocent.[3]

Mumy has released a number of solo CDs, including Dying to Be Heard, In the Current, Pandora's Box, After Dreams Come True, Los Angeles Times, and Ghosts, as well as nine albums with partner Robert Haimer as Barnes and Barnes. Their most famous hit is the song "Fish Heads", which was named as one of the top 100 videos of all time by Rolling Stone magazine. The Jenerators are a blues-rock band based in Los Angeles, CA featuring Tom Hebenstreit on vocals, electric guitars and keyboards; Bill Mumy on vocals, acoustic and electric guitars, harmonica, keyboards, and percussion; Gary Stockdale on vocals and bass; Miguel Ferrer on vocals, percussion and drums; David Jolliffe on guitar, percussion and vocals and Chris Ross on drums and percussion. In 2012, he released a Byrds-tribute song, "When Roger Was Jim".

Additionally, Mumy produces and hosts 'The Real Good Radio Hour', a weekly series on KSAV Radio that focuses on various styles of music and the artists that pioneered them.[4]

Friendship with Jonathan Harris[edit]

At age 11, in 1965, Mumy began working with Jonathan Harris on Lost in Space, and the two became close friends, both on and off set. He would also spend time with Harris' family, while not working on "Space" or taking a hiatus from the show. In 1996, it was mentioned that Mumy was also reunited with Harris, again, at a Walt Disney convention in Orlando, Florida. Mumy worked again with Harris on the 1998 retrospective special Lost In Space: Forever, where they reprised their roles in a scene written by Mumy (with Harris re-writing his lines). This was done one year after the rest of the cast (including both Mumy & Harris) appeared inside TV Guide and said that the Sci Fi Channel had planned to do a Lost in Space marathon while promoting a new movie. Harris was to appear in the planned TV movie, Lost in Space: The Journey Home, but died before production started in 2002 and the production was cancelled. Mumy read the eulogy at Harris' funeral and was asked to narrate his longtime friend's life on A&E Biography that same year. According to a 2010 interview on Blog Talk Radio's, Lessons Learned, Rick Tocquigny, when asked if Mumy was a Jonathan Harris fan, before Mumy's first meeting with Harris on Lost in Space, he said at age 5, he was too young to watch his mentor's show The Third Man which was probably late at night, but was old enough to watch The Bill Dana Show (which also starred Harris's real-life best friend Don Adams). After that, he watched reruns of The Third Man, and he was a Jonathan Harris fan, growing up (when he was actually a fan of Guy Williams', Zorro, who played his future TV father – John Robinson).[5]

On June 14, 2006, Mumy got to work with Harris one last time, though posthumously. Harris had done voice work for the animated short The Bolt Who Screwed Christmas narrating the film and playing the part of "The Bolt". He passed away many years before the films completion. As a tribute to Harris writer director John Wardlaw added a scene to the short film that reunited Lost in Space cast members Bill Mumy, Marta Kristen and Angela Cartwright as the animated Ratchett family.[6]

In May 2013, eleven years after the death of Mumy's acting mentor in November 2002, Mumy commented on his connection between the familiar actor (Harris) and the unfamiliar actor's (Mumy) on- and off-screen connection on Lost in Space, "Yes we did. Indeed, dear boy. Don’t you forget it." Mumy also added, "Well, yeah. I never really had too many uncomfortable moments working with any actor. I was comfortable working with most everybody. It’s just the more that Jonathan and I did together, the more he changed the character. He really changed the character of Dr. Smith himself. He really turned him from a snarling saboteur villain to this bumbling insulting kook. The more he played it for comedy, the more Irwin Allen liked it. The show really went the way that Jonathan led it. But we had great chemistry together, and we never had a bad day. We were always prepared, as was Bobby May who was inside the robot. When we had our work to do – and I think this is a very big reason the way it went – they’d get us done in a couple of takes. Nobody screwed up. It was easier for the crew and it was easier for us, and people seemed to like it."[7]

Personal life[edit]

Unlike many child actors, Mumy entered the profession at his own insistence, and his parents took pains to make sure he matured properly in his job. His father, who was a cattle rancher, carefully invested his son's income, and thereby avoided problems encountered by other child actors of his period. He currently lives in Hollywood Hills, California, with his wife, Eileen, and their two child-actor children, Seth and Liliana.

Selected filmography[edit]

Mumy in Dear Brigitte, 1965
YearTitleRole
1960The Wizard of BaghdadAladdin (uncredited)
1961Tammy Tell Me TrueNeil Bateman (uncredited)
1962Sammy the Way out SealPetey Loomis
1962House GuestTony Mitchell
1963A Child is WaitingBoy counting Jean's pearls
1963A Ticklish AffairAlex Martin
1963Palm Springs Weekend'Boom Boom' Yates
1964For the Love of WilladeanFreddy Gray
1965Dear BrigitteErasmus Leaf
1965The Munsters: Come Back Little GoogieGoogie Miller
1965–68Lost in SpaceWill Robinson
1968Wild in the StreetsBoy
1969RascalSterling North
1971Bless the Beasts and ChildrenTeft
1973PapillonLariot
1980Fish HeadsArt Barnes
1983Twilight Zone: The MovieTim (Segment #3)
1984Hard to HoldKeyboard Player
1991The FlashRoger Braintree
1991Captain AmericaYoung General Fleming
1992Double TroubleBob
1994–98Babylon 5Lennier
1995Three WishesNeighbor
1996The Oz Kids Underground AdventureVoice of Sam
1997The Oz Kids The Monkey PrinceVoice of Sam
1997The Weird Al ShowUPS guy
1998Star Trek: Deep Space NineKellin
2004Comic Book: The MovieHimself
2005Holly Hobbie and Friends: Surprise Party
(Direct to DVD)
Voice of Bud (Amy's father)
2006A.I. AssaultArmy guy
2009The Bolt Who Screwed Christmas
(Theatrical Short)
Voice of Tiny Tap / Knob Ratchett
2013Bravest Warriors
(Web Series)
2 episodes; Voice of Beth's father

References[edit]

External links[edit]