Charles John Mahoney was one of the most successful English-American actors of theater, television, and film. He was born in Blackpool, in the UK, but was raised in Manchester. By the time he turned 18, his parents decided to immigrate to the United States, where he would go on to launch his acting career and become one of the household names in the industry. Perhaps his greatest claim to fame would be the role of Martin Crane, a blue-collar patriarch in the sitcom Frasier. The show aired on NBC from 1993 till 2004 and was one of the most-watched shows on television in its time.
Even now, Frasier is widely syndicated and available on many streaming platforms. Apart from only working in film and television, Mahoney also worked as a voice actor and on stage, primarily in Chicago theater and Broadway.
Mahoney was born in Blackpool, in the area known as Bispham. He was the seventh of eight children in the household, and the family was devout Irish Catholic. Their family used to reside in Manchester in their family house, but had to move to Blackpool because of the heavy bombardments in Manchester at the time of the Second World War. He began studying at the St. Joseph’s School in Blackpool. Once the war came to an end, the family began looking for a prospect to move back to Manchester, and eventually managed to move to the Withington area.
He discovered the knack of acting at the Stretford Children’s Theatre. His father, a baker by profession, also played the classical piano, and his mother, Margaret, was very fond of reading. She was a housewife, and Mahoney would later admit that he would often pick up her novels in order to fuel his imagination.
During his childhood, things at home were not happy for the family. Mahoney mentioned in interviews later on that there were many times when his mom and dad would not speak to each other for days on end. Often times, they were embroiled in heated arguments that affected morale in the entire household. The situation in the family, along with the after-effects of the war, combined to motivate Mahoney to pursue acting as a serious profession so that he could leave his house in Manchester.
At the tender age of 18, in March 1959, he made the decision to move to the United States. His elder sister, Vera, sent him a sponsorship letter. He enrolled in the Quincy University in Illinois and then joined the US Army. After graduation, he earned his Master’s Degree in English from Western Illinois University. Eventually, he began teaching English at the university as well before he eventually decided to settle in Forest Park, Illinois.
He became a naturalized US citizen in 1971 and served as the editor of a medical journal throughout the decade. However, he was dissatisfied with his career and began taking acting classes at the St. Nicholas Theatre. When the opportunity arose, he resigned from his day job and began to act full-time.
Foray into Acting
He did a stage production for a small group in 1977 in Chicago. John Malkovich, a leading star at the time, persuaded him to join the Steppenwolf Theatre. He decided to do so, and it wasn’t long before the awards began to fall in his lap. He won the Clarence Derwent Award as the Most Promising Male Newcomer and also won the Theatre World Award. He even won the Tony Award from Broadway for Best Featured Actor in a Play for his role in The House of Blue Leaves.
It wasn’t until 1987 when he got his first major film role. It was in Barry Levinson’s Tin Men, and then Suspect, which was directed by Peter Yates. Mahoney would then go on to have some very prominent roles in major films throughout the 80s and the 90s, such as Moonstruck, Say Anything, Reality Bites, In the Line of Fire, Eight Men Out, and Barton Fink.
In 1993, he was given a role in a new sitcom comedy known as Frasier. At the time, the show was expected to fetch some good ratings, and it was expected that it would continue for several seasons. Mahoney appeared in the first episode of the show, which was aired in 1993 until the show ended in 2004. For his performances in Frasier, he received two nominations for the Emmy Awards, and two Golden Globe nominations.
His character, Martin Crane, quickly became popular amongst the watchers. In fact, NBC valued his performance so much what Warren Littlefield didn’t even bother conducting an interview when the creative team of the show suggested casting him. He was already pre-approved. But, before he appeared on the show, he also did an episode of Cheers, another NBC hit.
Mahoney was incredibly secretive and rarely ever gave public interviews talking about his personal life. In 2002, he revealed that he had been in several relationships but had never married. In the mid-1980s, he contracted colon cancer. Throughout his life, he continued living in Oak Park, Illinois.
He had a condo in Oak Park. It was a three-bedroom, 1,800 square feet condo which he owned until his death, after which it was listed for sale for $375,000. He bought the condo back in 2001, paying $275,000 for it. After his death, the condo was deeded to his friend Bernard Dowling, who put it up for sale. Prior to that, in 1989, Dowling and Mahoney bought a condo in the same building for a much lesser figure, paying $125,000. Dowling continued living in that condo while the other was put up for sale.
Both units are located in a vintage-styled building which was set up in 1929 and has been renovated over the years. Mahoney died in a hospice in Chicago in 2018, from complications caused by throat cancer. It was diagnosed in 2014, and he was 77 years old at the time of his death.