Guest Actor Biography
Page 107 of 127

   

Leonard Rossiter

Robin Hood, Dressed to Kill

by Pete Stampede

Liverpool-born Leonard Rossiter was one of British television's greatest ever comedy performers. With his frenzied body movements, birdlike way of leaning his head to one side as if weighted by his long nose, rapid delivery and above all manic energy, he brought pace to everything he did. He created two of sitcom's greatest characters, mean, shabby yet sex-crazed landlord Rigsby in Rising Damp (1974-78) and frustrated fantasist Reggie in The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin (1976-79). Both shows are still popular and much repeated, and the latter, with its loony world view and supporting characters spouting trite phrases, was almost a comedy version of The Prisoner, right down to the final episode leaving Reggie where he started. Rossiter began as a straight actor in the repertory theatre before comedy stardom found him. He died of a heart attack, in his stage dressing room, in 1984. At the time "Dressed to Kill" was made, he was breaking into films and TV: he can be spotted slouching over a pub counter in Lindsay Anderson's This Sporting Life, and was Billy Liar's nitpicking undertaker boss. And whenever I've seen 2001: A Space Odyssey in a revival cinema, there's usually a giggle from the audience on recognizing Rossiter as one of the Russian scientists.

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Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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