Donnelly Rhodes, Prolific Character Actor, Is Dead at 81
Posted January 10, 2018 8:03 p.m. EST
Donnelly Rhodes, a Canadian-born character actor best remembered by U.S. television audiences for playing an escaped convict on the sitcom “Soap” and a brusque doctor on the recent reboot of “Battlestar Galactica,” died Monday at a hospice facility near his home in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. He was 81.
The cause was cancer, his agent, Lisa King, said.
Rhodes’ television career began with westerns like “Maverick” and “Bonanza” in the early 1960s and continued until 2016. Over the decades he appeared in practically every televised genre, from sitcoms to soap operas.
His experience on the daytime drama “The Young and the Restless” in the mid-1970s may have prepared him for the plot twists and surprises of the soap-opera spoof “Soap”; beginning in 1978, during the show’s second season, he played Dutch Leitner, a dimwitted criminal who helped Chester Tate, the philandering head of the wealthy Tate family, escape from prison.
Dutch then hid out at the Tate mansion and later wooed and eventually married Chester’s daughter, Eunice.
Rhodes was on the show until it was canceled in 1981.
More than two decades later he played a very different character, the sarcastic, cigarette-smoking Dr. Sherman Cottle, on the Sci Fi Channel’s update of the late-1970s series “Battlestar Galactica.” Cottle was the chief medical officer on a ship leading the remnants of humanity through space after a devastating attack by a robotic civilization. He joined the series in 2004 and remained with it until it ended in 2009.
Rhodes also had substantial roles on Canadian shows like “Danger Bay,” as a marine veterinarian, and “Da Vinci’s Inquest,” as a detective. But he never became a household name, which he said in a 1989 interview was fine with him.
“I’m not so sure that I would really like my privacy to be completely gone or to have to be working that hard all the time at something,” he said.
Donnelly Rhodes Henry was born Dec. 4, 1936, in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He studied acting at the Manitoba Theater Center and Canada’s National Theater School and served in the Royal Canadian Air Force before traveling to California to pursue acting. In the 1950s he became a contract player at Universal Studios, which persuaded him to eschew his surname.
Rhodes’ most notable film role was in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969), in which he threatens the Sundance Kid, played by Robert Redford. Butch Cassidy, played by Paul Newman, calms the situation, and as the Kid walks away he whirls around and shoots off Rhodes’ gun belt.
His scores of television appearances also included parts on “Cheers,” “Taxi,” “Mission: Impossible,” “Hill Street Blues,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “The X-Files.”
Rhodes was married six times. In 2011 he married Sarah Wilson, who survives him. He is also survived by a daughter, Seana Henry; a son, Westerley Henry; a brother, actor Tim Henry; a sister, Loa Henry; a grandson; two stepsons, Brad LeBlanc and Chris Nickull; and a stepdaughter, Amahra LeBlanc.
Rhodes’ last television appearance was as a federal agent on the DC Comics-based CW series “The Flash” and “Legends of Tomorrow.”