Matthew Cowles, a distinctive character actor and playwright, died of congestive heart failure on May 22. He died at home in the presence of family. He was 69. Born on September 28, 1944 in New York City, Mr. Cowles studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse and made a career playing fated villains. He often joked that, he "Made a living dying." He will be best remembered for his portrayal of Billy Clyde Tuggle, the pimp who terrorized the town of Pine Valley in All My Children. His work on the soap opera spanned four decades, as his role recurred throughout the 70s, 80s, 90s, and again in 2013, when the show was temporarily resurrected. The role garnered Mr. Cowles a daytime Emmy nomination. Two of Mr. Cowles' other memorable roles were Monkey John, whom he portrayed in the TV mini-series Lonesome Dove (1989), and a schizophrenic homeless man named Lemonhead, on Law & Order (1991). Other film and television credits include Midnight Cowboy, Slap Shot, The World According to Garp, Eddie Macon's Run, The Money Pit, The Juror, Nurse Betty, and recently, Shutter Island. Mr. Cowles had an extensive theater career. In 1966, he made his Broadway debut starring in the world premier of Edward Albee's Malcolm. In 1968, he played beside Al Pacino in Israel Horovitz's The Indian Wants the Bronx. Mr. Cowles also co-starred with Chris Walken in Kid Champion and Sweet Bird of Youth, both in 1975. He made his last New York stage appearance in 2012 in Taming of the Shrew at the Theatre for a New Audience. In addition, Mr. Cowles wrote three plays: Mexican Standoff at Fat Squaw Springs, Our Daily Bread, and Noblesse Oblige. He also wrote a series of short stories and songs recounting his 50 years as an avid motorcyclist. He was married to the actress Christine Baranski for 30 years. He drove her away from the country church where they wed on a black BMW motorcycle named Lucifer. They met doing Ibsen's Ghosts in 1981, and worked together again in Hedda Gabler (1987). Mr. Cowles is also survived by two daughters, Isabel Murphy and Lily Cowles, and by a grandson, Max Francis Murphy. Arrangements by the Lillis Funeral Home, 58 Bridge St., New Milford, CT.
Lillis Funeral Home
58 Bridge Street
New Milford, CT 06776
Published in The Greater New Milford Spectrum from June 4 to June 6, 2014