Alan Arkin

An extremely versatile character actor and patriarch of a nouveau theatrical family, Alan Arkin began as a singer with the folk group The Tarriers and even debuted Off-Broadway as a singer in "Heloise" (1958) before finding his way to improvisational theater, first in St. Louis and then as an original member of Paul Sills' "Second City" troupe. He made his Broadway debut in "From the Second City" (1961) and continued working with the group Off-Broadway until leaving to star in Carl Reiner's comedy "Enter Laughing" (1963), for which he picked up a Tony Award. Arkin appeared again with "Second City" Off-Broadway in their "A View From Under the Bridge" (1964) revue, for which he authored lyrics and sketches. He then returned to Broadway as Harry Berlin in Murray Schisgal's "Luv" (1964).

Although he had appeared as a member of The Tarriers in "Calypso Heat Wave" (1957), Arkin made his feature acting debut as a stranded Soviet submariner afloat in the USA in Norman Jewison's Cold War spoof "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming" (1966), earning a Best Actor Oscar nomination. He demonstrated his dramatic range as the psychopathic killer opposite Audrey Hepburn in "Wait Until Dark" (1967), then reinvented himself again as the sensitive, deaf-mute protagonist of "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" (1968), for which he received a second Academy Award nomination as Best Actor. Arkin took on yet another ethnic identity for his hysterical starring turn in Arthur Hiller's "Popi" (1969), playing a Puerto Rican father struggling against big odds to make a better life for his family. He followed with perhaps his highest profile part, that of Captain Yossarian in Mike Nichols' film version of Joseph Heller's antiwar novel "Catch-22" (1970). Although it has acquired a following, the movie did not initially live up to expectations, and as a result, Arkin's career suffered.

Arkin made an impressive Sigmund Freud opposite Nicol Williamson's Sherlock Holmes in "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution" (1977) and roared all the way back to the top with Peter Falk in Hiller's "The In-Laws" (1979), scripted by Andrew Bergman and executive-produced by Arkin. Unpredictably wacky from start to finish, it cast him as a dentist who becomes involved in the bizarre intrigues of his daughter's father-in-law (Falk) and provided him comic flourishes similar to those with which he had made his name on both stage and screen. In the early 80s he acted in three movies that were family affairs, "Chu Chu and the Philly Flash" (1981, written by wife Barbara Dana with a part for son Adam as well), "Improper Channels" (1981, written by Adam) and Larry Cohen's teenage werewolf comedy "Full Moon High" (1982, starring Adam with a cameo for Tony). He also turned in a terrific performance as James Woods' colorful dad in "Joshua Then and Now" (1985) and was particularly memorable leading an escape from a death camp in the riveting CBS movie "Escape from Sobibor" (1987).

Arkin, who has enjoyed success as a stage, film and TV director, made his Off-Broadway debut with "Eh?" (1966), introducing Dustin Hoffman, then segued into film, helming the shorts "Thank God It's Friday" (1967), and "People Soup" (1969), which he also produced. He earned a Drama Desk Award for his direction of the Off-Broadway revival of Jules Feiffer's "Little Murders" (1969), and the following year's "The White House Murder Case" brought him both a Drama Desk Award and an OBIE. He then made his feature debut directing the film version of "Little Murders" (1971) before scoring a resounding success in his Broadway directorial debut, Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys" (1972). Arkin tackled TV next, sharing the helm with Clark Jones on "Twigs" (CBS, 1975), adapted by George Furth from his Broadway play. Though he has helmed only one additional feature to date, the poorly received "Fire Sale" (1977), his efforts for TV have included "The Visit" (1987) and "The Boss" (1989) for PBS' original comedy series "Trying Times".

Arkin started out the 90s with a bang acting in three features, including Tim Burton's dark satire "Edward Scissorhands" (1990), before contributing to the ensemble tour de force "Glengarry Glen Ross" (1992). He starred as a bitter former baseball player in TNT's "Cooperstown" (1993) and delivered a vivid supporting turn as Nick Nolte's neighbor in "Mother Night (1996). 1997 saw him in two very different projects, "Grosse Pointe Blank", which featured him in some hilarious scenes as hitman John Cusack's psychiatrist, and the sci-fi "Gattaca", playing a detective tracking a killer. The Oscar-nominated foreign-film "Four Days in September" (1997) cast him as the American ambassador to Brazil, kidnapped by rebels in 1969, and he followed that with "The Slums of Beverly Hills" (1998) opposite Marisa Tomei. Arkin also returned to the New York stage as co-author and co-star of "Power Plays" (1998), working with son Tony, Elaine May and May's daughter Jeannie Berlin. He subsequently portrayed a judge in the ensemble drama "100 Centre Street" (A&E, 2001-02), which marked Sidney Lumet's return to the small screen.

  • Also Credited As:
    Alan Wolf Arkin, Robert Short
  • Born:
    on 03/26/1934 in Brooklyn, New York
  • Job Titles:
    Actor, Director, Composer, Novelist, Producer, Singer, Clerical worker, Vacuum cleaner repairman
Family
  • Father: David I Arkin. a painter and writer who couldn't make a living at it, so he taught; Communist; lost his job teaching in Los Angeles during Red Scare of 1950s
  • Mother: Beatrice Arkin. Communist
  • Son: Adam Arkin. born on August 19, 1956; mother, Jeremy Yaffe; wrote "Improper Channels" (1981), in which father acted, and acted with him in "Chu Chu and the Philly Flash" (1981) and "Full Moon High" (1982); Alan also played Adam's long-lost father on CBS' "Chicago Hope"
  • Son: Anthony Dana Arkin. mother, Barbara Dana; appeared in small role in "Full Moon High" and as father's son in PBS special "A Matter of Principle" (1984)
  • Son: Matthew Arkin. born c. 1960; mother, Jeremy Yaffe; acted with father in Carl Reiner's "North"
Education
  • Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles, California, 1952-53
  • Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, drama, 1953-55
Milestones
  • 1958 Recorded four albums of songs for children with group, The Babysitters
  • 1958 Off-Broadway debut as Singer in "Heloise"
  • 1959 Joined the improvisational group The Compass Players at the Crystal Palace, St Louis, Missouri
  • 1960 Became a member of Chicago's Second City Group; co-starred in improvisational revue, "Second City"
  • 1961 Broadway debut in the revue, "From the Second City"
  • 1963 Delivered Tony-winning turn in Carl Reiner's "Enter Laughing"
  • 1963 Screen acting debut in short, "That's Me"
  • 1966 Feature film acting debut in "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming"; earned Best Actor Oscar nomination
  • 1966 Off-Broadway directing debut, "Eh?"; credited as Robert Short
  • 1967 Short film directing debut, "T.G.I.F"
  • 1967 Terrorized a helpless and blind Audrey Hepburn in "Wait Until Dark"
  • 1968 Earned second Best Actor Oscar nomination as deaf mute loner in "The Heart is a Lonely Hunter", based on Carson McCullers' first novel
  • 1969 Directed Off-Broadway revival of Jules Feiffer's "Little Murders"
  • 1969 Starred in Arthur Hiller's "Popi", a charming story of poverty in the ghetto, focusing on Arkin's character's zany antics in securing a better life for his children
  • 1970 Landed plum role of Yossarian in Mike Nichols' film adaptation of Joseph Heller's antiwar novel "Catch-22", but initial tepid response hurt his career; film has since acquired cult status
  • 1971 Feature film directing debut, "Little Murders"; also acted
  • 1972 Broadway directorial debut, Neil Simon's "The Sunshine Boys"
  • 1975 Co-directed (with Clark Jones) George Furth's TV adaptation of his play "Twigs" (CBS), starring Carol Burnett
  • 1975 Directed episodes of NBC's short-lived series "Fay", starring Lee Grant
  • 1977 Last feature directed to date, "Fire Sale"; also acted
  • 1977 Portrayed Sigmund Freud to Nicol Williamson's Sherlock Holmes in "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution"
  • 1979 Feature producing (executive producer) debut, "The In-Laws"; also acted; second film with director Hiller
  • 1981 Teamed with Carol Burnett in the film "Chu Chu and the Philly Flash", scripted by Arkin's wife Barbara Dana
  • 1982 Provided the voice of Schmendrick the Magician in the animated feature "The Last Unicorn"
  • 1985 Won critical praise as James Woods' colorful dad in "Joshua Then and Now"
  • 1987 Co-executive producer and star of short-lived ABC series "Harry"; also starred wife Barbara Dana
  • 1987 Delivered an Emmy-nominated turn in CBS movie "Escape from Sobibor"
  • 1987 Directed "The Visit" (written by Christopher Durang), the fifth episode of PBS' first original comedy series, "Trying Times"
  • 1988 Co-wrote (with wife Barbara Dana from her novel) and starred with her in award-winning PBS special "Necessary Parties"
  • 1990 Offered a satiric turn as suburbanite in "Edward Scissorhands"
  • 1992 Joined a heavyweight cast in film version of David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross", playing a complaining, endangered, vetern real estate salesman
  • 1993 Starred as bitter ex-ballplayer in "Cooperstown", a TNT movie written by playwright Lee Blessing and directed by Charles Haid
  • 1995 Appeared in "The Jerky Boys" movie (in a moment of poverty)
  • 1996 Played George Kraft in film version of Kurt Vonnegut's "Night Mother", starring Nick Nolte
  • 1997 Cast as Charles Elbrick, the American ambassador to Brazil kidnapped by Brazilian radicals in 1969, in the Oscar-nominated foreign film "Four Days in September", directed by Bruno Baretto
  • 1997 Offered a hysterically funny turn as hitman John Cusack's psychiatrist in "Grosse Point Blank"
  • 1997 Portrayed Detective Hugo in sci-fi feature "Gattaca"
  • 1998 Acted opposite Marisa Tomei in "The Slums of Beverly Hills"
  • 1998 Returned to off-Broadway stage as co-author and co-star of "Power Plays", working with son Anthony, Elaine May and May's daughter Jeannie Berlin
  • 2001 Co-starred in "13 Conversations About One Thing"; screened at Toronto; shown at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival
  • 2003 Co-starred in the mini-series "The Pentagon Papers"; received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Miniseries Or A Movie
  • 2006 Cast as Santa's father-in-law in "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause"
  • 2006 Co-starred with Toni Collette and Steve Carell in the comedy, "Little Miss Sunshine"
  • Founded, recorded albums and performed with folk singing group, The Tarriers
  • Headlined the ensemble cast of the A&E series "100 Centre Street"

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