Paul Rogers, British Shakespearean Known for Pinter's The Homecoming, Dies at 96

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15 Oct 2013

Paul Rogers, the British actor who won a Tony Award for his portrayal of the brutish father of a twisted family in the original Broadway production of Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, died on Oct. 6 in London. He was 96.

Mr. Rogers had been previously nominated for a Tony for his work in the 1963 Peter Ustinov play Photo Finish, and for a Drama Desk Award for his performance as the insecure and demanding stage actor known only as Sir in the original production of Ronald Harwood's period theatre drama The Dresser in 1982.

Despite these prominent parts in contemporary plays, the meat of Mr. Rogers' career was the classics, specifically Shakespeare. He was for many years a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Known for his versatility and a resonant speaking voice, he played a wide variety of parts, including the title role in Macbeth, Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, John of Gaunt in Richard II, Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Iago in Othello, the title roles in King Lear and Hamlet, Falstaff in Henry IV (on two occasions) and Panderus in Troilus and Cressida.

Of his 1955 Falstaff at the Old Vic, critic Kenneth Tynan said, "Paul Rogers' Falstaff is fussy and perhaps too easily discomfited, but vocally it is a display of rich and immaculate cunning."

Paul Rogers was born March 22, 1917, in Plympton, Devon, and trained as an actor at the Michael Chekhov Theatre Studio. During World War II, he served in the Royal Navy. Beginning in the late 1940s, he performed with the Old Vic for a decade. With that company, he performed in four Shakespeare dramas on Broadway during 1956. It was during his subsequent tenure at the RSC that he won the role of Max in Pinter's mysterious and unsettling drama The Homecoming, in which a family takes callous advantage of one of their members' new bride. He repeated his work in Peter Hall's 1973 film.



Other British stage credits included Neil Simon’s Plaza Suite and Shaw's Heartbreak House at the National Theatre. Films included "The Beachcomber," "Our Man in Havana," "Billy Budd" and "Oscar and Lucinda."

"To some extent," Mr. Rogers told the New York Times in 1981, speaking of his role in The Dresser, "the performance springs from a flippant attitude. Many British actors have it. There is a moment, you know, when actors can be overly serious. But I was taught that the way actors do it is to throw the ball one to another...And throwing a ball—what's that? That's only a game."

Paul Rogers was married to Muriel Jocelyn Maire Wynne, with whom he had two sons. His second marriage was to Rosalind Boxall; that union produced two daughters. They remained wed until her death in 2004.