A paragon among character actors, the late American thesp Lewis Arquette faded smoothly and imperceptibly into his individual roles with such efficiency and success that many television devotees and filmgoers will sooner recognize the names of Arquette's craggily-voiced, cantankerous personages than his own name -- from Seinfeld's Leapin' Larry, the crippled furniture magnate whose establishment burns to the ground as the result of a freak accident, to retired taxidermist Clifford Wooley in Christopher Guest's uproarious mockumentary Waiting for Guffman (1996) to the pot-bellied law enforcement officer, Chief Louis Hartley, in Scream 2 (1997).
The son of television personality Cliff Arquette (a Tonight Show mainstay), Lewis Arquette was born December 14, 1935. He launched his career as a Broadway stage actor, then returned home to the Windy City and enlisted with the infamous Second City troupe. As a member of that ensemble, Arquette fine-tuned his own aptitude for spur-of-the-moment improvisation -- a gift that, combined with Arquette's distinctive look, prompted Hollywood to summon him for numerous character roles. Arquette began on the small screen (on an uncharacteristically somber note) as J.D. Pickett in the melancholic, tragedy-laden seventh season of the hit CBS series The Waltons -- a role that lasted for several years, until the program wrapped in August 1981.
Arquette spent the late '70s, '80s, and '90s filling his resumé with bit parts in alternately forgettable and memorable pictures. Roles (in addition to the aforementioned turns) included Hatcher in The China Syndrome (1979), the warden in the "coming attractions" parody Loose Shoes (1980), a foreman in Badge of the Assassin (1985), Mr. Stokes in the Lily Tomlin-Bette Midler comedy Big Business (1988), Herm in The Great Outdoors (1988), Wyler in Tango & Cash (1989), Sheriff Bugiere in Chopper Chicks in Zombietown (1991), Texas Joe in The Linguini Incident (1992), Mr. Ingersol in Attack of the 50 ft. Woman (1993), and a cardinal in the Adam Sandler comedy-fantasy Little Nicky (2000).
Arquette was still active onscreen when he died of congestive heart failure on February 10, 2001 -- just two months after his 65th birthday. Arquette was the father of actresses Rosanna and Patricia Arquette, as well as actors David Arquette, Alexis Arquette, and Richmond Arquette. He co-starred with his sons and daughters in many of his pictures.