A veteran of stage and film whose numerous accomplishments in dramatic roles will, alas, probably be forever overshadowed by his portrayal of "The Penguin" on the 1960s TV series "Batman" (and the 1966 theatrical feature of the same name). After toiling in many odd jobs during the 1920s, Meredith joined Eva LeGallienne's Student Repertory Group and became a prominent Broadway actor in the 1930s. He made his film debut in Maxwell Anderson's Winterset (1936), recreating his own acclaimed stage performance, and followed with memorable work in Of Mice and Men (as George), Idiots Delight (both 1939), Second Chorus (1940, with wife-to-be Paulette Goddard), Tom, Dick and Harry (1941), The Story of G.I. Joe (1945, as fabled war correspondent Ernie Pyle), Diary of a Chambermaid (1946, with Goddard, which he also produced and wrote), Mine Own Executioner (1947), and On Our Merry Way (1948, which he also coproduced).
Meredith, whose lively countenance and intensity of performance compensated for his "shortcomings" as a Hollywood leading man (i.e., his lack of matinee-idol looks), enjoyed two early starring roles in the B melodramas San Francisco Docks (1940) and Street of Chance (1942, as an amnesiac murder suspect in an early exercise in film noir based on a Cornell Woolrich novel). He directed and performed in The Man on the Eiffel Tower (1949), a fascinating, seldom-seen thriller based on one of the popular "Maigret" novels by Georges Simenon. Meredith's film roles thinned out during the 1950s after he was considered an unfriendly witness during the McCarthy era, but he continued to do stage work (winning a Tony for directing "The Thurber Carnival"), returned to films in Otto Preminger's Advise and Consent (1962) and The Cardinal (1963), and thereafter never let up.
He snared Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominations for The Day of the Locust (1975) and for his most popular latter-day characterization, that of the trainer Mickey in the first Rocky (1976), a role he repeated in the 1979, 1982, and 1990 sequels. He has appeared in scores of TV shows (winning an Emmy for his performance in 1977's Tail Gunner Joe) and has lent his distinctive voice to innumerable commercials, documentaries, and feature films (including, memorably, 1969's The Reivers). He published his autobiography, "So Far, So Good," in 1994.