Allan Rich

Actor, Director, Writer

Not every blacklistee spent his or her life as a victim -- some of them, such as Lionel Stander and Selena Royale, ended up pursuing successful second careers, and a few, including Stander and Jeff Corey, went on to very busy late-in-life acting careers. Allan Rich fits into both categories. Born in New York in 1926, he aspired to a performing career at an early age, and came of age in the midst of the Second World War. Rich got to work on-stage with the likes of Edward G. Robinson, Ralph Bellamy, Kim Hunter, and Henry Fonda, and seemed poised to make the jump to movies when the Red Scare swept over Hollywood. Like a lot of other New York-based actors who had made no secret of their belief in liberal values, Rich was blacklisted from the end of the 1940s. He followed a route, which was also followed by Lionel Stander, to Wall Street; though he was too "Red" to work in movies, Rich was sufficiently capitalist to succeed as a stock broker, and he eventually opened his own firm. He was successful enough to pursue his other great love -- contemporary art -- by opening a gallery on New York's Upper East Side. By the early '70s, however, Rich was drawn back into acting, in a stage production of Journey of the Fifth Horse, with Dustin Hoffman. In 1973, he made his long-delayed screen debut as District Attorney Herman Tauber in Sidney Lumet's Serpico. The following year, he was in The Gambler, and in 1975, he appeared in episodes of Baretta and Kojak. Over the decades since, Rich has appeared in movies as different as The Frisco Kid (1979), Frances (1982), Betsy's Wedding (1990), Highlander II: The Quickening (1991), Quiz Show, Disclosure (both 1994), and Amistad (1997), and in television productions ranging from Kojak and CHiPs in the 1970s through Hill Street Blues and Barney Miller in the 1980s, The Nanny and CSI in the 1990s to NYPD Blue and The Division in the 21st century. Playing featured and supporting roles as desk sergeants, attorneys (crooked and honest), judges (crooked and honest), college professors, doctors, and other professionals, Rich has used his resonant voice and skilled portrayals to evoke respect, contempt, cynicism, and laughter from audiences. Fans of Happy Days who lingered to the late seasons may remember Rich best for his role in the episode "Potsie Quits School," as the mean-tempered, cynical Prof. Thomas. He showed something more of his full range, however, in the 2004 NYPD Blue episode "You Da Bomb," portraying an aging Russian immigrant. Rich has also authored more than a half-dozen screenplays and had a film about Salvador Dali (based on his own friendship with the artist), in production as of 2004. Equally adept at comedic and sinister roles, Rich is one of the busiest character actors of his generation, which is poetic justice of a sort -- he was still earning a good living in his chosen profession (after having proved to be a better capitalist than most of his political foes), decades after those foes were in the ground and all-but-forgotten.