“Route 66” co-star Martin Milner dies

Martin Milner, George Maharis, Route 66

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.

The celebrity website TMZ.com first reported Milner’s death shortly before midday today, and Variety magazine confirmed it through a representative of Milner’s fan page.

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.

Michael Wallis and Martin Milner

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.
Presbyterian Church:
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”)

5 thoughts on ““Route 66” co-star Martin Milner dies

  1. So sorry to hear of Martin Milners passing. Loved the Route 66 series. We actually bought the series of episodes last year. It was one series they could never duplicate. Thanks to Martin and George for a wonderful classic series

  2. A Tribute to Martin Milner

    For those of us old enough to remember, the TV series “Route 66” introduced us to Martin Milner. Of course, everyone took away something different from the program and his work, but everyone can agree that the one constant was that the character Todd Stiles was the man Martin Milner.

    We saw an intelligent, young man who believed that you could accomplish more with compassion than a fight, that fairness and respect weren’t just words they were everyone’s responsibility. For me it was Martin Milners professionalism. In his work and his character, Todd, I learned the rules of “Professional Conduct”, rules that I follow to this day. That’s a debt to him I can not pay and honored to have.

    When I get behind the wheel, when I turn the key and when I pull the visor down at sunset on a warm summer evening I’ll remember Martin and all the places he took all of us. And one day I’ll look out over the hood as a set of tail lights hesitate for a moment just before they pass over the horizon, and I’ll know that’s Martins car.

  3. Martin Milner was a guy who took “machismo” and remade that concept of men into
    guys who cared about people, justice and patriotism without the bluster. He certainly affected my life
    as an American man. I worked in the justice system and Milner’s philosophy , along with a few others, made me want to be a straight shooter, an ethical person and a caring man. I was not suprised to learn he was married for a long period to the same woman until he passed.

    Rest in Peace, Martin!
    Patrick Leddy

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