Kossoff, David 1919–2005
KOSSOFF, David 1919–2005
OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born November 24, 1919, in London, England; died March 23, 2005, in Hatfield, Hertfordshire, England. Actor, broadcaster, and author. Kossoff was a character actor well known for playing wise, elderly Jews or Russian scientists, but later in life he became an active anti-drug campaigner after his son Paul died of an overdose. Abandoning formal education while still in elementary school, he enrolled in art school with plans of working in interior design. By the late 1930s, though, he was working as an aircraft draftsman for the DeHaviland Aircraft Co., where he remained for the duration of World War II. His acting career began in 1942 when Kossoff made his debut in a Unity Theatre production of The Spanish Village. He continued to act and direct at the Unity for three more years before finding a job with the BBC Radio's repertory company during World War II. He left the BBC in 1951 and returned to the stage, acting at such venues as the Arts Theater, Embassy Theatre, and Mermaid, often cast as Jewish characters in such plays as The Tenth Man and the comedy Come Blow Your Horn at the Prince of Wales. Another specialty was Russian characters, which he performed in plays such as The Iron Petticoat, as well as in films such as The Good Beginning and The Ring of Spies. Many of his films were B-movies, though he had notable appearances in the Peter Sellers movies The Mouse That Roared (1959) and its sequel, Mouse on the Moon (1963). One of his greatest successes came on the radio where, beginning in 1961, he regularly read Bible stories and often interpreted tales such as Jonah and the Whale. He focused mainly on the Old Testament, but also told stories from the New Testament, though with less success. This work resulted in his first book, Bible Stories Retold (1968). Other similar books include the children's book Bible Stories (1973) and You Have a Minute, Lord? A Sort of Prayer Book (1977). Kossoff also wrote a play, On Such a Night (1969) in which he acted, too. But his life changed dramatically after one of his sons, Paul, got involved in drugs as a rock musician and later died. As a result, Kossoff decided to dedicate his life to fighting drugs, creating the show The Late Great Paul, which he performed as a touring program, free of charge. Though this took up much of his time, Kossoff also occasionally appeared as an actor, his last film role being in the 1994 movie Staggered. His last book, The Old & the New, was published in 2002. Elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 1969, Kossoff was also honored with a British Academy of Film and Television Arts award in 1956.
OBITUARIES AND OTHER SOURCES:
Daily Telegraph (London, England), March 24, 2005, p. 1.
Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), March 25, 2005, p. 20.
Independent (London, England), March 25, 2005, p. 35.
Times (London, England), March 24, 2005, p. 66.