Robert Beecher, Character Actor and L.A. Theater Builder, Dies at 91
He appeared in such films as 'Dick Tracy,' 'Barton Fink' and 'Bugsy' and opened the Horseshoe Stage Theatre (now the Zephyr) in 1956.
Robert Beecher, a character actor and the builder of the Horseshoe Stage Theatre in Hollywood, died Feb. 12 of natural causes in Burbank, his son, Bob, said. He was 91.
In late 1954, Beecher purchased a lot on Melrose Avenue and built the Horseshoe, a 91-seat venue that opened Jan. 5, 1956, with a production of The Member of the Wedding.
He continued to star in, direct and produce plays and acting workshops at the venue until he sold it in 1978. It’s now known as the Zephyr Theatre.
Beecher also invented and patented a stage lighting system for small theaters, his son said.
As an actor, the burly Beecher was typically cast as heavies, gangsters or bad guys. He played Ribs Mocca, a close subordinate of Big Boy (Al Pacino), in Dick Tracy (1990) and appeared in such films as Barton Fink (1991), Bugsy (1991), Red Rock West (1993) and Twin Falls Idaho (1999) and on such TV shows as The Untouchables; Rawhide; Welcome Back, Kotter; St. Elsewhere and Cagney & Lacey.
Born in Hollywood, Beecher was raised in the Baldwin Hills area. He attended Dorsey High School and served as a weatherman in the 14th Air Force (The Flying Tigers) in Kunming, China, during World War II.
After the service, Beecher enrolled in the Pasadena Playhouse College of Theatre Arts. He and 24 other young actors founded the Orchard Gables Repertory Theatre Company in 1948, based in a two-story house on Wilcox and Fountain avenues.
Beecher had his own workshop, Stage 13 Productions, and in the early 1970s, he taught at the then-new Screen Actors Guild Conservatory. He was a pioneer in the use of video technology to help students, and he taught there for more than 30 years.
Survivors also include another son, a daughter and a grandson.