Marvin Kaplan was born January 24, 1924 and was a life-long actor appearing in dozens of plays, films, commercials and televisions shows since the late 1940's. He landed the role of Henry in "Alice" in 1977.
Long before he accepted his role in "Alice," his acting career began not as an actor, but as a stage manager of a small acting group based in Los Angeles. His desire was to be a playwright. However, he was often asked to audition for parts because the director of the group liked his uncanny Brooklyn accent. As a result, he land a part in a local LA play called, "A Doctor In Spite of Himself." His big break came during the show's fourteenth week, when film star Katherine Hepburn came to see the play and saw his performance. She instantly liked Marvin's rendition and immediately contacted MGM Studios to set him up with an audition for an upcoming movie role. The part called for a court reporter who could read dramatic testimony in a dull, flat voice, something Marvin could reproduce unfailingly. Marvin, however, did not accept the part, but the audition helped introduce him to MGM and, along with Katherine Hepburn's endorsement, helped establish his acting career.
In time, he auditioned for and landed parts in several movies, such as "Francis," the story of a talking mule with Donald O' Connor, as well as "Adam's Rib," and "Key to the City," with Clark Gable. This was followed in the early 1950's by roles in the new medium of television.
When asked whether he prefered movies or television, he instantly answered television. "If I do 5 big leads as a guest star [in a movie], I won't come out nearly as well as if I did 30 one-liners on a television series," he said. The greater the number of acting parts, the more his financial gain, and television helped him to attain this.
In the mid-1970's, he was asked to read for two parts on the series, "Alice," one being a telephone repairman, the other being the father of a teenage boy. After reading the scripts, he chose the telephone repairman because he saw the possibility of his role being repeated. Marvin relates how his character, Henry, was introduced to the series: "Henry was sitting at the counter and the phone kept ringing. So he pipes in, "Please answer the phone. It's making me very nervous, so please answer the phone." No one in the Diner was willing to answer the phone so, annoyed, Henry leaps out of his seat and rips the phone off the wall and carries it outside, saying "it's alright, I'm from the phone company and you need a new one anyway." The audience loved it and his role was in instant success, thus establishing him for future episodes because someone was needed to come in and fix the phone.
Regarding his second appearance as Henry, Marvin further goes on to relate: "Next came Mel's birthday. There was to be a dinner party for Mel and I was to make a speech." Since the writers were uncertain how to introduce him, it was Marvin who suggested, "Well, like they say at the phone company, "Hello!" The statement worked and he went on to become a regular guest on the show.
Later, the series briefly introduced Henry's wife, Chloe, played by Ruth Buzzi. Though she only made one appearance on the series, audiences were always aware of her presence through Henry's comments, and he often indicated a stormy relationship . "I'd like Chloe to be a den mother... with real lions," Henry bluntly states in one episode. Marvin continued making guest appearances as a faithful customer and telephone repairman until the show's demise in 1985.
In his later years, Marvin never fully retired but still performed in commercials, plays, and television from time to time. He played the part of a grandfather in a Phoenix comedy play called, "2 ½ Jews," and made several guest appearances on television shows such as "ER," and "Becker."
Marvin passed away in 2016 at the age of 89.