Friday, September 21, 2007

Percy Rodrigues R.I.P.

Many of you might not recongise the name of Percy Rodrigues, but you probably recognise his face and his voice. A frequent guest star on television shows in the Sixties and Seventies, Rodrigues was the epitome of strength, moral fortitude, and intelligence in his many roles. He passed on September 6 at the age of 89 from kidney failure.

Of African and Portuguese descent, Rodrigues was born in Montreal, Quebec, on June 13, 1918. His father deserted the family while Rodrigues was still young, and he was forced to find work while still a teenager. He took up boxing professionally. He also began looking for work as an actor, eventually joining Negro Theatre Guild in Montreal. He won an acting award at the Canadian Drama Festival in 1939. Despite this, he had trouble finding roles, and for much of the Forties he worked as a tool maker and machinist.

Gifted with a deep, resonant voice, it was in the Fifties that Rodrigues began doing voiceover work. He narrated the 1955 Canadian documentary short No Longer Vanishing and the 1957 Canadian documentary short Honey Bees and Pollination. He also made his first appearance on television, in a guest appearance on the Canadian series Radisson (called Tomahawk in the States). In 1960 he made his first appearance on Broadway in Toys in the Attic. In 1964 he appeared on Broadway in Blues for Mr. Charlie.

The Sixties saw Rodrigues become a fixture on American television, as he began guest starring on many shows. Among the shows in the Sixties he guested on were Naked City, Route 66, Ben Casey, The Wild Wild West, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Star Trek (playing Commodore Stone in "Court Martial"). He also became a regular on the nighttime soap Peyton Place, playing neurosurgeon Dr. Harry Miles. He also appeared in the films The Plainsman, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and The Sweet Ride.

During the Seventies Rodrigues continued to make guest appearances on television shows, including Mission Impossible, Ironside, Sanford and Son, and The Jeffersons. He appeared in the films The Legend of Hillbilly John and Invisible Stranger. He also continued to do voiceover work, most notably for the trailer to a film called Jaws. He would also provide voice work for the film Galaxina and the animated feature Heavy Metal. Rodrigues retired from acting in 1987, but continued to do voiceovers on occasion.

Handsome and of a regal bearing, Percy Rodrigues was a trailblazer who broke the colour barrier on television and the stage. Immensely talented, he could convincingly play the leader of a nation or a power mad villain. Short of James Earl Jones, he perhaps had the best voice in the business. It is truly saddening to think he is gone.

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