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Few in American pop culture have ever been as beloved. As the sherriff on The Andy Griffith Show, he was the calm, fatherly voice of reason in Mayberry; as the defense attorney Ben Matlock, he was just as folksy — but more cantankerous.
ca. 1964: Everett Collection
With her wild wigs, outrageous outfits, saucy one-liners and — most important, her success — the former advertising copywriter blazed the trail for female comics. In addition to wisecracking, she was a highly accomplished pianist.
2000: Danny Turner/Corbis
The 6-foot-5-inch, 300-plus-pound Chicagoan worked as a bouncer and bodyguard before breaking into TV and the movies. His portrayal of a soft-spoken death-row inmate in 1999’s The Green Mile earned him an Oscar nomination.
1999: Bureau L.A. Collection/Sygma/Corbis
He was well prepared for his starring role in TV’s McHale’s Navy, having served 10 years in the U.S. Navy. He went on to a distinguished (and Oscar-winning) career, with his last Emmy nomination for an episode of ER — at age 92.
1963: ABC/Getty Images
As the flirtatious Ado Annie, Celeste Holm belted out “I’m just a girl who can’t say no” in the original 1943 Broadway production of Oklahoma! Four years later, she won a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in Gentleman’s Agreement.
ca. 1950: Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
The intense Gazzara, son of Sicilian immigrants, originated the role of Brick in the Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. While Paul Newman got the movie role, Gazzara went on to a long and celebrated career in film and TV.
1959: Everett Collection
Shy and private off-screen, Sherman Hemsley found another personality with the cameras rolling — as the opinionated, conniving and side-splitting dry-cleaning entrepreneur George Jefferson on All in the Family and then on The Jeffersons.
1975, with his TV wife, Isabel Sanford: CBS/Getty Images
In the days before Siskel & Ebert, her work on the Today show and in TV Guide made her America’s most famous film critic. Director Billy Wilder said that having her review your movie was "like asking the Boston Strangler for a neck massage."
1982: Bernard Gotfryd/Getty Images
One of Walt Disney’s original Mousekeeters, he went on to star as Robbie in one of the iconic family sitcoms of the 1960s: My Three Sons. He later focused on music, writing the theme song for The Phil Donahue Show.
1970: CBS/Getty Images
His life imitated his art: He got his start in children’s education theater; played his biggest role as a student (Epstein) in Welcome Back, Kotter; and later taught writing, acting and public speaking to college students. He died of a heart attack.
ca. 1975: Everett Collection
He lamented the role that made him famous (the nerdy Arnold Horshack in Welcome Back, Kotter) saying it typecast him. Yet he managed to find life after Horshack by acting on TV, in the movies and on stage — and writing a play, The Lost Boy.
1975: ABC/Getty Images
ACTOR, GAME SHOW HOST
While some may remember him best as a regular on Hogan’s Heroes and Laugh-In, the British-born Dawson — Colin Emm on his birth certificate — won most of his fame from his role as the first, and long-time, host of the game show Family Feud.
1983: Everett Collection
While hardly a saint off-screen, the handsome actor snagged an Emmy bid for his portrayal of St. Peter in the 1977 miniseries Jesus of Nazareth. TV fans also knew him from recurring roles on ER, Police Story, Dynasty and Melrose Place.
1981: Mary Evans/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection
From an early career as a wrestling announcer and game show host — and on-air huckster for Parliament cigarettes — he became America’s most famous journalist with a four-decade run on 60 Minutes, winning his 21st Emmy at age 89.
1954: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images
A rarity in Hollywood — both a devout Christian and a conservative Republican — Everett had a screen career spanning part of six decades. He was best known for his role as the young Dr. Joe Gannon on Medical Center from 1969 to 1976.
1970: CBS/Getty Images
The Texas native — and son of Broadway legend Mary Martin — may have first shot to TV stardom in the 1960s on I Dream of Jeannie, but most will remember him best for his 14-year run as the villainous J.R. Ewing on Dallas.
ca. 1965, with Barbara Eden: Everett Collection
While his character, Goober Pyle, may have been a slow-witted hayseed, Alabama native George Lindsey was anything but: He earned a biology degree at the University of North Alabama, and later endowed a scholarship at the school.
ca. 1964: Everett Collection
The former nurse was a late bloomer — she didn’t start acting until age 42, and in community theater at that — but quickly made up for lost time, nabbing two Emmys for her scene-stealing work on The West Wing and Desperate Housewives.
2008: Jared Milgrim/Everett Collection
TV HOST, DISC JOCKEY
From its birth on a local station in Chicago, his televised dance show Soul Train grew to reach a national audience. He hosted the show for more than two decades, signing off each week by wishing his audience "love, peace and soul."
2006: Damian Dovarganes/AP Photo
TV HOST, PRODUCER
In the 1950s he married a fairly new art form (rock music) with a fairly new medium (television) on American Bandstand — launching not only countless music careers but his own wildly successful career as a TV host and producer.
1958: ABC Photo Archives/Getty Images
Maybe you didn’t know his name, but you surely knew his face. A World War II hero who once toyed with becoming a priest, he made his mark playing memorable authority figures, including politicians, cops, and — yes — priests.
1992, with Dustin Hoffman in 'Toostie': Columbia Pictures/Getty Images
A star on Broadway (where he snagged a Tony nomination in the original production of Gypsy) and in movies, he’s best known for his work on TV — as the rumpled Oscar Madison in The Odd Couple, and as the title character in Quincy, M.E.
1991, being bussed by his 'Odd Couple' costar Tony Randall: Mario Ruiz/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
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