In a prolific and varied career, Mr. Lloyd worked under director Orson Welles in his celebrated Mercury Theatre stagings of the late 1930s. He also befriended Charlie Chaplin on a Hollywood tennis court and was rewarded with a supporting role in the director’s last American-made film, “Limelight” (1952). He became one of Hollywood’s oldest active performers, appearing as a lecherous senior citizen in Judd Apatow’s romantic comedy “Trainwreck” (2015).
Onscreen, Mr. Lloyd made a specialty of playing unsavory roles. After his feature-film debut with “Saboteur” in 1942, he played a psychologically disturbed patient in Hitchcock’s “Spellbound,” a vindictive farmhand in Jean Renoir’s “The Southerner” and a cynical soldier in Lewis Milestone’s antiwar film “A Walk in the Sun” (all 1945).
As the decades passed, Mr. Lloyd’s Old Broadway theatrical mannerisms, professorial speaking style (he called movies “the pictures”) and prematurely balding pate led to officious parts in film and on TV.
Mr. Lloyd developed a strong following as a crusty but likable hospital administrator, Dr. Daniel Auschlander, on the NBC medical drama “St. Elsewhere,” which aired from 1982 to 1988.
“The original character of Dr. Auschlander was only supposed to go for four episodes because he had cancer of the liver,” Mr. Lloyd told a Los Angeles theater publication. But the audience response proved so enthusiastic, he added, that “the character went for six years with the longest remission on record.”
In more recent years, Mr. Lloyd was an in-demand public speaker who reminisced about his links to creative giants of the early and mid-20th century.
Welles, he said, liked to sate his ample appetite in front of starving actors during the Depression. “One day a woman in the cast crept forward and begged for one strawberry from his tart,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “He sent her away with a bellow that shook the theater.”
Hitchcock liked to make macabre jokes about his great-granddaughter being eaten by a hungry dog. “That’s the way Hitch saw things,” he said. “Humor mixed with suspense.”
More than a living museum, Mr. Lloyd remained a committed working actor. He displayed a beginner’s enthusiasm upon learning he was being considered for a role as a Marxism-spouting intellectual in the Coen brothers’s 2016 film “Hail, Caesar!” Because one of the scenes was to be filmed at sea aboard a submarine, they producers raised concerns about Mr. Lloyd’s age.
“They’ve since cast the part with a much younger man,” he later mock-griped to Variety. “In his eighties.”
Norman Perlmutter was born in Jersey City on Nov. 8, 1914. He grew up in Brooklyn, where his father worked in the furniture business. His theater-loving mother insisted on elocution lessons to rid him of his Brooklyn accent. That instead led to singing and dancing classes.
He made his debut, he recalled, in a neighborhood ladies’ club show of dubious taste. “ ‘Father, Get the Hammer, There’s a Fly on Baby’s Head’ — that was my big number,” he told the Newark Star-Ledger. “So you can imagine what that act was like.”
He attended New York University but left during the Depression to focus on acting, defying his father’s wishes that he pursue a legal career. He told the Star-Ledger, “The lawyers I saw were all driving cabs. So I thought, well, if I’m going to be badly off anyway, I might as well be badly off in the theater, where you get used to it.”
In the early 1930s, he apprenticed with Eva Le Gallienne’s Civic Repertory Theatre in New York. He then acted with the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Theater Project and participated in its “living newspaper” unit that put on plays and sketches to dramatize social conditions in America, including the plight of the Dust Bowl farmer.
Welles and producer John Houseman, who had worked with the Federal Theater Project, invited Mr. Lloyd to join their new company of actors called the Mercury Theatre. In one of their most renowned productions, Mr. Lloyd played the poet Cinna in “Julius Caesar” (1937), a modern-dress version of Shakespeare’s play that Welles envisioned as a parable of the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini.
A few years later, when Welles was put under contract at RKO studios to film Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” Mr. Lloyd was among the crew to tag along. The project fell through, and Mr. Lloyd, an expectant father with a family to feed, said he couldn’t afford to hang around while Welles completed another film he was working on, “Citizen Kane.”
Mr. Lloyd went back to the New York stage until Houseman brought him to the attention of Hitchcock, who was seeking an unknown to play the heavy in “Saboteur.” The film was not well-received — many critics found it to be a warmed-over version of Hitchcock’s innocent-man-on-the-run masterpiece “The 39 Steps” (1935), only steeped in wartime propaganda.
The star was Robert Cummings as the man who must clear his name from a sabotage charge. But it was Mr. Lloyd who was singled out by critics for his thoroughly ratlike performance.
The French passenger ship Normandie burned at her Manhattan pier during filming, and Hitchcock quickly inserted a scene with Mr. Lloyd passing by the wreckage in a cab, taking smug satisfaction in what viewers are to assume is his handiwork.
“Saboteur” also is widely recalled for its smashing, near-silent finale atop the Statue of Liberty. In the sequence, Mr. Lloyd does a backflip over the railing, which leads to him clinging desperately to an edge of the monument. Cummings tries to rescue him, grabbing his sport coat, but the seams tear one by one, and he plunges to his death.
Mr. Lloyd recalled that when Hitchcock previewed the film for his friend, writer Ben Hecht, his first reaction was: “Should’ve had a better tailor.”
The role brought Mr. Lloyd steady work over the next decade, mostly in sneering roles but also as a minstrel in “The Flame and the Arrow” (1950), a costume action drama with Burt Lancaster, and as a stage manager in “Limelight,” in which Chaplin played an aging vaudeville comic. It was the last film Chaplin made before his 20-year self-imposed exile in Switzerland, fleeing from U.S. government officials who condemned his left-leaning political views.
Mr. Lloyd also was an ardent political liberal who had many friends on the far left, dating to the 1930s theater scene in New York. He was appalled by old acquaintances such as director Elia Kazan cooperating with the anti-communist witch hunt, essentially destroying careers.
Mr. Lloyd said that he was never called to testify at any hearings, but that he was the subject of whisper campaigns that dried up his acting prospects.
During those lean years, he said, he relied on old friends for support. “We went back to New York,” he told the Star-Ledger. “Jack Houseman had a vacant house there, and he insisted — and this is the kind of man he was — that we’d be doing him a favor by moving into it. . . . Eventually I got a job directing industrial films for $150 a week.”
Hitchcock came to his rescue, hiring him in 1957 as a director and producer of the CBS TV series “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.” Over the next several decades, Mr. Lloyd worked intermittently as a director and producer of TV movies such as “The Carpenters” (1974), based on a comic play by Steve Tesich, and TV series including “Tales of the Unexpected.”
He also slowly picked up acting jobs, taking roles in “The Nude Bomb” (1980) and “Jaws of Satan” (1981) before landing the key supporting role in “St. Elsewhere.” In later years, he played the president of Wossamotta U in a live-action comedy, “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle” (2000) and was a nursing-home resident in “In Her Shoes” (2005), starring Cameron Diaz.
His wife of 75 years, actress Peggy Craven Lloyd, died in 2011. His daughter, Susanna Baird, who had acted under the name Josie Lloyd, died in 2020. In addition to his son, survivors include a sister; a grandson; and three great-grandchildren.
Mr. Lloyd was the subject of a well-received documentary, “Who Is Norman Lloyd?” (2007).
“Some of the movies I did, well, you have to feed your family,” Mr. Lloyd told the Star-Ledger at the time. “But still . . . ‘Saboteur,’ for example — when we were shooting this documentary, we went down to the Battery [Park] to do a scene with the Statue of Liberty in back of me. And this old fellow was watching and watching from the edge and finally he shouted, ‘Hey, you! Didn’t you fall off that thing about 60 years ago?’ So that’s what pictures do for you. You live on.”
An earlier version of this obituary incorrectly reported that Mr. Lloyd’s character in “Saboteur” walks by the wreckage of the passenger ship Normandie. He passes by in a cab. The story also incorrectly reported his birth name as Norman Nathan Lloyd. According to his son, he was born Norman Perlmutter, and he had no middle name. The story has been corrected.