Allan Rich, an actor who was caught up in the Hollywood Blacklist of the 1950s but went on to have a 50-year film and TV career, has died. He was 94. His family said he died August 22 of progressive dementia at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, NJ, which is run by the Actors Fund.
A character actor with an instantly recognizable face, Rich had more than 130 roles in television and film, ranging from Serpico and The Gambler to some of the 1970s’ biggest TV shows and a memorable turn on Curb Your Enthusiasm. He also had supporting roles in four Broadway shows during the 1940s and ’50s before he was blacklisted.
Born on February 8, 1926, in the Bronx, Rich was a rising stage actor in the early 1950s when he name came up during the House Un-American Activities Committee led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy because the actor’s Theater Action Committee had been working to free a Black man. Rich had just booked a major role on NBC’s popular anthology drama Philco Playhouse in 1953; when he arrived for rehearsal on a Monday morning, he was told his services no longer were needed.
Sidelined from acting and devastated after being branded as a communist sympathizer, he worked menial jobs and later became a stockbroker and ran an art gallery.
Rich was in his mid-40s by the time he settled back into acting full time in the mid-1970s. His first big film role was as a district attorney in the 1973 Al Pacino cop drama Serpico. He followed up with roles in features The Gambler (1974) and The Happy Hooker (1975) before focusing mainly on the small screen.
Along with parts in a slew of late-’70s telefilms, Rich began to guest star on some of TV’s most popular series including All in the Family, Hawaii Five-0, Happy Days, The Rockford Files, Kojak, Little House on the Prairie, Baretta, Barney Miller, Alice and CHiPs. The roles kept coming during the 1980s, when he would appear on Magnum P.I., Cagney & Lacey, Square Pegs, Gimme a Break! along with recurring as a judge on Hill Street Blues during its Emmy-hogging early years.
Rich continued his guest-star run during the 1990s but also would appear in some major feature films including Quiz Show, Disclosure, Francis Ford Coppola’s Jack Steven Spielberg’s Amistad. His 2000s TV work included CSI, Judging Amy, NYPD Blue and Curb Your Enthusiasm. In a memorable Season 4 episode of Larry David’s HBO comedy, Rich played a Holocaust survivor who butts heads at a dinner party with a Survivor TV show alum over which had a rougher go of it.
Rich also penned a 2007 book on acting titled A Leap from the Method.
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