Actor-director was key figure in L.A. theater

Film, television and stage actor-director Paul Kent, a leading figure in the Los Angeles and regional theatrical community for more than 50 years, died at his Hollywood Hills home on Friday, Oct. 7. He was 80 and succumbed after a lengthy battle with multiple myeloma.

In addition to decades as an actor in films, television and the legitimate stage, Kent founded 35 years ago and was artistic director of the original Melrose Theater. He subsequently partnered with actress Jomarie Ward, and together they produced, taught and directed a wide variety of theater, eliciting DramaLogue and Drama Critics Circle awards, including the Margaret Harford Award naming the Melrose “the most consistently praiseworthy theater in Los Angeles.” In between their own productions, the theater was leased for many years to HBO Films and independent theatrical productions.

Born in Brooklyn, Kent trained as an actor and theatrical entrepreneur at the Pasadena Playhouse, interrupting his career with a stint in the Army during the Korean War.

In addition to his prolific work as an actor, he was an activist largely responsible for the Equity Waiver policy in Hollywood. He also served as an assistant to prominent acting coach Sanford Meisner, was the first actor signed to a contract by Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s Desilu Studios and was selected to be Ball’s assistant director during her time developing new performers at her Desilu Theater.

In a career spanning more than 100 television and feature film appearances, he was first seen onscreen in “December Bride” and “My Three Sons” and continued through “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,” “Hawaii Five-O” to “The West Wing,” “Frasier” and “E.R.” He recurred on “Hotel,” “Falcon Crest,” “Mod Squad,” “T.J. Hooker” and “Lou Grant”as well as the soap operas “Port Charles” and “The Young and the Restless.” Among two dozen movies for television were the original and a later second version of Manson murders story “Helter Skelter,” as well as 1973′s “The Alpha Caper,” with Henry Fonda and Leonard Nimoy; “Hoover”; “The Astronaut”; “The President’s Plane Is Missing”; “Family Flight”; and “Death Valley.”

Film credits include “Seconds,” with Rock Hudson; “Lifeguard”; “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3″; and “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn,” as Commander Beach; and Alex Monty Canawati’s “Return to Babylon.”

Onstage, he appeared as Nathan Detroit with Jack Jones in “Guys and Dolls”; John Saxon in “The Price”; Lainie Kazan, “Fiddler on the Roof”; Carole Cook and Barbara Rush, “Father’s Day”; William Shatner, “Otherwise Engaged”; and Richard Dreyfuss, “Mamma’s House.”

Services will be held on Saturday, Oct. 15, at 3 p.m. at Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills. He is survived by his wife of 32 years, actress-writer Madelyn Cain, and three daughters.

Donations may be made to Multiple Myeloma research (www.myeloma.org) or Intrepidfallenheroesfund.org

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