January 2, 2006 by

Michael Vale

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Categories: Actors

mvale.jpg“Time to make the donuts.”
As Fred the Baker, Michael Vale sleepily issued this observation on more than 100 commercials for Dunkin’ Donuts, and became a pop culture icon in the process.
The New York native served as a U.S. Army Signal Corpsman in Europe during World War II. When he returned to the states, Vale studied acting at The Dramatic Workshop and made his Broadway debut in “The Egg.” He later acted in the Broadway productions of Neil Simon’s “California Suite,” Stephen Sondheim’s “The Frogs,” Saul Bellow’s “The Last Analysis” and Albert Hague’s “Cafe Crown.” His most successful stage role was as Harold the hypochondriac doctor in “The Impossible Years”; the play opened in 1965 and ran for two years.
Vale performed in several TV shows, including “Car 54, Where Are You?” in the 1960s and “The Cosby Show” in the 1980s, and played the role of the jewelry salesman in the film, “Marathon Man.” But he was best known for appearing in more than 1,300 TV commercials. He also originated the role of the curmudgeonly Sam Breakstone in advertisements for Breakstone Dairy Products.
Vale worked as the early-rising Dunkin’ Donuts pitchman for 15 years. His character was so popular that comedian Jon Lovitz imitated Vale in a sketch on “Saturday Night Live.” Police officers were known to pull him over — just to ask for an autograph. After his retirement in 1997, Dunkin’ Donuts threw a parade in his honor and gave away a free doughnut to every customer who visited one of their shops that day. He later worked as an ambassador (a.k.a. “Dunkin’ Diplomat”) for the company’s charitable programs.
Vale died on Dec. 24 of complications from diabetes. He was 83.
Listen to a Tribute From NPR

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