Tony Roberts: Bred for Broadway

Though I like him a great deal, as with Jerry Orbach, whom we profiled here a few days ago, I’m not sure I’d be doing a tribute to stage and screen actor Tony Roberts (b. 1939) if he didn’t come with an interesting show business pedigree, cuz that’s our usual angle on Travalanche. His father was old time radio announcer Ken Roberts (Saul Trochman, 1910-2009), his mother was Norma Finkelstein, an animator with Max Fleischer, and he is a cousin of Everett Sloan of the Mercury Theatre. His father’s best friend was Paul Stewart, also of the Mercury.

I think of the tall, good looking Roberts mostly as an actor of light comedy, primarily associated with two Sid Caesar alum, Neil Simon and Woody Allen. The Simon works included the original Broadway versions of Barefoot in the Park (1965), Promises Promises (1970), and They’re Playing Our Song (1979-80), and the film version of Star Spangled Girl (1971). His association with Woody Allen began with original stage productions of Don’t Drink the Water (1966-68), and Play it Again Sam (1969-70), and the film version of the latter (1971), as well as the films Annie Hall (1977), Stardust Memories (1980), A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), and Radio Days (1987).

Roberts has divided his time fairly equally among stage, film and television over the years. Of the three, the stage career has been the most consistent; in film and TV he’s that wonderful rarity nowadays, a screen actor who carries with him a whiff of the theatre.

Other notable Broadway shows have included: the original production of How Now Dow Jones (1967-68), Alan Ayckbourn’s Absurd Person Singular (1974-76), The Sisters Rosensweig (1993-94), Victor/Victoria (1995-97), The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife (2000-2002), and Xanadu (2007-2008).

In film, he is associated with two classics of the gritty ’70s NYC era: Serpico (1973) and The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974). He starred in the horror film Amityville 3-D (1983). A more recent role, among dozens was The Longest Week (2014), with Jason Bateman, in which he gets second billing.

On television, he starred in no less than four failed series: the legal drama Rosetti and Ryan (1977), the sitcom of Alan Alda’s The Four Seasons (1984), The Lucy Arnaz Show (1985), and The Thorns (1988). He was well cast in Arthur Miller’s TV movie about the Great Depression The American Clock (1993). And of course the usual rounds of Love American Style, Night Gallery, The Love Boat, Law and Order, etc.

Over the years he has gone from a distinguished young gent with dark curly hair…to a distinguished older gent with white curly hair. So I have decided that in my (nonexistent) Bewitched reboot, he would be the PERFECT Larry Tate.