Rossiter, Leonard


Rossiter, Leonard
(1926–1984)
   The successful British character actor Leonard Rossiter makes memorable appearances in two STANLEY KUBRICK films: as the inquisitive Dr. Smyslov in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) and as Capt. John Quin, in BARRY LYNDON (1975). Although best known for his television work in British comedy, Rossiter had a busy career in cinema, appearing in such films as A Kind of Loving (1962), This Sporting Life (1963), Billy Liar (1963), The Wrong Box (1966), Oliver! (1968), and Voyage of the Damned (1976).
   Rossiter came to acting comparatively late in life. His earliest ambition was to study languages, but the death of his father in World War II left young Leonard to support his mother. While working as an insurance claims inspector in his native Liverpool, he landed a role in a local drama society production. After several years of further amateur work, he turned professional at the age of 28. He worked steadily throughout the 1950s in local repertory companies, gradually getting a good deal of television work, and films soon followed.
   In 2001: A Space Odyssey, Rossiter plays Dr. Andreas Smyslov, one of a group of Russian scientists returning to Earth from the Moon. Rossiter’s Smyslov tries to worm information from Dr. Heywood Floyd (WILLIAM SYLVESTER) about what exactly the big secret is at the American moon base Clavius. In his one brief scene, Rossiter manages to suggest layers of deviousness in Smyslov that a lesser actor might have overemphasized. His brief pause after describing how a Soviet ship was denied emergency landing rights at Clavius tells us everything we need to know about the event.
   In Barry Lyndon, Rossiter makes an even more memorable figure out of Capt. John Quin, Redmond Barry’s (RYAN O’NEAL) rival for the hand of Nora Brady (Gay Hamilton). Quin is first seen in all his glory, leading his men in a display of military might for the locals, and next dancing with Barry’s beloved cousin Nora. His bold demeanor quickly evaporates under Barry’s assaults, however. His verbal dexterity in his brief love scene with Nora turns to sputtering, inarticulate rage after Barry flings a glass of wine in his face, and his strutting arrogance turns to sheer terror as he faces Barry’s fire in their duel—which Quin does not realize has been fixed in his favor.
   Rossiter scored major successes in British television series like Rising Damp (1974) and The Fall And Rise of Reginald Perrin (1976). His television career was so successful, in fact, that Rossiter’s New York Times obituary does not even mention his appearances in Kubrick’s films, concentrating more on Perrin, which was being run on New York public television at the time. Rossiter died in October 1984, during a performance of Joe Orton’s Loot, in which he was playing Inspector Truscott. Having missed an entrance, he was found slumped in his dressing room, the victim of a heart attack.
   References
   ■ Kennedy, Shawn G. , “Leonard Rossiter” (obituary) New York Times October 7, 1984;
   ■ “Leonard Rossiter,” Internet Movie Database, www.imdb.com;
   ■ Lustig, Robin, “If the Face Doesn’t Fit . . . It’s Leonard Rossiter,” London Observer, Sunday magazine section, November 26, 1976;
   ■ Morley, Sheridan, “Two Actors-Leonard Rossiter and Alan Howard,” Plays and Players (September 1969);
   ■ “Rossiter, Leonard” (obituary), Variety October 10, 1984.
   T. D.

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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