A paragon among character actors, the late American thesp Lewis Arquette faded smoothly and imperceptibly into his individual roles with such efficiency and success that many television devotees and filmgoers will sooner recognize the names of Arquette's craggily-voiced, cantankerous personages than his own name -- from Seinfeld's Leapin' Larry, the crippled furniture magnate whose establishment burns to the ground as the result of a freak accident, to retired taxidermist Clifford Wooley in Christopher Guest's uproarious mockumentary Waiting for Guffman (1996) to the pot-bellied law enforcement officer, Chief Louis Hartley, in Scream 2 (1997).
The son of television personality Cliff Arquette (a Tonight Show mainstay), Lewis Arquette was born December 14, 1935. He launched his career as a Broadway stage actor, then returned home to the Windy City and enlisted with the infamous Second City troupe. As a member of that ensemble, Arquette fine-tuned his own aptitude for spur-of-the-moment improvisation -- a gift that, combined with Arquette's distinctive look, prompted Hollywood to summon him for numerous character roles. Arquette began on the small screen (on an uncharacteristically somber note) as J.D. Pickett in the melancholic, tragedy-laden seventh season of the hit CBS series The Waltons -- a role that lasted for several years, until the program wrapped in August 1981.