In the early 1950s, he adopted his stage name in memory of Beatrice MacLeod, his drama teacher in Ithaca. He chose the first name Gavin after a character from an episode of the anthology TV series “Climax”.
After finding work on stage, Mr. MacLeod made his television debut as a guest in “The Walter Winchell Files”, a crime drama. Her first credited film role was a small role as a police lieutenant in “I Want to Live!” A 1958 drama starring Susan Hayward as a woman facing the death penalty. In 1959, he appeared in the Korean War film “Pork Chop Hill” and Blake Edwards’ naval comedy “Operation Petticoat”.
In the 1960s, Mr. MacLeod appeared regularly in television series, with guest roles in “Perry Mason,” “Combat !,” “Death Valley Days,” “Dr. Kildare ”,“ The Untouchables ”and other shows. His role in “McHale’s Navy,” which starred Ernest Borgnine, was his first job as a series regular. His character, Seaman Joseph Haines, a crewmember of misfits aboard a WWII PT boat, was known as Happy. But Mr. MacLeod, feeling underutilized, was anything but.
“I had, like, two lines a week,” Mr. MacLeod said in a videotaped interview for US Television Archives. “I started to feel sorry for myself; I started drinking. I had the impression that as an actor, I was going down the tubes.
As he was telling the story, one night he was driving, drunk, on Mulholland Drive in the hills above Los Angeles when he impulsively decided to kill himself by pulling off the road. But he stopped, locking the brakes at the last moment. Shaken, he recalls, he went to the neighboring house of a friend, actor Robert Blake, who persuaded him to see a psychiatrist.
He left “McHale’s Navy” in 1964, after two seasons, and began to find more fulfilling roles, including a second in the 1966 film “The Sand Pebbles” starring Steve McQueen.