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Obituaries

Robert Rockwell, 82; Played Elusive Catch for 'Our Miss Brooks'

January 28, 2003|From a Times Staff Writer

Robert Rockwell, the handsome actor best remembered as the shy biology teacher Mr. Boynton in the popular TV comedy "Our Miss Brooks," has died. He was 82.

Rockwell died Saturday of cancer at his home in Malibu. A popular CBS television show that originated on radio, "Our Miss Brooks" starred Eve Arden as Constance Brooks, a wisecracking English teacher at Madison High. Boynton was the potential husband Brooks was always trying to snag but could never quite get, at least not in the series. (She became Mrs. Philip Boynton in a 1956 Warner Bros. movie based on the series.) The show ran on CBS television from 1952 to 1956 and in syndication for decades after.

"Our Miss Brooks" was the high point of Rockwell's acting career. He was so identified with the Boynton role that he told a Times reporter years later that it initially hampered him getting more dramatic roles.

But Rockwell found steady work in television in more than 350 shows over 50 years. He was a frequent guest or had recurring roles on a number of programs, including "The Loretta Young Show," "Days of Our Lives," "Perry Mason" and "Beverly Hills 90210."

In the late 1950s, he starred in the Western series, "The Man From Blackhawk," as a frontier insurance investigator, but the show lasted just one season.

Born in Chicago, Rockwell studied drama at the Pasadena Playhouse.

He appeared opposite Jose Ferrer in the Broadway production of "Cyrano de Bergerac" in 1946 and opposite Ginger Rogers in "A More Perfect Union" at the La Jolla Playhouse in the 1960s.

More recently he appeared with Charlton Heston in a 1986 production of "The Caine Mutiny Court Martial" that originated in Los Angeles.

Rockwell began his film career with Republic Pictures as a contract player. He acted in more than 30 films, including the science fiction classic "War of the Worlds."

Later in his career, he was a fixture in commercial and voice-over work, making 200 such spots.

He was also a founding member of the California Artists Radio Theatre.

The death of Rockwell marks the second loss this month of a member of the "Our Miss Brooks" cast. Richard Crenna, who played student Walter Denton, died Jan. 17.

Rockwell is survived by Elizabeth, his wife of 60 years; five children: Susan Maddox of Wallingford, Conn; Dr. Robert Rockwell Jr., of Yakima, Wash.; Jeffrey Rockwell of Beverly Hills; Gregory Rockwell of Topanga; and Alison Rockwell of Malibu; eight grandchildren; and six great- grandchildren.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests that donations be sent to the National Alliance for Autism Research, 99 Wall St., Research Park, Princeton, NJ 08540.

A memorial service will be held Saturday at 11 a.m. at St. Matthews Church in Pacific Palisades.

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