Faith on ‘Frasier’

Frasier’s ‘Dad’ believed in God and always prayed before he performed on stage, in the movies, or on television. 

Charles ‘John’ Mahoney is best known for playing Marty Crane, the father of Frasier and Niles Crane, in the ever popular TV comedy series Frasier. The series ran for an amazing eleven years from 1993. Thirty years on, a new season of Frasier was released in October 2023. 

The battle of Britain, and ‘the Blitz’ 

John was born in Blackpool, UK in 1940. His family had moved there from Manchester, which was one of the cities heavily bombed during the Battle of Britain (1940) when the Nazi Luftwaffe dropped 30.000 tons of explosives on London alone. The bombing campaign was known as the Blitz. Later, as a young adult, he moved to the United States and served in the US military before making his career in the theatre.

Love of the theatre

Mahoney had a long-term desire to become an actor. After leaving the army, he joined the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago, where he remained a member for the rest of his life. He always declared that stage acting was his favourite. His breakthrough came in the 1980s when he won awards for his stage performances in Broadway and The House of Blue Leaves. 

Hollywood and the movies

John went on to receive acclaim and a host of awards for his movie roles and TV work. He had starring roles in Suspect (1987), Moonstruck (1987) and Tin Men (1987). Further recognition came from his performances in Reality Bites (1994), The American President (1995), Primal Fear (1996) and The Broken Hearts Club (2000). He was an excellent voice actor and was given major speaking roles in the animated films Antz (1998), The Iron Giant (1999) and Atlantis, the Lost Empire (2001). 

Health battles

A very upbeat person, John’s strong Catholic Christian faith helped him to trust God through the bouts of serious illness he had to cope with from his mid-forties. He first suffered from colon cancer in the 1980s, and also had to overcome both lung cancer and throat cancer in later years. 

He believed so strongly in God and the power of prayer that he would not perform until he had prayed. His confidence was in the words that Christ spoke to his disciples,

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son”.  (John 3:16-18)

Despite the life-threatening prognosis of his illnesses he always remained positive and said,

I refuse to yield to it because I love what I’m doing so much.”

When he died in February 2018, it was not from cancer, but following routine surgery. His good friend Anna Shapiro said,

He was supposed to be having a routine procedure, but having just beat stage three throat cancer, I think he was just too weak. 

Prayer power

John’s faith was at the centre of who he was as a human being, and was often evident in his work. He said, 

Christianity is probably the most important facet of my life

Before every one of his performances, he would pray unabashed,

Most glorious blessed Spirit, I thank you for all the gifts and talents that you’ve given me. Please help me to use all these gifts and talents to their fullest. And please accept this performance as a prayer of praise and thanks to you“. 

Mahoney would also pray every morning, and before going to sleep at night. His prayers were always on the lines, 

Dear God, please help me to treat everybody – including myself – with love, respect, and dignity.

A Kind and Happy Man

After hearing of the actor’s death, Frasier series casting director Jeff Greenberg said, 

I’ve never known a kinder man nor a more brilliant actor. We were all blessed to have spent eleven glorious years together.”  

The letter of St Paul to the Philippian church sums up the life of this well-loved actor who brought light into the lives of all who knew him,

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)

Story by Ralph Burden

Photo by Artur Andrzej Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

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