‘Titanic’ actor Lew Palter dead at 94

Lew Palter, the actor best known to audiences as Macy’s co-owner Isidor Straus in the 1997 classic “Titanic,” died last month, it was revealed Monday. He was 94.

Palter succumbed to lung cancer on May 21, his daughter Catherine told The Hollywood Reporter.

He was a familiar face on TV, appearing on “The Flying Nun,” “Columbo,” “The Brady Bunch,” Hill Street Blues” and “LA Law,” among other shows.

Palter played a Supreme Court Justice in the 1981 comedy-drama “First Monday In October,” starring Walter Matthau and Jill Clayburgh.

He was also a faculty member at CalArts School of Theater.

One of his students, Cecily Strong, paid tribute to Palter on Instagram.

“Lew told me he thought I should take a class at the Groundlings,” she said. “I said no way I’m a serious actor. Turns out Lew was right. I took the class at the Groundlings. It brought me back to Chicago to study improv there. Then I ended up auditioning for Lorne Michaels. Thanks Lew.”

Lew Palter
Lew Palter was a faculty member at CalArts School of Theater.
Instagram /catreadpalter

In a memorable scene from the Best Picture Oscar-winning “Titanic,” Straus and his wife stay in bed together rather than try to make an escape from the ill-fated ship while water runs through their room.

“For so many years I got to brag that my teacher was the old guy in Titanic that chose to stay in bed,” Strong posted. “Lew knew how to live life well. How to teach students to be not only better actors but better people.”

Lew Palter portrayed Isidor Straus in "Titanic."
Palter portrayed Isidor Straus in “Titanic.”

Other Palter students include Ed Harris and Don Cheadle.

Palter is survived by his daughter Catherine and grandchildren Sam, Tessa and Miranda.

His wife, Nancy Vawter, died in 2020.

“Lew loved the craft of acting, and taught his students to do the same. He fostered deep curiosity, care, intellect, and humor in every scene, play, and class, CalArts School of Theater Dean Travis Preston said in a statement.

“He had the utmost respect of his students, and encouraged all to find truth in their work and lives,” said Preston. His legacy is carried forth in the many careers, lives, and stories he touched, and our collective CalArts thoughts are with his family, friends, and theater community who loved him so,” said Preston.

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