Longtime New York stage, film and television actor Rex Robbins, who appeared in dozens of Gotham legit shows and starred opposite Angela Lansbury in “Gypsy,” died Tuesday Sept. 23. He was 68.
He suffered a brain aneurysim while visiting relatives after attending his 50th high school reunion in Pierre, S.D.
Pierre native moved to New York in 1957 after receiving a degree in theater from Yale and began a prolific career as a character actor. Equally at home in dramas and tuners, he made his Broadway debut in the 1963 production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” with Kirk Douglas. He went on to appear in 18 Broadway shows, including Doug Henning’s “The Magic Show,” in which he replaced David Ogden Stiers, and “King Richard III” with Al Pacino. In 1973’s “Gypsy,” he played Herbie to Lansbury’s Mama Rose, both on Broadway and on a national tour. He also toured with Carol Channing in “Hello Dolly.”
He spent 17 seasons at the Williamstown Summer Theater Festival, appearing in 48 productions from 1956 to 1992. He also appeared in 15 shows at the Long Wharf Theater, with roles including Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady” and Dr. Gibbs in “Our Town.” He also had a notable Off Broadway run in “The Dining Room.”
His final Broadway show was “James Joyce’s ‘The Dead'” in 2000, with Christopher Walken.
He made his movie bow in 1976 with “Shaft” and followed that up with “1776.” His film credits included “The Secret of My Success” and Wes Anderson’s “The Royal Tenenbaums.” He was a familiar face on the small screen, where he played Theodore Sorenson in the “Kennedy” miniseries, guest-starred on numerous primetime skeins including “Ed,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “Law & Order” and performed on soaps such as “All My Children,” “The Guiding Light” and “The Doctors.”
He also appeared in more than 300 commercials, including a long-running spot for SOS soap pads in which he spoofed “The Galloping Gourmet.”
Robbins is survived by his wife, Patricia, his brother and three children. He will be buried in Pierre but there will be a memorial at a New York theater in November.