William Duell. Does the name ring a bell? He was a Hollywood character actor who died last December. The 84th Oscar Awards didn't include him in its "In Memoriam". Its litany of departed stars---in front of and behind the camera.
Duell was one of those familiar faces that the movie public would most likely recognize but not be able to name. He is remembered by some as a puckish, slyly roguish type on the stage and screen. He had a memorable supporting role in "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. But I remember him best for an historical part he played in the musical "1776"---Andrew McNair.
Andrew McNair was the custodian of Independence Hall when the Second Continental Congress met there in 1776. According to the records of the American Philosophical Society, he was hired on March 22, 1768 to make the fires, light and extinguish the candles, and keep the meeting room clean--- for 4 shillings a day. In "1776" Duell's first lines as McNair are these: "I'm Andrew McNair, Congressional Custodian. If you'll be wantin' anything at all just holler out, "McNair!" as you'll hear the others do, and there won't be too long a wait." Duell's McNair is an unflappable common man seemingly unimpressed with the 'assembly of demigods' who signed the Declaration of Independence.
McNair also served from 1759-1776 as the official ringer of the Liberty Bell. "1776" took liberties with history when it had the bell ringing as the Declaration is signed. It actually didn't ring until four days later when the document was officially printed.
Of course, it probably was McNair who tolled the bell that proclaimed "liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof". And the name of his alter ego on the screen, William Duell, will always ring a bell for me.