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Zale Kessler

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Zale Kessler Obituary
October 1, 1938 - September 28, 2015 Zale Kessler of Los Angeles, CA … a character actor with a 60-year career encompassing all aspects of show business… passed away in his sleep on Sept. 28th. The cause of death was heart failure. Zale was a colorful character himself…larger than life, a superb raconteur, a very social guy who made a lot of friends during those 60 years. Born in St. Louis, he moved to New York City in the late 50's to appear in the Broadway musical THE NERVOUS SET. His off-Broadway debut came shortly after in a show called OH OYSTERS! (featuring Jon Voight). Other Broadway appearances included roles in GANTRY and DARLING OF THE DAY, with Vincent Price. He replaced Milo O'Shea as the leading man in Jerry Herman's DEAR WORLD, opposite Angela Lansbury. Also, THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER AND HIS WIFE, after it moved from Lincoln Center. Zale made a specialty of Middle-European characters with pronounced accents, which he put to good use in a number of operettas and in films such as Mel Brooks' THE PRODUCERS. Brooks used Zale in three other films as well, including TO BE OR NOT TO BE. Another Kessler specialty was the "patter song", a type of musical tongue-twister that frequently turns up in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. He appeared on the stages of Opera Houses in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, performing in operettas such as DIE FLEDERMAUS, THE MERRY WIDOW and THE PIRATES OF PENZANCE, in which he played "the very model of a modern major-General". His television work included three appearances on MURDER SHE WROTE as well as a recurring role on FERNWOOD TONIGHT, and many commercials. He did extensive work in summer stock musicals throughout the years…too many to mention but the source of important income and many hilarious stories. Zale moved to California in the mid-70s and became quite active in the guilds/unions to which he belonged; he served as a Board member for Actor's Equity and took a particular interest in a project to develop housing for retired members. He is survived by his mother, Florence, his brother Earl and sister-in-law Shari, and two nieces, Nina and Aurora. He will be greatly missed by his family and his army of friends. Those who wish to honor his memory may make a contribution to the Actor's Fund: donate/Actorsfund.org
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Dec. 11 to Dec. 18, 2015
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