Actor Paxton Whitehead, known for ‘Back To School,’ passes away at age 85

Paxton Whitehead

Paxton Whitehead, a veteran character actor known for his impressive performances on stage and screen, has passed away at the age of 85. The news of his death was confirmed by his son, Charles, who stated that he passed away at a hospital in Virginia.

One of Whitehead’s most memorable roles was in the 1986 hit film “Back To School,” where he portrayed Dr. Phillip Barbay, a strict professor dealing with the antics of Rodney Dangerfield’s character, Thornton Melon. The film showcased Whitehead’s talent and comedic timing, earning him recognition and a place in the hearts of audiences.

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However, Whitehead’s acting career extended far beyond the silver screen. He spent a significant portion of his early years in the theater, becoming a member of the renowned Royal Shakespeare Company in the late 1950s. He perfected his skills in the theater and received praise for his outstanding performances.

Apart from his work on stage, Whitehead held the position of artistic director at the Shaw Festival, a renowned repertory theater company. The festival initially focused on productions written by George Bernard Shaw, and Whitehead played a pivotal role in shaping its success and reputation.

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Whitehead’s talent was not confined to the stage and film; he also left his mark on television. He appeared in popular shows such as “3rd Rock From The Sun,” “Frasier,” “Friends,” “The West Wing,” and “The Drew Carey Show.” His versatility as an actor allowed him to seamlessly transition between different mediums, captivating audiences with his performances.

Reflecting on his craft, Whitehead once shared his insights into the nuances of acting for theater, film, and television. He emphasized the importance of projection in theater and the minimalist approach required for film. He also acknowledged the unique challenges of television, particularly when it was filmed using multiple cameras on a set.

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Paxton Whitehead’s talent and contributions to the entertainment industry will be remembered by fans and colleagues alike. He leaves behind a legacy of remarkable performances and a lasting impact on the world of acting. He is survived by his son and daughter, who will undoubtedly cherish his memory and the immense talent he possessed.