Robert Prosky

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Robert Prosky
Robert Prosky and Joseph McKenna in Fishelson's adaptation of The Golem at Manhattan Ensemble Theatre, 2002
Robert Józef Porzuczek

(1930-12-13)December 13, 1930
DiedDecember 8, 2008(2008-12-08) (aged 77)
Resting placeRock Creek Cemetery
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Other namesRobert Józef Prosky
Years active1971–2008
Ida Hove
(m. 1960)
Children3, including John Prosky

Robert Prosky (born Robert Joseph Porzuczek, December 13, 1930 – December 8, 2008) was an American actor. He became a well-known supporting actor in the 1980s with his roles in Thief (1981), Christine (1983), The Natural (1984), and Broadcast News (1987).

Prosky's other notable movies include Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), Hoffa (1992), Mrs. Doubtfire (1993), Last Action Hero (1993), Rudy (1993), Miracle on 34th Street (1994), Dead Man Walking (1995), and Mad City (1997). His most notable television role was of Sgt. Stan Jablonski on the TV police drama Hill Street Blues.

Early life[edit]

Prosky, a Polish American,[1] was born in the Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia,[2] Pennsylvania, to Helen (Kuhn) and Joseph Porzuczek.[3] His father was a grocer and butcher.[4][5][6] He was raised in a working-class neighborhood and studied at the American Theatre Wing, later graduating from Temple University. He performed at Old Academy Players, a small theater in the East Falls section of Philadelphia, adjacent to Manayunk. He also served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War, but got a hardship discharge to help with the family store when his father died suddenly.[7]


Prosky appeared in Thief, Christine, Hanky Panky, The Natural, Hoffa, Broadcast News, Things Change, The Great Outdoors, Loose Cannons, Rudy, Mrs. Doubtfire, Green Card, and Dead Man Walking. He also appeared as Will Darnell, the man who owned the auto repair shop where Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon) rebuilds the possessed car "Christine" in the film John Carpenter's Christine based on Stephen King's novel.

In addition to appearing in films, he appeared in many television shows, as a regular on Hill Street Blues, Danny, and Veronica's Closet. Prosky also portrayed Jake "the Snake" Connolly on a two-part 1991 episode of Coach. He was considered for the role of Martin Crane in Frasier and later made a guest appearance in the series as a reclusive writer who befriended the character. He was offered the role of Coach Ernie Pantusso on Cheers, but turned it down; he later portrayed Rebecca Howe's father on the same show.[8] His role in Veronica's Closet was likely a nod to this, as in both shows he would play the father of a character portrayed by Kirstie Alley.

In addition to his film and television career, he appeared in numerous productions at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., most notably as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. Prosky often performed at Arena Stage with over 100 stage credits to his name at that theatre alone. He played Shelly Levene in the 1984 Chicago and Broadway production of David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross. He was also a board member of the Cape May Stage in Cape May, New Jersey.

Prosky appeared in two films, Dead Man Walking and The Chamber, with actor Raymond J. Barry. He received or was nominated for two Tony awards, two Helen Hayes awards, an Emmy, the Drama Desk award, and the American Express Tribute To An American Actor. He continued to perform on stage and present lectures on his long career at universities, film festivals, for theater benefits, business groups and on cruises.

Personal life[edit]

In 1960, he married Ida Hove with whom he had three sons, Stefan, John and Andrew Prosky, the latter two being actors as well.[7]


Prosky died on December 8, 2008, five days before his 78th birthday while living in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C.[8][9] His son John said that the cause was complications of heart surgery at the Washington Hospital Center.[7] The New York Times described him: "a craggy-faced, heavyset character actor who, after 23 years in regional theater, became a familiar face on Broadway, in movies and on television, notably as a gruff desk sergeant in the later years of Hill Street Blues."[7]

Playbill described him: "He was best suited to playing salt-of-the-earth characters, sometimes with a mischievous or slightly sinister edge."[8]




Year Title Role Location/Notes
1971 Moonchildren (American premiere) Mr. Willis Arena Stage, Washington, D.C./later moved to Broadway in 1972
1975 The Dybbuk Rabbi Az ielke Arena Stage, Washington, D.C./with Dianne Wiest
1983 A View from the Bridge Alfieri New York City
1984 Glengarry Glen Ross Shelly Levene John Golden Theatre, New York City/Tony Award Nomination/ Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble
1988 A Walk in the Woods Andrei Botvinnik Booth Theatre, New York City/Tony Award Nomination
1996 Camping with Henry and Tom Thomas Edison Lucille Lortel Theatre, New York City
2002 An American Daughter Alan Hughes Arena Stage, Washington, D.C.
2004 Democracy Herbert Wehner Brooks Atkinson Theatre, New York City
2006 Awake and Sing! Jacob Arena Stage, Washington, D.C.
2008 The Price Solomon Walnut Street Theatre, Philadelphia; Theater J, Washington, D.C. (joint production)


  1. ^ Davis, Sally Ogle (September 6, 2001). "Television Jews: How Jewish Is Too Jewish?". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Retrieved December 11, 2019.
  2. ^ Bernstein, Adam (December 10, 2008). "Robert Prosky, Phila.-born character actor". The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  3. ^ Who's who in Entertainment. Vol. 1. Marquis Who's Who. 1989. ISBN 9780837918501.
  4. ^ Robert Prosky biography Film Reference.
  5. ^ "Robert Prosky Biography - Yahoo! Movies". Archived from the original on 2011-05-22. Retrieved 2017-01-15.
  6. ^ Bernstein, Adam (December 10, 2008). "Robert Prosky; D.C. Actor Appeared on 'Hill Street Blues'". The Washington Post.
  7. ^ a b c d Martin, Douglas. (December 11, 2008). "Robert Prosky, 77, an Actor of Wide Range and Acumen, Is Dead" The New York Times.
  8. ^ a b c Simonson, Robert (December 9, 2008). "Robert Prosky, Seasoned Actor of Stage, Film and Television, Dies at 77". Playbill. Archived from the original on January 31, 2013.
  9. ^ Sullivan, Patricia (December 9, 2008). "Actor Robert Prosky Dies". The Washington Post. Retrieved 9 December 2008.
  10. ^ Murder of Mary Phagan Turner Classic Movies, accessed December 18, 2015
  11. ^ From the Dead of Night Turner Classic Movies, accessed December 18, 2015

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