Larry Storch, goofy Cpl. Agarn on TV’s ‘F Troop’, dies at 99

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LOS ANGELES — Larry Storch, the rubber-faced comedian whose long career in theater, film and television was crowned with his role as “F Troop” as the goofy corporal. Agarn in the spoof of 1960s Western Frontier TV shows, died on Friday. Storch was 99 years old.

Storch died of natural causes Friday morning at his New York City apartment, according to his manager, Matt Beckoff.

Although “F Troop” only lasted two seasons on ABC, from 1965 to 1967, it became a cult favorite in reruns. Its dedicated fans could recite almost any adventure of the incredibly incompetent soldiers of Fort Courage and the nearby Native American tribesmen who only pretended to be at war with them.

As Agarn, Storch was the wild-eyed partner and protege of Forrest Tucker’s wily Sgt. O’Rourke, who often plotted with Frank DeKova’s Chief Wild Eagle to scam unsuspecting visitors. Ken Berry’s Captain Parmenter was the clueless commander of Fort Courage.

While “F Troop” brought him lasting fame, Storch appeared in numerous movies and TV shows before and after the show. He also had a long career in theater and as a comedian at the resorts in the Catskill Mountains region of New York State.

He never regretted being best known for the show, his manager said.

“He embraced it. He loved being Agarn” and enjoyed working with his co-stars, Beckoff said. Storch was the “kindest, sweetest person”, who always had time for autograph requesters and was generous to those in need, he said.

Storch’s credits included “Funny Valentine”, “Sweet 16”, “Sex and the Single Girl”, “SOB”, “Airport”, “Treasure Island”, and “Oliver Twist”. On television he has appeared in such shows as “Married…With Children”, “Archie Bunker’s Place”, “Trapper John, MD”, “Fantasy Island”, CHiPS”, “The Love Boat”, “Get Smart”, “Love American Style”, “Gilligan’s Island” and “Car 54 Where are you?

His many theatrical appearances ranged from a brutal detective in a 1983 Broadway revival of “Porgy and Bess” to Chief Sitting Bull in the 2000 revival of “Annie Get Your Gun” with Reba McEntire.

Storch said in a 1998 interview that he was surprised to be considered for an Army comedy such as “F Troop”, being well known that he had served in the Navy during World War II. “All I knew about horses was that they give milk and can bite on both sides,” he joked.

Indeed, it was his service in the Navy that had greatly boosted his career. During the war, he had met a radio operator in the Marshall Islands named Bernie Schwartz who told him, “I’m going to be a movie star. Storch, already a seasoned comedian on the station circuit, had tried to talk him out of it, warning him that the deal might be tough.

They met again after the war, and Schwartz, who had now changed his name to Tony Curtis, remembered the funny guy from the islands. Storch then appeared in eight of Curtis’ films, including “Captain Newman”, “Who Was That Lady?” and “The Great Race”.

Laurence Samuel Storch was born in New York City where, he proudly recalls, he became a class clown at DeWitt Clinton High School and “was asked not to come back.”

He practiced his comedy at Harlem theaters for $2 a night before graduating from the famous acting training ground of his day, the Catskills.

His first big break came on television in the early 1950s with “The Cavalcade of Stars”, starring Jackie Gleason. This led to “The Larry Storch Show”, a 1953 summer series. Regular movies and TV shows followed.

Storch was married to Norma Greve from 1961 until her death in 2003.

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The late Associated Press writer Bob Thomas contributed to this report.

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