A prolific character player whose lived-in face was his fortune, Norman Fell attended Temple University, served in World War II, then took acting lessons at the American Academy of Dramatic Art and the Actors' Studio. Fell entered films in 1959, playing such peripheral roles as the radio technician in Inherit the Wind (1960) until achieving a measure of fame as a detective named Meyer Meyer on TV's 87th Precinct (1961). His meatier film assignments included the role of Mr. McCleery in The Graduate (1967) and a pushy American tourist in If It's Tuesday, It Must Be Belgium (1969). In 1966, Fell was cast as the second lead in the pilot for the Girl From UNCLE series, but "skewed old" and was replaced by Noel Harrison. Fell finally achieved TV stardom as the sex-obsessed landlord Mr. Roper in the popular 1970s sitcom Three's Company, which resulted in a spin-off vehicle for Fell titled The Ropers (both series were based on British TV originals; the English equivalent of The Ropers was George and Mildred). A later video vehicle for Fell, 1982's Teachers Only, was less successful. Norman Fell made his final film appearance in the independent feature The Destiny of Marty Fine (1996).
Biography by Hal Erickson
- Spent three years as a U.S. Air Force tail gunner in the Pacific theatre during World War II.
- Befriended Marlon Brando early in his career, and Brando suggested he study acting with Stella Adler. Later, Fell enrolled in the Actors Studio.
- Appeared in more than 150 plays and TV shows while living in New York during the 1950s.
- Starred in the pilot for The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. in 1966, but at the last minute was replaced by the younger Noel Harrison.
- Shot one of the first American Express "Do You Know Me?" commercials in 1974.
- Was inducted into Philadelphia's Central High School Hall of Fame in 1976.