Actor Martin Milner, who projected clean-cut integrity through car windshields on ’60s TV hits “Route 66” and “Adam-12,” has died. He was 83.
His death was confirmed by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, who said that Milner’s role as a police officer on “Adam-12” inspired him and countless others to join the force.
Milner appeared in dozens of TV shows and movies in a Hollywood career that spanned half a century, from “Dragnet” to “Murder, She Wrote.” His forthright manner and wholesome looks made him a popular choice to play cops, military officers and other authority figures.
But he is best remembered for two roles that placed him behind the wheel of a car, fighting crime and seeking adventure.
In “Route 66,” which ran from 1960 to 1964, Milner played Tod Stiles, a restless young man who wandered the country with buddy Buz Murdock (later Lincoln Case) in a Corvette convertible, taking odd jobs and helping local people with their struggles.
Inspired by Jack Kerouac’s novel “On the Road,” the show filmed in locations all over the country and reflected the rise of American car culture and the interstate highway system.
A few years later, Milner returned to TV screens weekly as LAPD officer Pete Malloy in “Adam-12,” about two patrol cops who encounter a range of incidents while cruising the streets of Los Angeles. An unflappable veteran of the force, Malloy was paired with a rookie cop, Jim Reed (Kent McCord).
Their show’s title was police code for the main characters’ unit and patrol car, and its frequently repeated radio call sign, “1-Adam-12,” became a catchphrase. Its plotlines were based on actual LAPD cases.
“Adam-12” ran from 1968 to 1975 and was credited with introducing many Americans to police jargon and procedures.
“#Adam12 and Martin Milner embodied the spirit of the #LAPD to millions of viewers,” the LAPD’s Beck said Monday on Twitter. “His depiction of a professional & tough yet compassionate cop led 2 thousands of men & women applying 2 become #LAPD officers, including me.”
Born in 1931 in Detroit, Milner moved with his family to Los Angeles as a teenager and soon began appearing steadily on TV and in movies. His big break came in the early 1950s, when he met actor-producer Jack Webb, who gave him a role on “Dragnet” and later cast him in “Adam-12.”
Among Milner’s many other credits were small movie roles in “Sweet Smell of Success” and “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” and TV parts on “The Life of Riley,” “Rawhide,” “Columbo,” “Swiss Family Robinson” and “MacGyver.”
He reprised his Pete Malloy role in TV series “The New Adam-12,” which had a brief run in 1990-91.