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Robert Prosky dead

Old 12-10-08, 06:09 PM
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Robert Prosky dead



Originally Posted by Washington Post
Robert Prosky, 77, a character actor with hundreds of film, TV and stage credits whose roles included an avuncular sergeant on the NBC police drama "Hill Street Blues" and a desperate real estate salesman in David Mamet's play "Glengarry Glen Ross," has died.

Mr. Prosky, a District resident for nearly 50 years, died Dec. 8 at Washington Hospital Center. He had complications from a heart procedure.

tarting in 1958, Mr. Prosky began an affiliation with Washington's Arena Stage that transformed him over 23 seasons and 130 roles from a struggling actor to one of the most versatile and prolific performers in a top regional theater.

He jokingly attributed his success to his paunch and prematurely gray hair, telling The Washington Post, "This hair and this gut are the two reasons I got started as an actor. I could play men 50 when I was 30, maybe 25. I could always play the funny fat man."

He also excelled in drama and at one point called on memories of his father, a Philadelphia butcher with a seventh-grade education, for his interpretation of Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman."

In his movie debut, Michael Mann's "Thief" (1981), Mr. Prosky played the vicious patriarch of a ring of Chicago diamond thieves. New York Times film critic Vincent Canby found him "exceptionally effective" as "a Middle Western version of the sort of affable international villains that Sydney Greenstreet once played."

The part launched Mr. Prosky's career as a film heavy, including roles as the evil garage owner in "Christine" (1983), a corrupt judge and baseball team co-owner in "The Natural" (1984) and a mafia don in Mamet's "Things Change" (1988).

It was a nice change of pace, Mr. Prosky said, to be offered the role of a self-deprecating priest in "Rudy" (1993).

Portraying TV newsmen also became a specialty for him. In "Mrs. Doubtfire" (1993), he was a station owner who exchanged quips with Robin Williams. He was a defender of community standards who clashed with journalist Dustin Hoffman in director Costa-Gavras's "Mad City" (1997). And he was a longtime executive who gets fired in director James L. Brooks's "Broadcast News" (1987).

Mr. Prosky's other film roles included the pro bono lawyer for death-row inmate Sean Penn in "Dead Man Walking" (1995) and a judge in the 1994 remake of "Miracle on 34th Street."

In addition, he played many recurring roles on TV, as the big-hearted desk sergeant Stanislaus "Stan" Jablonski on "Hill Street Blues" from 1984 to 1987 and later as a priest accused of murder on the ABC legal drama "The Practice."

He also played Kirstie Alley's father on the sitcoms "Cheers" and "Veronica's Closet."

He once told The Post he turned down the role of a bartender on "Cheers" and was grateful not to have been a part of the hit comedy because "doing the same role for 6 1/2 years" sent a chill down his spine.

Robert Joseph Porzuczek was born Dec. 13, 1930, in a working-class Philadelphia neighborhood.

Initially drawn to theater in high school, he briefly studied economics at Temple University before returning to the family grocery shop after his father's death in 1952.

He continued performing in plays, supporting himself in New York as a Federal Reserve Bank bookkeeper while working as a journeyman actor. What he considered just another one-shot deal -- playing the sheriff in a 1958 Arena Stage revival of "The Front Page" -- was instead a breakthrough. He credited theater co-founder Zelda Fichandler with being a crucial influence, and he decided to settle in Washington for the rest of his life.
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"When I first came to Arena I wasn't an actor who thought much," Mr. Prosky told The Post in 1984, "and here I was at what is certainly a theater of intellect -- God, Zelda would hate that label. But I wasn't this great genius who'd studied all the philosophies of the world. I was the son of a Polish butcher from Philadelphia. To read Pirandello -- 'Six Characters in Search of an Author' -- was a whole new experience for me. Same with Brecht.

"But Zelda saw something in me, God knows what, and kept nurturing it," he said. "Each author came to me fresh, brand new, and I found out about him in the doing, sort of leap-frogging from one to the next. That's what formed me -- that continuum."

He toured as the populist orator Matthew Harrison Brady in "Inherit the Wind" and as the stage manager in Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" and periodically returned to the New York stage. He earned Tony Award nominations in two Broadway shows, "Glengarry Glen Ross" (1984) and Lee Blessing's "A Walk in the Woods" (1988).

In the first, he played an aging and increasingly despairing salesman, Shelly "The Machine" Levene -- a role the show's director originally envisioned for legendary TV comedian Sid Caesar and was later played by Jack Lemmon in the movie.

Critics lauded Mr. Prosky for depicting the pompous outbursts of the character after he scores a "great sale" and the terror on his face as he is reduced to offering bribes to his employer to stay on the job.

In the two-character Blessing play, Mr. Prosky portrayed a Russian diplomat opposite Sam Waterston as an American arms negotiator. New York Times theater critic Frank Rich singled out Mr. Prosky for "a masterful portrait of political cunning, always entertaining to behold."

In 1960, Mr. Prosky married Ida Hove. She survives, along with three sons, Stefan Prosky of Washington, John Prosky of Toluca Lake, Calif., and Andrew Prosky of New York; and three grandchildren.

In recent years, Mr. Prosky toured with his actor sons John and Andrew in Arthur Miller's "The Price," including a performance this year at Washington's Theater J. The elder Prosky played a junk dealer who appraises the belongings left to two estranged brothers by their parents.

Looking back on his career, Mr. Prosky told The Post: "Survival is of utmost importance for an actor in this society. I remember doing a commercial with Arena actors Terrence Currier and Mark Hammer. We played bugs in tights and leotards, with wings pinned on our backs and a sequined number on our fronts. We were the price of the television set and we did a tap dance. When my eldest son saw it, he said, 'Dad, do we need the money that badly?'

"At the time, I recall, I was performing Willy Loman in the evenings."
Rest in peace. Great character actor, excellent in Broadcast News, but I'll remember him for Thief (he's an excellent, evil sleazeball there) and the foul-mouthed grizzled bulldog he plays in Christine.
Old 12-10-08, 06:18 PM
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I think I'll remember his role in Rudy the most. Always appeared to play likable characters in the films I saw.
Old 12-10-08, 06:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Zen Peckinpah View Post
Rest in peace. Great character actor, excellent in Broadcast News, but I'll remember him for Thief (he's an excellent, evil sleazeball there) and the foul-mouthed grizzled bulldog he plays in Christine.
I too remember him for Thief: "I'll whack out your whole ... family. I'll grind them into hamburger meat. People will eat them for lunch tomorrow in their Wimpy burgers and not know it."

RIP
Old 12-10-08, 06:47 PM
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Originally Posted by gmanca View Post
I too remember him for Thief: "I'll whack out your whole ... family. I'll grind them into hamburger meat. People will eat them for lunch tomorrow in their Wimpy burgers and not know it."

RIP
Yeah, definitely played a hell of an intimidating villain.
Spoiler:
When James Caan finally gets his hands on him, it's one of the most gratifying villain offings IMO.
Old 12-10-08, 07:19 PM
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This guy was incredible. RIP.
Old 12-10-08, 07:21 PM
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This is a shame. I really liked him. His performance in Far and Away is what stands out in my mind. He had such a childlike quality in the movie that you just had to love him.
Old 12-10-08, 07:42 PM
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It was always a treat when he would pop in a film and give one of his many memorable performances. This sucks. I have many memories of watching films of his from when I was little like Gremlins 2 and Mrs. Doubtfire. Since then Ive seen him in many other great movies like Thief. RIP
Old 12-10-08, 07:43 PM
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To me, he'll always be the sinister Judge in The Natural.

I think it's the character actors we miss the most, after they're gone. Prosky will be no exception. RIP.
Old 12-10-08, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by chris_sc77 View Post
It was always a treat when he would pop in a film and give one of his many memorable performances. This sucks. I have many memories of watching films of his from when I was little like Gremlins 2 and Mrs. Doubtfire. Since then Ive seen him in many other great movies like Thief. RIP
I forgot about Gremlins 2. He was the horror movie host.
Old 12-10-08, 08:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Zen Peckinpah View Post
I forgot about Gremlins 2. He was the horror movie host.
Looking at all the movies people have been listing, I know I had seen him in things but I felt bad I couldn't remember him. Gremlins 2 is the one role I definitely remember.

Kind of sad on my part.
Old 12-10-08, 09:30 PM
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Too bad. However, to be honest, you could have told me he died 5 years and I would have believed you.

I loved him in Broadcast News, Thief and a fun little HBO original film from the late 80s called The Heist.
Old 12-10-08, 11:38 PM
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The first movie I ever saw him in was Mrs. Doubtfire, and he always seemed like such a cool guy with some wonderfully prick-ish moments.
Old 12-11-08, 12:28 AM
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Mean evil man: THIEF
Lovable man: GREMLINS 2
What an actor! He should have been in more blockbusters.
Old 12-11-08, 08:22 AM
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Damn, I knew he was getting up there in age, but this still sucks!

I'll remember him for Rudy, Gremlins 2, and Mrs. Doubtfire.

R.I.P.
Old 12-11-08, 08:25 AM
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the last play I saw him in (with his two sons) was 'The Price' over at Theatre J earlier in the year - he (as well as his sons) were excellent.

R.I.P
Old 12-11-08, 08:30 AM
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Loved him in many movies. RIP.
Old 12-11-08, 08:34 AM
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What a great character actor he was. I thought he'd be acting for at least another 5 or 6 years. It's a shame that "complications from a heart procedure" took him early.

R.I.P.
Old 12-11-08, 10:51 AM
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I first noticed him in Hill Street Blues.
Old 12-11-08, 11:17 AM
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RIP Mr. Prosky.
Old 12-11-08, 01:35 PM
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Lets not forget his role as the projectionist in Last Action Hero!
Old 12-11-08, 02:24 PM
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Originally Posted by hapgilmore View Post
Lets not forget his role as the projectionist in Last Action Hero!
That's what I remember him as. That and as the boss in Mrs. Doubtfire.
Old 12-11-08, 05:48 PM
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'93 was a good year for him.
Old 12-11-08, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by hapgilmore View Post
Lets not forget his role as the projectionist in Last Action Hero!
Never will!

R.I.P.

Last edited by MrSmearkase; 12-12-08 at 09:04 AM.
Old 12-11-08, 07:45 PM
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One of the reasons why I love this site is that people like this are appreciated and remembered. I'm betting this didn't get a mention on CNN "tot mom" news or Fox "Holloway" news. RIP.
Old 12-11-08, 07:57 PM
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"Let's do it to them before they do it to us"

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