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Obituaries

Philip Sterling; Actor on Stage and Screen

December 07, 1998|MYRNA OLIVER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Philip Sterling, veteran actor whose face was familiar to theater, film and television audiences for several decades, has died. He was 76.

Sterling died Nov. 30 at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital in Woodland Hills from complications of myelofibrosis, a bone marrow disease, his publicist said.

On Broadway, Sterling was memorable as the adulterous father in Neil Simon's autobiographical "Broadway Bound" in 1986. More recently and closer to home, he was praised by critics for "the sober balance of his portrayal" of Rabbi Mordechai Leventhal in "Out of Purgatory" at San Diego's Old Globe Theater in 1993.

On the big screen, Sterling ranged from "Me, Natalie," which introduced Al Pacino in 1969, to playing Uncle Nate in Billy Crystal's "My Giant" earlier this year.

On television, Sterling's most prolific medium, his work spanned small-screen history from the live "Studio One" and "Kraft Television Theater" in the early 1950s through roles in several series, including "High Incident" in 1996-97, in which he played the landlord.

With his natural air of wisdom and authority, Sterling was often cast in professional roles--as a doctor, lawyer, judge, military officer, or as a wise older relative.

He played Michael Brimm, long-suffering attorney for the detective hero Jake, in "City of Angels," a 1976 television series based on the film "Chinatown" and memorable for its 1930s vintage Los Angeles cars and costumes. Sterling was also Judge Truman Ventnor on the long-running 1990s series "Sisters" and had key recurring roles in the law-and-order series "L.A. Law" and "NYPD Blue."

A jazz pianist before he turned to acting, Sterling was also a regular on radio. He utilized his vast collection of classical recordings to produce and host "Goldensterling" a two-hour weekly program that aired on KCSN-FM Cal State Northridge for many years. Originally conceived with his friend Eugene Golden, the show became Sterling's sole effort and included commentary, interviews, obscure facts and occasional jokes.

The actor and music buff also narrated several musical works over the years, including "A Survivor from Warsaw" with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center and other works at Carnegie Hall.

Sterling was a member of the national board of directors of the Screen Actors Guild in New York and in Los Angeles, the first president of the Screen Actors Guild Foundation and a trustee of the guild's health and pension plan.

He is survived by his wife, Rhona; daughter, Mila of San Francisco; and sister, Jane Stern, of Holland, Pa.

The family has asked that any memorial donations be made to the Motion Picture and Television Fund Foundation, 22212 Ventura Blvd. Suite 300, Woodland Hills, CA 91364-1530, or to the City of Hope, Primary Research Center for Myelofibrosis, 1500 E. Duarte Road, Duarte, CA 91010.

A memorial service will be planned in January.

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