Final bow: Actor Joseph Ruskin is dead at 89

Joseph Ruskin, who appeared in 25 films and 124 television shows, began and ended his acting career on the stage.

Story highlights

  • Ruskin's film credits include "The Magnificent Seven," "Prizzi's Honor," "Indecent Proposal"
  • His 124 TV roles include "Twilight Zone," "Star Trek," "Mission Impossible" and "Alias"
  • His last performance was on a Los Angeles stage in 2013 in "The Crucible"
  • Ruskin was active in two actors' unions and pushed for their merger

Joseph Ruskin, who acted in 25 films and 124 television shows, died of natural causes in a Santa Monica, California, hospital Saturday, SAG-AFTRA announced Tuesday. Ruskin was 89.

Ruskin's big screen credits included roles in "The Magnificent Seven," "Prizzi's Honor," "Indecent Proposal" and "Smokin' Aces." His TV credits included "Twilight Zone," "Star Trek," "Mission Impossible" and "Alias." 

He began and ended his acting career on the stage. His first professional performances were at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and the Rochester Arena Stage after he left the U.S. Navy following World War II. His last theater performance came this year as a member of the Antaeus Theatre Company of Los Angeles.

He appeared in the 2012 Antaeus production of "You Can't Take It With You." He took his final bow on stage in 2013 in the company's "The Crucible" production.

"Joe was the epitome of the actor who takes care of all the other actors while keeping one foot firmly planted on the stage or the set," SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard said.  "He gave so much for so long it's hard to believe he's gone."

Ruskin "devoted so much of his time in the 1980s" to the merger of the two actors' unions -- SAG and AFTRA, -- which became a reality in 2012, Howard said.

He served on the Screen Actors Guild board from 1976 through 1999, including eight years as 1st national vice president, the SAG-AFTRA release said. He was the first Western Regional Vice President of Actors Equity Association and served a decade on AFTRA's national board.

Ruskin, whose real name was Joseph Schlafman, was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts, but attended high school in Cleveland, Ohio. He joined the Navy in 1942.

He studied drama at Carnegie Tech -- now Carnegie-Mellon University -- after the war, which led to his professional acting career.

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