Cherubic, wispy-haired looks made his typecasting as impish or eccentric characters somehow inevitable. The pint-sized Michael J. Pollard was born the son of a bar manager of Polish ancestry in Passaic (New Jersey). He studied drama at the Actor’s Studio (with a young Marilyn Monroe in the same class) and made his theatrical debut in November 1958 on Broadway in “Comes the Day”, with George C. Scott and Judith Anderson. He received excellent critical notices the following year for his performance in William Inge’s play “A Loss of Roses” and thereby came to the attention of Hollywood. On the small screen, Pollard enjoyed a measure of early success in anthology television. He then had a brief stint as Bob Denver’s cousin Jerome Krebs in a couple of episodes of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959). His chief contribution to cult sci-fi consisted of appearances in Lost in Space (1965) and Star Trek: The Original Series (1966), his baby-faced appearance enabling him to essay characters who were considerably younger than his actual age. True to form, he also portrayed the bowler-hat wearing, leprechaun-like trickster Mister Mxyzptlk in Superboy (1988), based on the DC comic strips. Pollard had his fair share of exposure to mainstream TV dramas as well, popping up in series like Gunsmoke (1955), The Virginian (1962), and I Spy (1965). For the most part, his screen personae were simple country folk, sometimes evil, often mischievous, nervous or downright weird.
Pollard’s big break (and his critically most acclaimed role) was as the loyal, but inarticulate and child-like garage mechanic turned get-away driver C.W. Moss in Arthur Penn’s gangster epic Bonnie and Clyde (1967). On the heels of his Oscar-nomination for Best Supporting Actor came offers for other high-profile off-beat character roles, though he was never truly regarded as star material. He gave a good account of himself as Packy, leader of a group of partisans joining Hannibal Brooks (1969) and his POW’s in their escape from the Nazis across the Alps to Switzerland. Perhaps best of all post-Bonnie and Clyde impersonations was his powerful portrayal of the outlaw Henry McCarty (aka William H. Bonney) as a demented, twitching psychopath in Dirty Little Billy (1972) (a rare starring role which also marked the screen debut of actor Nick Nolte). By the 1980s, Pollard had recovered from a period of alcohol and drug abuse, but by then his name had slipped down the list of credits and he was now reduced to minor support in films like Roxanne (1987) , American Gothic (1987) , Dick Tracy (1990) and Rob Zombie’s debut cult-horror House of 1000 Corpses (2003) .
Pollard died of cardiac arrest on November 20, 2019 in Los Angeles at the age of 80.
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