Allan Arbus died quietly at age 95 in his Los Angeles home on Friday. As we reported earlier, his daughter Amy confirmed the news Tuesday.
Although he was a successful photographer, he’s one of the few people who became an actor in his forties and ultimately went to the top. His most famous role was his recurring guest star appearance as Major Sidney Freedom, the sharp-tongued psychiatrist who “treated wounds of the psyche…with a never-ending string of zingers” that held a hidden common sense.
His first important role was in film — 1972’s Greaser’s Palace, and he also appeared in a few other scattered films in the 1970s.
But he achieved his greatest success as a TV character actor. In addition to his popular role on M*A*S*H, he has appeared on at least 45 other TV shows, including Matlock, Starsky and Hutch, Law & Order, L.A. Law, and many more. He was already in his eighties when he took his final guest role, in a 2000 episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm.
While many younger viewers know him as the TV star, other fans have noted that his photography career was an important part of his history.
During World War II, he worked as an Army photographer.
Afterward, he opened a fashion advertising business with his wife, Diane Arbus, in highly competitive Manhattan. There too he went to the top, with their work appearing in fashion magazines like Glamour, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and many more.
Diane Arbus eventually left the studio and went on to become the famous black-and-white photographer of outsiders, so-called freaks, and deviants.
But it’s inevitable that the influential photographer has been overshadowed by the gifted actor. Many tributes remembered the most famous Allan Arbus line from M*A*S*H: “Ladies and gentleman, take my advice. Take off your pants and slide on the ice.”
Did you know that this well-known photograph of Diane Arbus was taken by Allan Arbus?
— Daniela Pepe (@DanielaEster5) October 28, 2012
— DavidNWagner (@CatholicismUSA) April 24, 2013
RIP allan arbus (sidney the psychiatrist on MASH). he used to walk the same park trail i ran in west LA. kind man & guy could LAND a joke.
— Cary Brothers (@carybrothers) April 24, 2013
[Korean war memorial photo by Yeowatzup via Flickr]