WASHINGTON - Robert Prosky, 77, a Manayunk-born actor with hundreds of film, TV and stage credits, whose roles included an avuncular sergeant on the NBC police drama
Hill Street Blue
s and a desperate real estate salesman in David Mamet's play
Glengarry Glen Ross
, has died.
Mr. Prosky, a Washington resident for nearly 50 years, died Monday at Washington Hospital Center of complications from a heart procedure.
[Earlier this year, he and two of his sons, actors Andrew and John, starred in a production of Arthur Miller's The Price at Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre - the first time Mr. Prosky had performed professionally in his hometown.
[In an interview, he talked with Inquirer theater critic Toby Zinman about the joys of performing with his sons, and the mixed pleasures of his work, and of growing older, concluding: "I find myself thinking more and more about the panorama of life. As George Burns said: 'I can't die. I'm booked.' "]
Starting in 1958, he began an affiliation at Washington's Arena Stage that transformed him over 23 seasons 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, saying: "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 butcher with a seventh-grade education, for his interpretation of Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman.
Film roles included parts in Mrs. Doubtfire, Broadcast News and Dead Man Walking.
In addition, he played many recurring TV roles, 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 played Kirstie Alley's father on the sitcoms Cheers and Veronica's Closet.
Robert Joseph Porzuczek was born Dec. 13, 1930, in Manayunk. 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, leading to a decades-long relationship.
He periodically returned to the New York stage and earned Tony Award nominations in two Broadway shows, Glengarry Glen Ross (1984) and Lee Blessing's A Walk in the Woods (1988).
In addition to Andrew and John, Mr. Prosky is survived by his wife, Ida, a third son, Stefan, and three grandchildren.