Matthew Lickona 8:30 a.m., Oct. 20
Character actors seldom get a chance to command more than a few intermittent moments of screen time. Roberts Blossom didn't exactly fit the Jeff Chandler leading man type, but he did have his shot at a starring role. The cult horror film Deranged, later changed to Deranged: Confessions of a Necrophile, tells the story of Ezra Cobb, a rural farmer patterned after real-life Milwaukee serial killer, Ed Gein.
It may sound wrong to say this, particularly in light of the man's recent passing, but no one in Hollywood at that time was better suited to play a bedraggled, grave robbing necrophile who used the corpses of his victims to keep him company around the house than Roberts Blossom.
Roberts Scott Blossom, actor, poet, and founder of Filmstage, a multimedia avant-garde theatrical troupe, died on Friday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 87.
Born in in New Haven, Connecticut, Blossom graduated from the prestigious Asheville School in 1941 and later attended Harvard University. He didn't come to movies until relatively late in life. His first feature, the impossible-to-see The Sin of Jesus (1961) was directed by influential still photographer-turned-filmmaker, Robert Frank.
It would be a decade before Blossom returned to movies as the near catatonic victim of medical malpractice (or was it murder?) opposite George C. Scott in The Hospital. He only appeared in 22 features, and then mostly in bit parts, but I gurantee if you've seen one, Roberts Blossom's performance left an impression.
He was Paul LeMat's crusty trailer-park father in Jonathan Demme's Handle with Care (a film in dire need of a home video release); "Doc" in Don Siegel's Escape From Alcatraz; the scary old coot who sold Keith Gordon Christine; the farmer in Close Encounters, and, as Marty saw fit, the "Aged Master" in The Last Temptation of Christ. He was also in Home Alone. a film I avoided like the plague.
The actor made his Off Broadway debut in 1955 and went on to win four Obie Awards. During the '50s and '60s Blossom helped to develop Filmstage, a concept that involved the simultaneous incorporation of live actors with film and/or slides. Blossom took home a Soapy Award for his work on the 1976-1977 season of Another World and continued to work regularly throughout the '80s, appearing in network roles.
Blossom was married twice and divorced once. His second marriage, to the former Marylin Orshan, ended when she died in 1982. He is survived by a daughter, Deborah, of Los Angeles, a son, Michael, of Chicago.