Born with the professionally prophetic name of Ibsen Dana Elcar, on Oct. 10, 1927, in Ferndale, Michigan, he studied drama at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York, and quickly landed roles in such plays as Moon in Capricorn and Project Immortality.
Bald and round-faced, he appeared in Richard III opposite George C. Scott and several Phoenix Theatre Company productions, including Androcles and the Lion. Among his most prominent credits were roles in the original American stagings of Harold Pinter's early plays The Dumbwaiter and The Caretaker.
He had less luck on Broadway, where his credits included such here-today, gone-tomorrow flops as The Honeys (1955), Good as Gold (1957), Semi-Detached (1960) and A Murderer Among Us (1964). He was understudy to two famous performances: Alec Guinness as poet Dylan Thomas in 1964's Dylan; and Jason Robards as the title character in Eugene O'Neill's Hughie, also in 1964.
His debut on television came in 1954 in "A Time to Live." He was rarely absent from the small screen thereafter, making countless appearances on soap operas, television movies and television dramas. His most famous TV role was that of boss Peter Thornton of Richard Dean Anderson's crimesolver, MacGyver. Mr. Elcar attracted considerable attention when he began to go blind due to glaucoma midway through the series, and the show's producers, rather than dismiss him, decided to write the ailment into his character. He continued to act after the 1992 end of "MacGyver," despite being completely sightless.
His many film roles included "Fail-Safe," "The Sting," "Buddy Buddy," "2010," "A Star Is Born" and "Foul Play."