A. Sofaer, 91; Veteran Film, Stage Actor

Abraham Sofaer, the dusky-skinned character actor who was seen in roles ranging from prime ministers to Popes in a career that ranged over six decades, died Thursday at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital.

He was 91 and had lived in the Woodland Hills facility for several years, spokeswoman Jean Ferris said.

Born in Rangoon to Burmese-Jewish parents, he originally was a teacher in both Burma and London who at his death had appeared in nearly 50 films and in countless Broadway and British stage productions.

In 1921 he moved his career from the classroom to the stage and made his professional debut with the Charles Doran Shakespeare Co. and his London debut with that same company four years later in “Glorianna.”


He also was heard on radio in both Great Britain and the United States and in 1930 first came to the attention of American audiences when he was seen on Broadway as Disraeli in “Victoria Regina.”

He traveled between the two countries performing Shakespeare with the Old Vic and Stratford on Avon companies while returning to the United States to direct Helen Hayes in “The Merchant of Venice,” in which he also played the title role.

Sofaer’s film debut came in 1931 in “The Dreyfus Case.” For the next 40 years he was seen in a variety of roles in such films as “The Wandering Jew,” “Rembrandt,” “Quo Vadis” (as the Apostle Paul), “His Majesty O’Keefe,” “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “King of Kings,” “Che!” and “Chisum” in 1970. He had settled permanently in Hollywood in the 1950s.

Sofaer is survived by his wife, Psyche; five children; seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. They asked that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Motion Picture and Television Fund.