Allan Rich, Character Actor Who Overcame the Blacklist, Dies at 94

Allan Rich obituary
Courtesy of George Hurrell

His credits included 'Serpico,' 'Disclosure,' 'Amistad' and 'Curb Your Enthusiasm.'

Allan Rich, the character actor who survived the Hollywood blacklist to work in such films as Serpico, Disclosure and Amistad and on TV's Curb Your Enthusiasm, has died. He was 94.

Rich died Saturday of progressive dementia at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, New Jersey, his family announced.

Rich portrayed NBC president Robert Kintner in Robert Redford's Quiz Show (1994), Demi Moore's attorney in Barry Levinson's Disclosure (1994) and a judge in Steven Spielberg's Amistad (1997). And on a 2004 episode of HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, he played a Holocaust survivor who clashed with a contestant from the TV show Survivor.

Benjamin Norman Schultz was born in New York on Feb. 8, 1926, and raised in Queens and the Bronx. His mother, Elia, said that on his third birthday, he ran out of his seat and on to the stage during a vaudeville show to sing "Ain't She Sweet."

He did summer stock in Vermont, adopted the stage name Allan Rich and in 1943 made his Broadway debut when he was hired by Milton Berle for the comedy I'll Take the High Road. Two years later, he appeared with Claude Rains and Kim Hunter in the prison drama Darkness at Noon.

In 1953, Rich was branded a communist — he said that was a result of attempting a few years earlier to free a Black man from Mississippi who had been wrongly convicted of rape — and was abruptly fired from the NBC anthology series Philco Playhouse.

"My agent never sent me out [on another audition]," he recalled in a 2007 interview. "I would walk into an office, making the rounds. And I'd walk out going phhffffft. It took a year till an actor said to me, 'Hey, we're on Red Channels.' If your name was on that list, goooooood-byyyyye! You never worked."

Rich took a job as a Wall Street broker, then thrived as the owner of the Allan Rich Art Gallery on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, where he published graphics by such noted artists as Salvador Dali, Joan Miró and Alexander Calder and had clients including the Kennedys. He also helped George Hurrell get rediscovered with the photographer's legendary portraits of Hollywood stars of the Golden Age and beyond.

In 1963, he got back on television on ABC's Naked City and CBS' East Side/West Side and in 1966 worked with Dustin Hollman in an off-Broadway production of Ron Ribman's Journey of the Fifth Horse.

A role as the district attorney in Sidney Lumet's Serpico (1973) reignited his career, and the next few years saw him show up in The Gambler (1974) and The Happy Hooker (1975) and on such TV shows as The Rockford Files, All in the Family and Hawaii Five-O.

He went on to appear in Francis Ford Coppola's Jack (1996), The Rich Man's Wife (1996), My Sexiest Year (2006), Lies and Alibis (2006) and Man in the Chair (2007) and such TV shows as NYPD Blue, CSI and Judging Amy.

Rich published a book about acting, A Leap From the Method, in 2007 and taught the likes of Sharon Stone, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rene Russo, Larry Miller and Alan Thicke.

In 1994, he co-founded We Care About Kids, a nonprofit organization that produced live-action educational short films distributed free to middle and high school youths to fight prejudice.

His wife of 62 years, Elaine Rich, a personal manager who represented Fran Drescher, Jennifer Jason Leigh and others, died in August 2015 at 81.

"He lived large and was quite heroic to many including me when faced with the depths of despair," Drescher said in a statement. "He had a great intellect and excelled in everything he set his mind to. He was always on the side of good and right."

Survivors include his children, Marian and David; daughter-in-law Wendy; son-in-law Ed; and grandchildren Julia and Ruby. In his memory, donations may be made to Marian's nonprofit Global Play Brigade in an effort to help those impacted by COVID-19 and beyond.