I am going to miss the sound of Norman Lloyd’s booming voice. It could easily reach the second balcony of any theater, and it never lost its power even as he celebrated his 106th birthday.
It belied the fact that he was born in Jersey City, New Jersey and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Norman claimed that he had a Joisey/Brooklyn accent until he went to work for the formidable Eva LeGallienne, whose repertory troupe was filled with young men and women who spoke beautifully.
“You couldn’t play a whole repertory of work unless you could learn to speak,” he explained, “So I set about to learn and I managed to get what has been called a mid-Atlantic accent.”
He graciously welcomed my daughter Jessie and me into his home in 2018 to record an episode of our podcast. (click HERE to listen.) For Jess and many others her age, his role in Dead Poets Society is the first performance that comes to mind. And while he spoke of possible projects to take on he confessed, “I tell you what blocks me from really finding a property: the ball game every day. The ball game comes on and everything stops. In my ancient age, my trainer says, ‘You’ve got to walk so much every day. You’ve got to do these physical exercises’ and so forth. And I think that’s very good advice… And then the ball game comes on.”
Norman was entitled to that luxury, having worked in every facet of show business for so many years. He had a wonderful part in Curtis Hanson’s In Her Shoes in 2005 and an amusing cameo in Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck in 2015. His credentials were vast. Who else could talk with equal authority about Lewis Milestone and Cameron Diaz? Who else had been directed by Anthony Mann and Martin Scorsese?
In recent years he became a valuable resource: there weren’t many people still alive in the 21st century who could talk about working with Alfred Hitchcock, Charlie Chaplin, Jean Renoir, Orson Welles, and other legendary figures. He even told me a Gabby Hayes story one day that I should have written down; it’s now lost to memory.
But there is no way of forgetting Norman Lloyd, a great raconteur, an active participant in—and eyewitness to—theater and film history. He was funny, a true lover of life and never took a single moment for granted. His energy was infectious as was his laugh. My family and I feel so lucky to have known him.