Martin Milner, the co-star with George Maharis in the iconic “Route 66” television drama of the early 1960s, died Sunday night at age 83, according to media reports.
Milner, who portrayed Tod Stiles, and Maharis, as Buz Murdock, were a couple of chums who traveled the country in a Chevrolet Corvette convertible, looking for odd jobs and adventure. “Route 66” proved notable because it filmed on location all over the United States (although rarely on Route 66) and well-tailored scripts, mostly by head writer Stirling Silliphant, that delved into social issues ahead of its time.
Milner also starred in television’s “Adam 12” and “Emergency!” But it was his role in “Route 66” that probably gave him the most lasting fame. The show itself helped cement the real Route 66 in the popular culture. The “Route 66” show still can be seen in reruns, Internet streaming and on DVD.
Here’s a scene from the show:
Milner attended several Route 66 events during the early 2000s — including the International Route 66 Festival in Springfield, Illinois — before poor health curtailed his personal appearances and interviews. Here’s a video from that time period:
Last year, Milner and family members began selling his personal memorabilia — including from his “Route 66” days — on eBay.
Milner appeared on “Route 66: A Return to the Road with Martin Milner,” a well-done documentary of Route 66 filmed during the mid-1990s. The film may be streamed for a 72-hour period at Vimeo for $9.95 here.
During a 2007 phone interview, Maharis talked about the working relationship he had with Milner on the “Route 66” series:
A few tabloids reported that Maharis and Milner clashed on the set because of their contrasting personalities.
“Not true,” Maharis said. “We got along very well. We’re different; that’s very true. But we never had any problem. You could see on the screen there was no problem. We were opposites in many ways, but there was respect for each other.”
Maharis said Milner was about 40 pounds heavier when initially cast for “Route 66,” but successfully trimmed down at the insistence of producers.
“I think he gained some of it back after the show,” Maharis said. “But he was very good about holding the weight down during the show’s run.”
Maharis left “Route 66” about halfway through its third season because of life-threatening problems with hepatitis. Glenn Corbett, portraying Linc Case, replaced him. But Maharis and others observed the show’s chemistry suffered.
“Glenn was more like Marty than he was like me,” Maharis said. “There wasn’t that balance there. There were no opposites, so to speak.”
I’ll add more relevant information to this story as it comes in.
UPDATE: The Associated Press contacted “Adam 12” co-star Kent McCord, who weighed in:
“I had a long, long friendship with Marty and we remained friends up till the end,” said McCord Monday. “He was one of the really true great people of our industry with a long, distinguished career…Wonderful films, wonderful television shows, pioneering shows like ‘Route 66.’ He was one of the great guys. I was lucky to have him in my life.”
McCord also said Milner’s family was doing well in the wake of the patriach’s death, but gave no details.
Survivors include Milner’s wife of 58 years, Judith Bess “Judy” Jones, and sons Stuart and Andrew. Daughter Amy died of leukemia in 2004.
UPDATE2: Michael Wallis weighed in with a statement a few minutes ago:
The Mother Road has lost one of the historic highway’s most iconic figures.
Marty was a great guy, good friend, and a strong advocate of the preservation of Route 66.
I enjoyed my appearances with him, especially at John Paget’s Route 66 documentary film premiere, at a memorable 66 gathering in Vega, Texas, and, of course, at two of the International Route 66 Festivals.
Be on the lookout St. Peter, you best get those pearly gates open wide . . . There’s a Corvette headed your way and Tod Stiles is behind the wheel!
Adios Marty. We’ll see you down the road.
Wallis also enclosed this photo of him and Milner at the Route 66 Roadie Gathering in Vega, Texas, in 2002.
UPDATE3: The Milner family posted this message on Martin’s Facebook account late Tuesday:
The Milners would like to thank all of you for the amazing outpouring of love, memories, and the kind words regarding Martin.It means a great deal during this difficult time.
Several people have asked where to send gifts and flowers.The family is requesting that, in lieu of gifts and flowers, to make a donation to The Los Angeles Police Department Memorial Foundation https://www.lapmf.org/donations.htm .Alternatively, donations to any law enforcement agency memorial program, or foundation.
Public services will be held this Saturday at 10:30am.
Oceanside First Presbyterian Church
2001 S. El Camino Real
Oceanside, CA 92954
Thank you all very much.
The Milner Family
(Publicity image of Martin Milner with co-star George Maharis on the set of “Route 66”)