Saturday, November 30, 2013

Al Ruscio, a.k.a Raleigh Morlin, dies at age 89

The veteran character actor who played St. Eligius Maintenance Supervisor Raleigh Morlin has passed away.

Al Ruscio, St. Elsewhere's Raleigh Morlin
Al Ruscio only appeared on three episodes of St. Elsewhere, but for me, he stands out for playing a character who has a significant place in the mythology of the show--St. Eligius's ill-fated head of maintenance, Raleigh Morlin.

Variety reports that Ruscio passed away at his home on November 12 at age 89. Ruscio came to Hollywood in the late fifties, already a respected actor, and served on the Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild while appearing in numerous television and film roles.

He took a hiatus from Hollywood in the mid-sixties and worked as an acting teacher, director and producer of plays at Midwestern College in Iowa, the University of Windsor in Ontario, and Oakland University in Michigan. He returned to the screen in 1975 and worked steadily in character roles since, as well as continuing to work on stage and as a teacher. The Variety article has a good rundown of his long life in the dramatic arts.

On St. Elsewhere, Ruscio first appears as Maintenance Supervisor Raleigh Morlin in the season two episode, "Vanity". He plays the heavy to Austin Pendleton's kooky janitor Lyle Brubaker, known to most as "Mr. Entertainment". Raleigh has had enough of the unreliable custodian, who, instead of performing his maintenance duties, prefers to entertain patients with his earnest-but-talentless renditions of popular songs.

In season three's "Breathless", doctors discover that Raleigh's lingering cough is a symptom of asbestosis, which he acquired from his thirty-plus years on the job, where he had both installed and removed asbestos from the hospital's walls and ceilings. He decides to keep his job though, and later in the season, he seems to be in good health and good spirits when he returns in the episode, "Bang the Eardrum Slowly". Unfortunately, it turns out St. Eligius isn't done with him--Morlin is killed when a furnace (or something like that) he is inspecting in the hospital's basement explodes.

There's one more great callback to Ruscio's character in the classic season four episode, "Time Heals". In the flashback to 1965, when the Emergency Room is being built, we see a maintenance man's legs on a stepladder; he's working on the E.R.'s ceiling. Dr. Auschlander, walking by, makes a comment to the worker, praising Raleigh for his good work in installing the new asbestos insulation.

1 comment:

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