The younger brother of famed writer Mary McCarthy, he served in the U.S. Air Force during WWII, toured in "Winged Victory," and reprised his stage role in the 1944 film. But McCarthy earned more attention for what was considered his feature acting debut - the role of the disillusioned son Biff in the 1951 screen adaptation of Arthur Miller's classic, "Death of a Salesman." Nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, the actor seemed poised for a major film career. He marked time, however, until Don Siegel cast him as Dr. Miles Bennel in the sci-fi classic, "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956). As the somewhat hysterical survivor of a community infested by space alien pod people, McCarthy anchored the film which only grew in stature since its initial release. In fact, in Philip Kaufman's 1978 remake, the actor had a small but pivotal role that was an homage to the original. His subsequent film career included playing Henry Fonda's campaign aide in "The Best Man" (1964), a roller derby magnate in "Kansas City Bomber" (1972), and a smarmy lobbyist in "The Distinguished Gentlemen" (1992).
The stage-trained McCarthy frequently appeared on Broadway throughout his career, notably as Jerry in "Two for the Seesaw" (1959) and Van Ackerman in "Advise and Consent" (1960). He has also scored a personal triumph as President Harry Truman in the one-man show "Give 'Em Hell, Harry!" But the busy actor perhaps found the best outlet for his talent on the small screen. A frequent guest actor, McCarthy co-starred with Lana Turner on the short-lived series, "The Survivors" (ABC, 1969-1970). He was engaging as the wealthy patriarch of a Florida family on the primetime soap "Flamingo Road" (NBC, 1981-83), but fared less well as the romantic interest for Beatrice Arthur in the short-lived sitcom, "Amanda's" (ABC, 1983). In 1987, he portrayed Franklyn Hutton, the father of Barbara Hutton (Farrah Fawcett) in the NBC miniseries "Poor Little Rich Girl," while in the 1995 biography, "Liz: The Elizabeth Taylor Story" (NBC), he played Sol Siegel and was in turn played onscreen as a character by actor Patrick Robert Smith. McCarthy showed no signs of retiring, playing the chief of staff in the acclaimed HBO movie "The Second Civil War" (1997) and recurring on the critically lauded drama, "The District" (CBS, 2000-04), as well as numerous feature films - continuing an astonishing output well into his 90s. The esteemed actor passed away on Sept. 11, 2010 at the age of 96.