(written from a Production point of view)
He was perhaps best remembered for his later role as Mr. Peterson on the CBS comedy series The Bob Newhart Show and especially for giving voice to the beloved character of Piglet in Disney's animated Winnie the Pooh films and television programs. Despite these roles and despite having appeared opposite such legendary performers as John Wayne, Henry Fonda, Rock Hudson, Burt Reynolds, and Doris Day, Fiedler said in a 1985 appearance on NBC's Today show, "One of my favorite parts was an episode of Star Trek where I played Jack the Ripper."
Early life and career
Fiedler was born in Platteville, Wisconsin, on 3 February 1925. At the age of 5, he moved with his family to Shorewood, Wisconsin. After graduating from Shorewood High School in 1943, Fiedler enlisted in the United States Navy, serving stateside until World War II ended in 1945. The following year, he moved to New York City and joined the Neighborhood Playhouse.
He started his career in show business on the radio comedy program The Aldrich Family. In 1951, he began his television career as a regular on the 1950s children's science fiction series Tom Corbett, Space Cadet. He remained on this series until 1954, after which he made his Broadway debut in the farcical play One Eye Closed, which ran for only three performances in November.
He made his feature film debut playing Juror #2 in the Academy Award-nominated 1957 drama, 12 Angry Men. He reunited with that film's director, Sidney Lumet, for two more films, the first of which was the 1958 drama Stage Struck. This film co-starred Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country actor Christopher Plummer and also marked the film debut of fellow TOS guest star, Roger C. Carmel.
Fiedler starred in the original Broadway productions of the Tony Award-winning plays A Raisin in the Sun (1959-60) and The Odd Couple (1965-67). He reprised his characters from both of these plays in their respective feature film adaptations (A Raisin in the Sun in 1961; The Odd Couple in 1968). Star Trek: Deep Space Nine guest star Paul Dooley was also part of the The Odd Couple's original Broadway cast, but he did not reprise his role for the film. Fiedler and Dooley later reunited for an episode of Tales from the Darkside in 1986, Twenty years after acting together on the stage.
Throughout the 1960s, Fiedler also guest-starred on such television shows as The Twilight Zone (including the 1960 Christmas episode, "The Night of the Meek", with Meg Wyllie), The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (including an episode with William Schallert), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, My Favorite Martian (starring Ray Walston), The Munsters, Perry Mason, Get Smart, and Bewitched (including an episode with Peter Brocco). Some of his notable film credits during the 1960s include the 1962 romantic comedy That Touch of Mink (with Willard Sage), the 1964 comedy Kiss Me, Stupid (with Henry Gibson and Ray Walston), and the 1969 Western True Grit. The latter film also featured four other one-time TOS guest stars: Kim Darby, Alfred Ryder, Jeff Corey, and Ron Soble.
Fiedler voiced the character of Piglet for the first time in the 1966 animated film, Winnie the Pooh and the Honey Tree, followed in 1968 by Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. His fellow TOS guest actor Clint Howard was the voice of Roo in this production. Throughout the next thirty-seven years, Fiedler voiced Piglet in six more feature films (including two more with Howard in the 1970s), three television series, three TV specials, several direct-to-video productions, and even the video game, Kingdom Hearts.
Fiedler's best-known live-action TV role is that of timid, henpecked Emil Peterson, one of Dr. Robert Harley's quirky patients on the Emmy Award-nominated series, The Bob Newhart Show. Fiedler appeared in many episodes throughout the entire run of this series, from 1972 through 1978.
Fiedler was also a regular on the short-lived cult TV series Kolchak: The Night Stalker, which lasted from 1974 through 1975. Paul Baxley was a regular guest actor on this series. Another short-lived series on which Fiedler starred was 1984's Buffalo Bill, co-starring Star Trek: Enterprise guest actress Joanna Cassidy. Fiedler also co-starred with Cassidy in a 1993 episode of L.A. Law called "Eli's Gumming". Besides series regulars Corbin Bernsen and Larry Drake, the episode also featured Richard Libertini and Matt McCoy.
The busy Fiedler was a guest star on many shows in the 1970s and 1980s, including MacMillian & Wife (starring John Schuck), Gunsmoke (with Bill Catching and Walker Edmiston), The Odd Couple, Alice (starring Vic Tayback), Three's Company, Fantasy Island (starring Ricardo Montalban, in episodes with Julie Cobb and Ellen Geer), Quincy, M.E. (with Robert Ito, Tony Plana, and Garry Walberg), Cheers, and The Golden Girls. His film credits during this time include The Shaggy D.A. (1976, with Vic Tayback), The Cannonball Run (1981, with Adrienne Barbeau), and Seize the Day (1986, with Steve Vinovich).
In 1991, Fiedler returned to Broadway for the first time in over twenty years, starring in a revival of The Crucible with Fritz Weaver. The following year, he starred in a Broadway revival of A Little Hotel on the Side.
Fiedler continued to voice Piglet in Disney's various Winnie the Pooh productions throughout from 1974 through 2005. He also lent his voice to the Disney films The Rescuers (1977), The Fox and the Hound (1981), and The Emperor's New Groove (2000). His last project as the voice of Piglet was 2005's Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie, with Jimmy Bennett now voicing Roo (and David Ogden Stiers narrating). This movie was released on DVD nearly three months after Fiedler's death.
Fiedler died in Englewood, New Jersey on 25 June 2005 following a seven-month battle with cancer. He left behind an extraordinary career spanning 55 years and nearly 200 film and television credits.
Coincidentally, Fiedler died one day after actor/ventriloquist Paul Winchell. Fiedler and Winchell had worked together for decades on Disney's Winnie the Pooh productions, with Fiedler voicing the character of Piglet and Winchell voicing Tigger.
In 2012, John Fiedler's biography was published. "What's His Name? John Fiedler: The Man The Face The Voice" was released by Elizabeth Messina in April 2012.
Other Trek connections
Fiedler co-starred with fellow TOS actor William Windom on television on at least three occasions: in a 1964 episode of The Farmer's Daughter called "The Swinger"; in a 1972 Banacek episode entitled "Project Phoenix" which also featured Seamon Glass and Percy Rodriguez; and in the 1982 Hart to Hart episode "With This Hart, I Thee Wed". Later that year, Fiedler appeared in another Hart to Hart episode, "Harts at High Noon", with Graham Jarvis.
Additional projects in which Fiedler appeared with other Star Trek performers include:
- Studio One episode "Death and Taxes" (1957, with Theodore Bikel)
- Brenner episode "False Witness" (1959, with Frank Overton)
- Dr. Kildare episode "A Shining Image" (1961) and Bonanza episode "Rich Man, Poor Man" (1963, with Clegg Hoyt)
- Thriller episode "A Wig for Miss Devore" (1962) and The Twilight Zone episode "Cavender Is Coming" (1962, with William O'Connell)
- 87th Precinct episode "A Bullet for Katie" (1962, with Robert Lansing)
- The New Breed episode "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here" (1962, with Byron Morrow and Yvonne Craig)
- Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre episode "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" (1963, with John Abbott)
- Dr. Kildare episode "Never Too Old for the Circus" (1964, with Barry Atwater)
- The Travels of Jamie McPheeters episode "The Day of the Reckoning" (1964, with Meg Wyllie and Susan Oliver)
- Destry episode "Deputy for a Day" (1964, with John Abbott and Ken Lynch)
- Captain Nice episode "Who's Afraid of Amanda Woolf?" (1967, with Madlyn Rhue and Bill Zuckert)
- The Doris Day Show episode "A Fine Romance" (1971, with Robert Lansing)
- Cannon episode "Flight Plan" (1971, with Barbara Luna)
- Disneyland episodes "Rascals: Part I" and "Part II" (1973, with Bill Mumy)
- Police Story episode "The Ripper" (1974, with Barry Atwater and Leslie Parrish)
- The Streets of San Francisco episode "Mask of Death" (1974, with Phillip Pine)
- Switch episode "Dancer" (1977, with Kim Cattrall)
- The Rockford Files episode "The Competitive Edge" (1978, with George Murdock, Logan Ramsey, and William Boyett)
- A Fine Madness (1966, with Clive Revill and Jon Lormer)
- The Ballad of Josie (1967, with Paul Fix and Guy Raymond)
- The Great Bank Robbery (1969, with Elisha Cook, Jr. and Bill Zuckert)
- Honky (1971, with William Marshall)
- The Shaggy D.A. (1976, with Vic Tayback)
- Mignight Madness (1980, with Charlie Brill, Georgia Schmidt, and Tom Wright)
- Sharky's Machine (1981, with Brian Keith, Bernie Casey, and Richard Libertini)