Kenneth Mars (Otto) Dies at 75


Super Moderator
Front Page Post

Kenneth Mars, who played Otto Manküsser in Malcolm in the Middle, has died at the age of 75 at his home in Grenada Hills. According to the Washington Examiner, a statement from his family said he died of pancreatic cancer on Saturday 12th February 2011.

We of course know Kenneth as Otto, Francis' boss at the ranch ('The Grotto') in seasons 4 and 5 of Malcolm in the Middle, where he played alongside Meagan Fay as Otto's wife Gretchen. Mars also played in Mel Brooks' films The Producers and Young Frankenstein, where he developed his style for his somewhat over-the-top German accent. He also made appearances in LA Law and Diagnosis Murder and provided many voices for animations on TV and on film, including The Little Mermaid and The Land Before Time.

Kenneth Mars -- 1935 - 2011

Mars is survived by his two daughters, Susannah Mars Johnson and Rebecca Mars Tipton and has six grandchildren.

Source: BBC News, Washington Examiner


Super Moderator
It is indeed very sad. :(

I always enjoyed Mars as his character Otto in MITM -- and the ranch storylines in my opinion were some of the best Francis 'B-stories'.


Staff - The One Who Mods
Sad to hear. :( I think he was great on MITM. I don't know any of his other work but the role of Otto was very funny.


I'm really sad to hear this, and also that I totally missed this in the news and when this was posted on our site.

Yes, he was great in The Producers, I remember that role. I must have seen him in Young Frankenstein too, but that was ages ago, and I don't recall his part.

God bless his family.

Let's make up for the hiatus:

From The Producers (1968), with a young Kenneth Mars (33 years old, really!) as Franz Liebkind. The irony of course, is that the two men (played by Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder) meeting up with him are Jewish.

- Franz Liebkind?
- I was never a member of the Nazi party!
I'm not responsible! I only followed orders!
Who are you? Why do you persecute me?
My papers are in order.
I love my adopted country.

What do you want?
Relax, Mr. Liebkind.
We're not from the government.
- We came here to talk about your play.
- My play?
- You mean Springtime for You-know-who?
- Yes.
What about it?
We love it. We think it's a masterpiece.
That's why we're here.

We wish to produce it on Broadway.
Oh, joy of joys.
Oh, dream of dreams.
I can't believe it.
I must tell the birds. Birds!
Birds, do you hear?
Otto! Berthe! Hans!
Do you hear?
We are going to clear the Führer's name.

Mr. Liebkind, please. People can hear.
This is not a place to talk.
Come, we'll go to my flat.
An occasion like this...
...calls for schnapps!
You know, not many people knew it...
...but the Führer was a terrific dancer.
Really? I never dreamed that...
That is because that you were taken in... that verdammte Allied propaganda!

Such filthy lies! They told lies!
But nobody ever said a bad word
about Winston Churchill, did they?
No! "Win with Winnie!"
With his cigars. With his brandy.
And his rotten painting, rotten!
Hitler, there was a painter.
He could paint an entire apartment
in one afternoon! Two coats!

Churchill. He couldn't even say "Nazi."
He would say, "Noooo-zeeehz, Nooooooooooooo-zeeehz!'."
It wasn't Noses!
It was Nazis!
- Exactly why...
- Let me tell you this!
And you're hearing this straight from the horse!
Hitler was better looking than Churchill.
He was a better dresser than Churchill.
He had more hair! He told funnier jokes!
And he could dance the pants off of Churchill!
- Exactly why...
- Churchill!
Yes. Churchill!
That's exactly why we want to produce this play... show the world the true Hitler,
the Hitler you loved...
...the Hitler you knew,
the Hitler with a song in his heart.

Inspector Kemp in Young Frankenstein (1974):

Inspector Kemp: A riot is an ugly thing. And once you get one started, there is little chance of stopping it, short of bloodshed. I think, before we go around killing people, we had better make damned sure of our evidence. And we had better confirm the fact that Young Frankenstein is indeed following in his grandfather's footschteps.
All: What?
Inspector Kemp: Following in his grandfather's footschteps, footschteps, footschteps.
All: Oh, footsteps.
Inspector Kemp: I think what is in order, is for me to pay a little visit on the good doctor, and to have a nice quiet chat.

On Fernwood 2 Night skit show (1977), with Martin Mull and Fred Willard, some vintage tips on energy conservation:

Very early appearance of Kenneth Mars in failed comedy series "He & She" (1967), with Paula Prentiss and Richard Benjamin. He played the Greek-born (!) fireman neighbour.

(Kenneth's part starts at 4:37 mins)

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Look at Gene Wilder in The Producers clip from 1:23 to 1:27 when Kenneth Mars is singing Deutschland über alles. He can't contain his giggle! It just struck me. Yes, he was a uniquely funny man!



Kenneth Mars, eulogy from The Chicago Tribune

Chicago's Kenneth Mars accentuated the funny,0,3167515.column

Michael Phillips
Movie critic

Best known for the unrepentant Nazi playwright in "The Producers," the irritable Slavic musicologist in "What's Up, Doc!" and the wooden-armed Transylvanian (but really unmistakably German) police chief in "Young Frankenstein," Chicago-born Kenneth Mars died Saturday at age 75, of pancreatic cancer, in Granada Hills, Calif.

His name was known, if not widely. But his face and especially his voice were practically synonymous with cheap dialect humor, a politically incorrect subject dear to many fans of many sorts of comedy.

The 6-foot-3 character actor had an exceptional ear for garbled, slightly ridiculous argot, and a way with authority figures begging for deflation. Some of this he learned genetically and otherwise from his father, Chicago stand-up comic and radio personality Bernard "Sonny" Mars. A Northwestern University graduate, the younger Mars acted around town at Drury Lane, among other stages, and made his way to New York and onto series television, starting with a guest shot on a "Car 54, Where Are You?" episode titled "The Loves of Sylvia Schnauser."

When I heard of Mars' passing, the line that popped into my head wasn't a funny line. Rather, it was a line — "He will curse the day he was born a Frankenstein!" — Mars made funny simply by making it very, very difficult to understand. Like Sid Caesar, Mars always seemed more himself when he was deep inside a vaguely hostile foreigner. Just typing that sentence risks all sorts of offense, of course. From the funny papers to silent film to sound, on personality-driven radio and vaudeville-inspired early television, American popular culture devoured the sounds of its immigrant voices and spit them out, often derisively, as punch lines.

The best practitioners, though, brought something more than cheap mockery to the table. They combined wit, timing, finesse, a sense of sly accuracy and surprise to all sorts of characters. Why was Mars a cut above? Because he could be counted on to go a little too far, and knew when to throw away a line.

An actor with lesser instincts would've punched up the "two coats!" tag on the bit in "The Producers" about Hitler's apartment-painting abilities, rather than toss it off on the fly as Mars did.

As Hugh — Ryan O'Neal's sniveling rival in "What's Up, Doc?" — the actor knew precisely how to pronounce his own name in the courtroom sequence so it sounded as if he were saying "you," not "Hugh." Shameless, stupid, cheap dialect humor. It's easy to misuse and abuse, and it's too often dominated by amateurs and bullies.

Who? Hugh! You?

I first heard Mars' voice on the "Anything Goes" cast album from 1962, the one featuring Hal Linden as Billy Crocker and, among others, Mars as Evelyn Oakleigh, the pip-pip upper-class twit who, in that version, sang "Let's Misbehave." The actor made a good long career out of linguistic misbehavior.

When he died last weekend, cheap dialect humor — one of the insensitive, indispensable glories of comedy — died a little too.
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New member
He definately brought joy to the show--I wish his comedy could have continued throughout the last few seasons as well, the grotto was the best place for Francis!

I'm glad that he is being honored, he was an excellent actor who put charm into even the simplest of roles.


New member
It is sad to see him go and I am sure that he will be missed and i agree with PeterU, Francis was great at the Grotto. On a lighter note, I think it is cool that one of the birds in Franz Liebkind was named Otto.