Leonard Rossiter turned to acting at the age of 25 after beginning his career as an insurance agent. After nearly two decades spent as a supporting actor, interspersed with occasional stage successes such as THE RESISTIBLE RISE OF ARTURO UI (1967), he hit the jackpot with his two television sitcom successes RISING DAMP (1974-8), and THE FALL AND RISE OF REGINALD PERRIN (1976-9). Thereafter he continued to enjoy an almost unbroken run of successes until his death in 1984 from a heart attack while performing Joe Orton's LOOT in London's West End.
This short biography of his life and career attracted some stellar names - Eric Chappell (the writer of RISING DAMP), the late John Barron (CJ in REGINALD PERRIN), Jonathan Lynn (director of LOOT) and Don Warrington (Philip in RISING DAMP), as well as Rossiter's widow Gillian Raine and daughter Camilla. They painted a portrait of a perfectionist, one who spent copious amounts of energy trying to create his various roles. Although not a comedian per se, Rossiter was a fine comic actor with an innate sense of timing; he acted as something of a teacher for Warrington and Richard Beckinsale on RISING DAMP.
Offstage Rossiter was a shy, almost diffident person; a clip of a chat-show appearance on RUSSELL HARTY showed him responding tetchily to what he considered a banal question. He resented press intrusions; and if he considered that his fellow-actors were not putting 100% effort into their performances, he could be downright rude in rehearsals.
Nonetheless, if he realized that his fellow-actors and creative personnel were doing their best, Rossiter could be both charming and inspirational. And that is perhaps how we should remember him, as an actor responsible for two memorable comic creations, as well as a technical genius.
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