Philip Baker Hall, Character Actor in Roles of Authority, Dies at 90

Mr. Hall had become a Hollywood hot property in his late 60s.

Philip Baker Hall was born on Sept. 10, 1931, in Toledo, Ohio, the son of William Alexander Hall, a factory worker, and Berdene (McDonald) Hall. He served in the Army, working as a translator in Germany, and attended the University of Toledo. He wanted to be an actor — a college yearbook photo shows him in “The Heiress” — but decided to be practical and pursue teaching. After teaching high school during graduate school, he changed his mind.

Although he was almost 40 when he made his first film (an uncredited role in Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Zabriskie Point”) and 44 when he did his first television role (a lawyer in a network movie), he worked in theater much earlier. Even “Secret Honor,” the one-man Nixon film, began as a stage script, first performed at the Provincetown Playhouse in Manhattan.

Mr. Hall had small roles in international touring productions with the American Repertory Company, a cultural exchange program. And he joined a Boston group affiliated with the Second City improv troupe. “I began to find myself as an actor” there, he recalled in a 2000 Playbill interview, not because comedy was necessarily his calling but because improvisation required so much “energy and enthusiasm.”

His New York theater experience included Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth,” Steve Tesich’s “Gorky” (the title role) and a 2000 revival of David Mamet’s “American Buffalo.” Although he did extensive stage work in Los Angeles, he never appeared on Broadway.

It sometimes seemed that Mr. Hall had appeared on every series of his day. A small sampling of his credits include “Bob,” “BoJack Horseman,” “Cagney & Lacey,” “Cheers,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Empty Nest,” “Falcon Crest,” “Family Ties,” “Good Times,” “L.A. Law,” “Madam Secretary,” “M*A*S*H,” “Matlock,” “Miami Vice,” “Modern Family,” “Monk,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “3rd Rock From the Sun,” “The Waltons” and “The West Wing.”

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