Burton Hill “Burt” Mustin (February 8, 1884 – January 28, 1977) was an American character actor. Over the course of his career, Mustin appeared in over 150 film and television productions. He also worked in radio and appeared in stage productions.
Mustin began his professional acting career at the age of 67 after director William Wyler cast him in the 1951 film noirDetective Story. Known for his dependability and versatility, Mustin would go on to establish a career as a well-known character actor and worked extensively in film and television from the 1950s to the 1970s.
In January 1977, Mustin died in Glendale, California at the age of 92.
Mustin was born in Pittsburgh to William I. and Sadie (Dorrington) Mustin. His father worked as a stockbroker. Mustin graduated from Pennsylvania Military College (renamed Widener University in 1972) in 1903 with a degree in civil engineering. He worked as an engineer but later decided to go into sales. In 1916, Mustin began working as an automobile salesman selling Oakland Sensible Sixes. He later began selling the luxury Franklins. After the Franklin company went out of business, Mustin sold Mercurys and Lincolns until the car industry began to suffer due to World War II. He then worked as a fiscal agent for the Better Business Bureau and the Chamber of Commerce.
Before he began a professional career in show business, Mustin did amateur acting and performing. In 1921, he became the first announcer for a variety show broadcast on Pittsburgh’s then newly established KDKA radio station. He appeared in productions in the Pittsburgh Savoyards (a Gilbert and Sullivan troupe) and the Pittsburgh Opera. He was also a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society.
After retiring, Mustin moved to Tucson, Arizona. While living in Tucson, director William Wyler saw him in a stage production of Detective Story. Wyler told Mustin to look him up if he decided to pursue a screen career. Mustin contacted Wyler who cast him in the 1951 film version of Detective Story. After appearing in the film, Mustin’s acting career took off and he began landing roles in films and television series. He later moved to Los Angeles.
Mustin made his television debut in 1951 with a role in the Western series The Adventures of Kit Carson. Throughout the rest of the 1950s, he made guest appearances on The Abbott and Costello Show, The Loretta Young Show, Cavalcade of America, The Public Defender, Treasury Men in Action, The Lone Ranger,Fireside Theater, Tales of the Texas Rangers, It’s a Great Life, Lux Video Theatre, Studio 57, Dragnet, Our Miss Brooks, It’s a Great Life, The Gale Storm Show,General Electric Theater, and The Texan among many others.
In 1960, Mustin guest starred on The Twilight Zone in the episode “The Night of the Meek” alongside Art Carney. He also appeared in a second episode of the series, “Kick the Can” in 1962. In 1964, Mustin had an uncredited role in The Outer Limits episode “The Guests“.
During the 1960s, Mustin also made multiple appearances on Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Ichabod and Me, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Dragnet, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The New Phil Silvers Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, Dr. Kildare, The Jack Benny Program, Ben Casey, The Monkees, The Virginian, Cimarron Strip, My Three Sons, Batman(episode 48), and Bewitched. In 1969, he co-starred in the television film The Over-the-Hill Gang. Mustin also appeared in the sequel film The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again the following year.
In addition to guest starring roles, Mustin also had recurring roles on several television shows during the 1950s and 1960s. In 1955, he played the role of “Foley” inThe Great Gildersleeve. From 1957 to 1958, he appeared as Mr. Finley on Date with the Angels. In 1957, he made his first appearance as “Gus the Fireman” onLeave It to Beaver. Mustin would continue in the role until 1962 making a total of 15 appearances on the show.
In 1960, he made his first guest appearance on The Andy Griffith Show as Jud Fletcher. He appeared in the role until 1966. He also portrayed “Old Uncle Joe” on two episodes of The Lucy Show in 1967. The following year, Mustin guest starred as “Grandpa Jenson” on Petticoat Junction in three episodes.
Known for his quick wit and song-and-dance abilities, Mustin was a frequent closing act on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson during the 1970s. From 1971 to 1976, he had a recurring role as “Justin Quigley” in five episodes of All in the Family. In 1971, Mustin co-starred in the sketch comedy show The Funny Side. Hosted by Gene Kelly, the series featured an ensemble cast of five married couples that dealt with various issues through comedy sketches and song-and-dance routines. Mustin was cast opposite Queenie Smith as “the elderly couple”. The series debuted on NBC in September 1971 and was canceled in January 1972.
The next year, Mustin co-starred in the television film Miracle on 34th Street, starring Sebastian Cabot and had an uncredited role in the Disney television film Now You See Him, Now You Don’t. Mustin’s last continuing role was on the television series Phyllis, in which he played the suitor, and later husband, of Sally “Mother” Dexter, a role he played until shortly before his death.
In addition to his extensive work in television, Mustin also appeared in numerous films. He made his film debut at the age of 67 in Detective Story, in 1951. Mustin followed with roles in Talk About a Stranger (1952), The Silver Whip (1953), Half a Hero (1953), She Couldn’t Say No (1954), The Desperate Hours (1955), Man with the Gun (1955), Storm Center (1956), and The Sheepman (1958).
In the 1960s and 1970s, Mustin appeared in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1960), Hemingway’s Adventures of a Young Man (1962), Twilight of Honor(1963), What a Way to Go! (1964), The Misadventures of Merlin Jones (1964), Sex and the Single Girl (1964), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (1967), The Shakiest Gun in the West (1968), The Great Bank Robbery (1969), Hail, Hero! (1969), and Skin Game (1971). In 1974, Mustin portrayed “Uncle Jeff” in the musical film Mame, starring Lucille Ball and Bea Arthur. He also had a small role in Herbie Rides Again, also released in 1974. The next year, he appeared as “Regent Appleby ” in The Strongest Man in the World. His final film role came in 1976 in the Western film Baker’s Hawk, starring Clint Walker and Burl Ives.
In 2000 TVLand created a series of commercials celibrating the often seen but little known by name character actors who regularly appeared in their shows, Mustin being featured in one.
Mustin was one of the 110 original founders of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Lions Club which was established in 1921. He served as one of the presidents and remained active in the club for the remainder of his life.
Mustin married Frances Robina Woods in 1915. They remained married until Woods’ death in 1969. The couple had no children.