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Obituaries

A. Paulsen, 78: Versatile Actor Often Portrayed Villains

April 28, 2004|From a Times Staff Writer

Albert Paulsen, an Emmy-winning television, film and Broadway character actor best remembered for playing charismatic gangsters and sinister villains, has died. He was 78.

Paulsen died Sunday in Los Angeles of natural causes.

The versatile actor, who frequently worked at such small theaters as the Odyssey in West L.A., earned his Emmy for supporting actor in 1964 for the previous year's "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich." Jason Robards had the starring role in the production that aired on "Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre."

Paulsen, much in demand for television spy and detective series in the 1960s, was working on an episode of "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." when the award was announced. When series star Robert Vaughn realized that Paulsen had not formally been presented with the Emmy, he obtained the statuette and handed it to Paulsen in a special ceremony on the "U.N.C.L.E." set.

The busy character actor had flown to Los Angeles to work on the "U.N.C.L.E." script after appearing on Broadway with Geraldine Page in Anton Chekhov's "The Three Sisters." He also acted in a motion picture version of that play.

An avid reader, Paulsen so revered novelist Vladimir Nabokov that he created a one-man show, "Nabokov," which premiered at the Odyssey Theatre in 1982 before touring the country. A Times reviewer called it "a rewarding and unusual one-man show" and wrote: "The performance is gentle, infectious, touched occasionally with a certain absent-minded charm that brings to life for 70 minutes one of the century's great writers."

Born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, of Norwegian descent, Paulsen grew up studying in German boarding schools and attended college in Ecuador -- which proved to be good preparation for playing myriad character roles with variously accented English.

After immigrating to the United States and serving in World War II, he used the G.I. Bill to study acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse under Sanford Meisner and at the Actors Studio with Lee Stras- berg.

Paulsen made his motion picture debut in John Frankenheimer's 1962 "The Manchurian Candidate."

The actor also had key character roles in such films as "The Next Man" with Sean Connery in 1976 and "Eyewitness" with William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver in 1981.

On television, Paulsen had guest roles on such popular series as "Combat," "77 Sunset Strip," "The Untouchables," "The F.B.I.," "I Spy," "The Rockford Files," "Hawaii Five-O" and "Mission: Impossible."

He is survived by a brother, Juan.

Services will be private.

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