Joseph Ruskin, Legendary Actor Dies At 89By: Emily Greene - January 2, 2014
Stage, film, and television actor Joseph Ruskin died on Saturday, December 28th at the age of 89.
On Tuesday the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) announced Ruskin had died at UCLA Santa Monica Hospital of natural causes.
SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard said. “Joe was the epitome of the actor who takes care of all the other actors while keeping one foot firmly planted on the stage or the set. He gave so much for so long it’s hard to believe he’s gone.” Howard added that Ruskin “devoted so much of his time in the 1980s” to the merger of SAG and AFTRA – the two actor’s unions. That merger finally became a reality in 2012.
Born Joseph Schlafman in 1924 in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Ruskin attended high school in Cleveland, Ohio and then joined the United States Navy in 1942. After returning from World War II, Ruskin pursued a degree in drama at Carnegie Tech – now Carnegie-Mellon University – which led to his career in acting.
Ruskin appeared in 124 television shows, 25 films, and multiple stage productions. His television credits included Twilight Zone, The Untouchables, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, and Alias. Ruskin could also be seen in the films The Magnificent Seven, Prizzi’s Honor, Indecent Proposal, and Smokin’ Aces.
The legendary character actor’s career began with the theater. After leaving the Navy after World War II, Ruskin performed professionally at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and the Rochester Arena Stage.
Most recently Ruskin appeared in the 2012 Antaeus Theatre Company of Los Angeles’ production of “You Can’t Take It With You” as Martin Vanderhof. His “final bow” came with Antaeus’ 2013 production of “The Crucible” where he portrayed the character of Francis Nurse.
From 1976 to 1999 Ruskin served on the board of the Screen Actors Guild, eight of those years were spent as 1st national vice president. He also served 10 years on the national board of AFTRA and was the first Western Regional Vice President of the Actors Equity Association.
Those familiar with Ruskin’s work took to Twitter once they heard the news of his passing.