Cliff Osmond, 75, TV and film actor who taught thousands of students

Jack Lemmon, Cliff Osmond, and Walter Matthau in Billy Wilder’s “The Front Page.”
Jack Lemmon, Cliff Osmond, and Walter Matthau in Billy Wilder’s “The Front Page.”
Universal Pictures

NEW YORK — Cliff Osmond, a prolific character actor on film and television and an instructor who estimated that he had taught more than 10,000 actors, died Dec. 22 at his home in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. He was 75.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, said his daughter, Margaret Ebrahim.

Mr. Osmond appeared in many films, most notably four Billy Wilder comedies.

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Mr. Osmond played the private investigator Purkey in “The Fortune Cookie,” the first film starring both Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau; the amateur songwriter Barney in “Kiss Me, Stupid,” alongside Dean Martin, Kim Novak, and Ray Walston; a police officer in Wilder’s version of “The Front Page,” which also starred Lemmon and Matthau; and another police officer in “Irma La Douce.”

Mr. Osmond wrote on his website that during the making of “Kiss Me, Stupid,” while he struggled to carry a tune, Wilder remarked, “Cliff has the musical ear of van Gogh.”

He appeared on television more than 100 times during four decades on shows including “Gunsmoke,” “All in the Family,” and a 1962 episode of “The Twilight Zone” titled “The Gift.”

Mr. Osmond drew on his wealth of experience to become a well-regarded acting teacher.

He was born in Jersey City.