Frasier star ‘cranky Dad’ John Mahoney dies aged 77

John Mahoney and Kelsey Grammer as Martin and Frasier Crane

John Mahoney and Kelsey Grammer as Martin and Frasier Crane - Credit: NBC

The Blackpool-born veteran actor who played Frasier Crane's father in the beloved sitcom from 1993 to 2004 has died - we remember 10 of Martin's best lines from the show. Hope you're resting easy in that horrible chair, Martin.

The cast of NBC's Frasier, including John Mahoney as Martin Crane, who has died

The cast of NBC's Frasier, including John Mahoney as Martin Crane, who has died - Credit: NBC

He was the soul of Frasier, the grumpy Blackpool-born father of the titular character who appeared in every single episode of the hit sitcom.

John Mahoney has died at the age of 77 while in hospice care in Chicago, he had been living with cancer.

He was a Tony Award-winning actor, had appeared in numerous films and was a long-time member of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Group who had enjoyed a distinguished career in television, theatre and film and who had lent his voice to a number of animated projects.

As the father of the unbearably snobby Frasier and Niles, Mahoney's role as Martin saw him gifted the funniest lines which in turn earned him two Emmy Award nominations and made him a household name: his true co-stars were, of course, his patched up La-Z Boy recliner chair and his faithful dog, Eddie.

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Born in Blackpool where his pregnant mother had been evacuated to from Manchester to escape Hitler's bombing raids, Mahoney moved to America to be closer to his sister Vera who had married an American GI and moved across the pond from the north-west of England, Mahoney joined the army after struggling to adjust to a new country: 'I wanted to get citizenship faster, but I was so homesick,' he said in 2005, 'it's the worst feeling I've ever been through in my life. I felt like killing myself.'

Rather than being a Brit abroad, Mahoney wanted to fit in: 'They make such a big deal about it: anyone from the United Kingdom is automatically regarded as brilliant beyond belief. I didn't want to live with that. I'm not a non-conformist, I wanted to be like everyone else.'

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He came to acting late, when he was almost 40, after a trip to Manchester where he saw Albert Finney and Leo McKern in Uncle Vanya – he returned and began acting classes and was persuaded to join the Steppenwolf group by playwright John Malkovich.

Mahoney's first film role was in Tin Men in 1987 followed by In the Line of Fire, Reality Bites, Say Anything, The American President and Primal Fear. He was in Barton Fink, Foyle's War and ER, but it was Frasier for which he was best known.

He was the moral centre of Cheers spin-off which ran for 11 years, a man who struggled to understand the sons who had left him on the bottom rung of the ladder thanks to their social climbing but who loved them nevertheless, a former Korean War veteran who was a police officer until he was shot in the hip aged 62.

The injury meant early retirement and, reluctantly, he agreed to live with his son Frasier, a psychiatrist and Daphne, a live-in physical therapist (and amateur psychic). He's unhappy to have had his life cut short and doesn't want to be dependent, but over time the family grow closer. Frasier became one of the most successful follow-on shows in history and secured 37-Primetime Emmy Awards, a record for a television show at the time.

It's hard to pick just 10 quotes that Mahoney delivered with such dead-pan skill in Frasier, but here are a selection. There were far, far more I could have chosen.

10 of Martin Crane's best lines

1) 'I used to think there was some sort of mix-up at the hospital when Frasier was born. Of course, when Niles came along, it shot that theory all to hell'

2) Martin: We call him 'Eddie Spaghetti'.

Daphne: Why, because he likes spaghetti?

Martin: No, because he's got worms.

3) 'Well, don't worry about it. We all get obsessed sometimes. The important thing is to drop it before you start yakking on and on to someone who doesn't give a rat's ass.'

4) 'A friendly smile and a how-do-you-do in the hallway goes a lot further than being the People's Laxative.'

5) Frasier: Dad, Eddie's staring at me.

Martin: Just ignore him.

Frasier: I can't, it's unnerving.

Martin: I was talking to the dog.

6) To Niles: 'Oh I get it, you'll eat it but you won't kill it. What do you think it's born a l'orange?'

7) 'Dandy! You've had a breakthrough and I've lost my chair. Maybe I can sit on your breakthrough.'

8) To Frasier and Niles: 'All right, that's it. I've had enough of you two jack-asses. I've spent the whole night listening to you making cracks about the food and the help. Well, I got news for you: People like this place. I like this place. And when you insult this restaurant, you insult me. You know, I used to think you two took after your mother, liking the ballet and all that, but your mother liked a good ball game too. She even had a hot dog once in a while. She may have had fancy tastes, but she had too much class to ever make me or anybody else feel second-rate. If she saw the way you two have behaved tonight, she'd be ashamed.'

9) Niles: 'What's wrong with Maris?'

Martin: 'I'll start. Frasier can jump in when I get hoarse.'

10) Daphne, I just realised. It took three Cranes to lift you.

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