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Sorrell Booke; TV, Stage and Movie Actor

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Sorrell Booke, stage, film and television actor best known for his role as the corn-pone Jefferson Davis (Boss) Hogg on the long-running series “The Dukes of Hazzard,” has died. He was 64.

Booke died Friday at his home in Sherman Oaks of cancer.

As the corpulent, white-suited mayor of Hazzard, Booke proved a durable favorite on the CBS series that ran from 1979 to 1985. Adept with languages and dialects, the Buffalo-born Booke said he copied Hogg’s Southern drawl from U.S. Sens. Sam Erwin and Strom Thurmond.

Although he was educated at Columbia and the Yale School of Drama and had appeared in such tony Broadway productions as “King Lear” and “Caligula,” Booke never looked down on his role as the laughable nemesis of the Duke boys.

“Acting is acting,” he said, “whether you are doing Hazzard or Hamlet.”

Growing up in Buffalo, Booke entertained patients in the waiting room of his father, a doctor. By age 9, he was on local radio. He performed in summer stock and student plays throughout his years at Columbia and Yale.

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Booke was known throughout his career for his ability to use makeup, padding and disguises to portray characters of various ages and sizes.

After military service, Booke worked in off-Broadway plays including “The White Devil.” In 1956, he made his Broadway debut in Michael Redgrave’s production of “The Sleeping Prince.”

Among the more than 100 plays and musicals in which he had major roles were “Fiorello!”, “Purlie Victorious,” “Finian’s Rainbow,” “Heartbreak House,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “An Enemy of the People” and “Morning, Noon and Night.”

In the 1960s and ‘70s, Booke was in several films, including “Gone Are the Days,” “Fail Safe,” “Black Like Me,” “Up the Down Staircase,” “What’s Up Doc?,” “The Iceman Cometh” and “The Other Side of Midnight.”

He first appeared on television in the respected 1950s series “Omnibus” and over three decades amassed credits in about 200 shows, including “Dr. Kildare,” “M.A.S.H.,” “Columbo,” “The Rockford Files,” “Gunsmoke,” “Mission: Impossible,” and as Archie Bunker’s boss in “All in the Family.”

Booke’s hobby was redecorating old houses, and he had spent the last decade redesigning and renovating his Sherman Oaks home.

He is survived by a daughter, Alexandra, of Los Angeles; a son, Nicholas, of Irvington, N.Y.; a brother, Frederick, of Los Angeles, and one grandson.


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