Arkin, Alan 1934- (Robert Short)
Arkin, Alan 1934- (Robert Short)
Full name, Alan Wolf Arkin; born March 26, 1934, in Brooklyn, NY (some sources say New York, NY); son of David I. (an artist and teacher) and Beatrice (a teacher; maiden name, Wortis) Arkin; married Jeremy Yaffe, 1955 (divorced, 1960); married Barbara Dana (an actress and author), June 16, 1964 (divorced); married Suzanne Newlander (a psychotherapist), 1996; children: (first marriage) Adam (an actor), Matthew; (second marriage) Anthony Dana (an actor). Education: Attended Los Angeles City College, 1951-52, Los Angeles State College (now California State University, Los Angeles), 1952-53, and Bennington College, 1953-55; studied acting with Benjamin Zemach, 1952-55.
Agent—Endeavor, 9601 Wilshire Blvd., 3rd Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. Manager—Principal Entertainment, 1964 Westwood Blvd., Suite 400, Los Angeles, CA 90025.
Actor, director, producer, composer, and writer. Member of folksinging group the Tarriers, 1957-59; actor in improvisational theatre with the Compass Players, St. Louis, MO, 1959, and (as an original member) with Second City, Chicago, IL, 1960; director of theatrical revues in the early 1960s; member of children's music group the Babysitters. Previously worked in vacuum cleaner repair and as a clerical worker.
American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; American Federation of Musicians; American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers; Actors' Equity Association; Screen Actors Guild.
Antoinette Perry Award, best supporting actor, Theatre World Award, and Variety New York Drama Critics Poll Award, 1963, all for Enter Laughing; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding single performance by an actor in a leading role in a drama, 1966, for ABC Stage 67; Golden Globe Award, best actor in a musical or comedy, Golden Globe Award nomination, most promising newcomer—male, Academy Award nomination, best actor, Film Award nomination, most promising newcomer to leading film roles, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1967, New York Film Critics Circle Award, best actor, 1968, all for The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming; Academy Award nomination, best actor in a leading role, New York Critics Award, best actor, 1968, Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actor—drama, 1969, all for The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter; Drama Desk Award, outstanding director, 1969, for Little Murders; Academy Award nomination, best live action short subject, 1969, for People Soup; Drama Desk Award, outstanding director, and Obie Award, distinguished directing, Village Voice, 1970, both for The White House Murder Case; Golden Globe Award nomination, best motion picture actor—drama, 1970, for Popi; Tony's Hard Work Day listed as a book of the year by the Child Study Association of America, 1972; Antoinette Perry Award nomination, best director, 1973, for The Sunshine Boys; New York Critics Circle Award, best supporting actor, 1975, for Hearts of the West; The Lemming Condition listed as a book of the year by the Child Study Association of America and named an outstanding book of the year by the New York Times, both 1976; Genie Award, best performance by a foreign actor, Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television, 1982, for Improper Channels; Genie Award, best actor in a supporting role, 1986, for Joshua Then and Now; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding actor in a miniseries or special, 1987, Golden Globe Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a miniseries or motion picture made for television, 1988, Distinguished Service Award for the Performing Arts, Simon Wiesenthal Center, 1989, all for Escape from Sobibor; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding guest actor in a drama series, 1997, for Chicago Hope; Boston Society of Film Critics Award, best supporting actor, 2002, Chlotrudis Award, best supporting actor, Florida Film Critics Circle Award (with others), best ensemble cast, Independent Spirit Award nomination, best supporting male, Online Film Critics Society Award nomination, best supporting actor, 2003, all for 13 Conversations About One Thing; Emmy Award nomination, outstanding supporting actor in a miniseries or movie, 2003, for The Pentagon Papers; Gotham Award nomination (with others), best ensemble cast, Phoenix Film Critics Society Award (with others), best ensemble cast, Satellite Award nomination, best actor in a supporting role, International Press Academy, 2006, Academy Award, best performance by an actor in a supporting role, Film Award, best actor in a supporting role, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Critics Choice Award nomination, best supporting actor, Independent Spirit Award, best supporting male, Online Film Critics Society Award nomination, best supporting actor, Prism Award nomination, performance in a feature film, Screen Actors Guild Award (with others), outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture, Screen Actors Guild Award nomination, outstanding performance by a male actor in supporting role, Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award, best supporting actor, 2007, all for Little Miss Sunshine.
Singer, Heloise, Gate Theatre, New York City, 1958.
Compass Players, Crystal Palace, St. Louis, MO, 1959.
Member of ensemble, From the Second City (revue), Royale Theatre, New York City, 1961, then off-Broadway production, 1962.
Jimmy, Man Out Loud, Girl Quiet and The Spanish Armada (double-bill), Cricket Theatre, New York City, 1962.
Seacoast of Bohemia: Alarums and Excursions, Second City, Square East Theatre, New York City, 1962.
David Kolowitz, Enter Laughing, Henry Miller Theatre, New York City, 1963.
Member of ensemble, A View from under the Bridge (revue), Second City, Square East Theatre, 1964.
Harry Berlin, Luv, Booth Theatre, New York City, 1964.
The Opening, 1972.
De Recha, "Virtual Reality," Power Plays, Promenade Theatre, Chicago, IL, then Promenade Theatre, New York City, 1998.
Also appeared in The Sunshine Boys; The Sorrows of Stephen.
David Kolowitz, Enter Laughing, U.S. cities, 1964.
(As Robert Short) Eh?, Circle in the Square, New York City, 1966.
Hail Scrawdyke!, Booth Theatre, New York City, 1966.
Little Murders, Circle in the Square, 1969.
The White House Murder Case, Circle in the Square, 1970.
The Sunshine Boys, Broadhurst Theatre, New York City, 1972.
Molly, Alvin Theatre, New York City, 1973.
Joan of Lorraine, 1974.
Rubbers and Yanks 3 Detroit 0, Top of the Seventh (double-bill), American Place Theatre, New York City, 1975.
The Soft Touch, Wilbur Theatre, Boston, MA, 1975.
Joan of Lorraine, Hartman Theatre, Stamford, CT, 1976.
Sorrows of Stephen, Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre, Jupiter, FL, 1984.
Room Service, Roundabout Theatre, New York City, 1986.
Forgive Me, Evelyn Bunns, Asolo State Theatre, Sarasota, FL, 1986.
Power Plays, Promenade Theatre, Chicago, IL, then Promenade Theatre, New York City, 1998.
Taller Than a Dwarf, Wilbur Theatre, Boston, MA, then Longacre Theatre, New York City, 2000.
(As part of musical group the Tarriers) Calypso Heat Wave, Columbia, 1957.
That's Me (short), 1963.
Pretzel peddler, The Last Mohican (short), 1965.
Lieutenant Rozanov, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (also known as The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!), United Artists, 1966.
Fred, "The Suicides," Woman Times Seven (also known as Sept fois femme and Sette volte donna), Embassy, 1967.
Harry Roat Jr., Roat, and Roat, Sr., Wait until Dark, Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, 1967.
John Singer, The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, 1968.
Inspector Jacques Clouseau (title role), Inspector Clouseau, 1968.
Himself, The Monitors, Commonwealth United Entertainment, 1969.
Abraham Rodriguez, Popi, United Artists, 1969.
Captain John Yossarian, B-52 bombardier, Catch-22, Filmways, 1970.
Lieutenant Practice, Little Murders, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1971.
Cooper, Deadhead Miles, Paramount, 1972.
Barney Cashman, Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Paramount, 1972.
Bean, Freebie and the Bean, Warner Bros., 1974.
Kessler, Hearts of the West (also known as Hollywood Cowboy), United Artists, 1975.
Gunny Rafferty, Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins (also known as Rafferty and the Highway Hustlers), Warner Bros., 1975.
Ezra Fikus, Fire Sale, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1977.
Sigmund Freud, The Seven-per-cent Solution (also known as Seven Per Cent Solution and The Seven Percent Solution), Universal, 1977.
Sheldon Kornpett, The In-Laws, Warner Bros., 1979.
Yasha Mazur, The Magician of Lublin (also known as Ha-Kosem mi ubin and Der Magier), Cannon, 1979.
Professor Simon Mendelssohn (title role), Simon, Warner Bros., 1980.
Flash, Chu Chu and the Philly Flash, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1981.
Jeffrey Martley, Improper Channels, Rank-Crown International, 1981.
Dr. Jacob Brand, Full Moon High (also known as Moon High), Filmways, 1982.
Voice of Schmendrick the Magician, The Last Unicorn (animated; also known as Das Letzte Einhorn), ITC, 1982.
Captain Invincible (title role), The Return of Captain Invincible (also known as Legend in Leotards), Seven Keys, 1983.
(Archive footage) Roat, segment "Wait until Dark," Terror in the Aisles (also known as Time for Terror), 1984.
Dr. Ramon Madera, Bad Medicine, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1985.
Reuben Shapiro, Joshua Then and Now, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1985.
Leonard Hoffman, Big Trouble, Columbia, 1986.
Fred Libner, Coupe de Ville, Universal, 1990.
Bill Boggs, Edward Scissorhands, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1990.
Joe Volpi, Havana, Universal, 1990.
Peevy, The Rocketeer, Buena Vista, 1991.
George Aaronow, Glengarry Glen Ross, New Line Cinema, 1992.
Uncle Lou Handler, Indian Summer (also known as L'ete indien), Touchstone, 1993.
(Uncredited) Police chief, So I Married an Axe Murderer, TriStar, 1993.
The director, Samuel Beckett Is Coming Soon, I'mnd Productions/Tiny Baby Productions, 1993.
Lazarro, The Jerky Boys, Buena Vista, 1994.
Judge Buckle, North, Columbia, 1994.
Lou Perilli, Ruben's partner, Steal Big, Steal Little, Savoy Pictures, 1995.
George Kraft, Mother Night, Fine Line, 1996.
Dr. Oatman, Grosse Pointe Blank, Buena Vista, 1997.
Charles Burke Elbrick, Four Days in September (also known as O que e isso, companheiro?, and Four Days in September (O que e isso companheiro?), Miramax, 1997.
Hugo Coldspring, Gattaca (also known as The Eighth Day), Sony Pictures Entertainment, 1997.
Hugo Pool, BMG Independents, 1997.
Murray Abromowitz, The Slums of Beverly Hills, Fox Searchlight Pictures, 1998.
Max Frankfurter, Jakob the Liar (also known as Jakob le menteur), TriStar, 1998.
Arigo, True Crime Productions, 1998.
Milo, Magicians, 2000.
Wellness guide, America's Sweethearts, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2001.
Gene, 13 Conversations about One Thing (also known as 13 Conversations), 2001.
Dr. Pearl/Hal, "Equilibrium," Eros, Warner Independent Pictures, 2004.
Artie Venzuela, Noel, Screen Media Films, 2004.
Arlin Forester, Firewall, Warner Bros., 2006.
Grandpa Edwin Hoover, Little Miss Sunshine, Fox Searchlight, 2006.
Father Benkhe, The Novice, 2006.
Bud Newman, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (also known as Pretender), Buena Vista, 2006.
Flagg Purdy, Raising Flagg, Palisades Pictures, 2006.
Senator Hawkins, Rendition, New Line Cinema, 2007.
Joe, Sunshine Cleaning, Overture Films, 2008.
The chief, Get Smart, Warner Bros., 2008.
Marley & Me, Fox 2000, 2008.
Producer, That's Me (short), 1963.
Producer, The Last Mohican (short), 1965.
Director, Thank God It's Friday (short; also known as T.G.I.F.), Columbia, 1967.
Director and producer, People Soup (short), Columbia, 1969.
Director, Little Murders, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1971.
Director, Fire Sale, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1977.
Executive producer, The In-Laws, Warner Bros., 1979.
Director and producer, Samuel Beckett Is Coming Soon, I'mnd Productions/Tiny Baby Productions, 1993.
Director, Arigo, True Crime Productions, 1998.
Director, Blood (Thinner Than Water) (short), 2004.
Television Appearances; Series:
Larry, Sesame Street (also known as Sesame Street Unpaved, The New Sesame Street, and Open Sesame), PBS, 1970-72.
Harry Porschak, Harry, CBS, 1987.
Joe Rifkind, 100 Centre Street, Arts and Entertainment, 2001-2002.
Television Appearances; Movies:
It Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Guy, 1974.
Frank Dole, The Other Side of Hell (also known as Escape from Hell and The Next Howling Wind), NBC, 1978.
Title role, The Defection of Simas Kudirka, CBS, 1978.
Harold Kaufman, A Deadly Business, CBS, 1986.
Leon Feldhandler, Escape from Sobibor, CBS, 1987.
Harry Willette, Cooperstown, TNT, 1993.
Tommy Canard, Taking the Heat, Showtime, 1993.
Colonel Yossi, Doomsday Gun, HBO, 1994.
Dogcatcher, Heck's Way Home (also known as The Long Way Home and Un drole de cabot), Showtime, 1996.
Willy the Hammer, Blood Money, Showtime, 1999.
Freier, Varian's War (also known as Varian Fry, un heros oublie), Showtime, 2000.
Harry Rowen, The Pentagon Papers, FX Channel, 2003.
Sam Drebben, And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself, HBO, 2003.
Television Appearances; Pilots:
Louie, Two Guys from Muck, NBC, 1982.
Television Appearances; Specials:
Presenter, The 19th Annual Tony Awards, WWOR (New York City), 1965.
Title role, "The Love Song of Barney Kempinski," ABC Stage 67, ABC, 1966.
Husband, "Double Trouble," The Trouble with People, NBC, 1972.
Lawrence, "Natasha Kovolina Pipishinsky," Love, Life, Liberty, and Lunch, ABC, 1976.
Presenter, The 30th Annual Tony Awards, ABC, 1976.
To America, CBS, 1976.
Presenter and performer, The 31st Annual Tony Awards, ABC, 1977.
Presenter, The 53rd Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 1981.
Flagg Purdy, "A Matter of Principle," American Playhouse, PBS, 1984.
The Second City 25th Anniversary Special, HBO, 1985.
Orontes, The Fourth Wise Man, ABC, 1985.
Archie Correlli, "Necessary Parties," WonderWorks, PBS, 1988.
In the Director's Chair: The Man Who Invented Edward Scissorhands, 1990.
Showbiz Today, CNN, 1995.
The Kennedy Center 25th Anniversary Celebration, PBS, 1996.
"Catch-22," Great Books, The Learning Channel, 1996.
Presenter, The 49th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, CBS, 1997.
Comic Relief VIII, HBO, 1998.
Presenter, The 12th Annual Critics' Choice Awards, E! Entertainment Television, 2007.
The 79th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2007.
Live from the Red Carpet: The 2007 Academy Awards, E! Entertainment Television, 2007.
Presenter, The 80th Annual Academy Awards, ABC, 2008.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
(With Second City) The David Susskind Show, syndicated, 1962.
Ted Miller, "The Beatnik and the Politician," East Side/West Side, CBS, 1964.
The Les Crane Show, ABC, 1964, 1965.
Mystery guest, What's My Line?, CBS, 1965.
Busting Loose, CBS, 1977.
The Mike Douglas Show, syndicated, 1977.
Carol Burnett & Company, 1979.
The Muppet Show, syndicated, 1980.
Jerry Singleton, "The Ties That Bind," St. Elsewhere, NBC, 1983.
Jerry Singleton, "Newheart," St. Elsewhere, NBC, 1983.
Jerry Singleton, "Lust Et Veritas," St. Elsewhere, NBC, 1983.
Bo, "The Emperor's New Clothes," Faerie Tale Theater (also known as Faerie Tale Theater: The Emperor's New Clothes and Shelley Duvall's "Faerie Tale Theatre"), Showtime, 1985.
Jim Eisneberg, Sr., "E.M. 7, Raiders Minus Three and a Half for a Nickel," A Year in the Life, NBC, 1987.
Tully, "Soir Bleu," Picture Windows (also known as Picture Windows: Language of the Heart), Showtime, 1995.
Zoltan Karpathein, "The Son Also Rises," Chicago Hope, CBS, 1997.
The Rosie O'Donnell Show, syndicated, 2001.
Marty Adler, "It's a Dad, Dad, Dad, Dad World," Will & Grace, NBC, 2005.
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, CBS, 2006.
Tavis Smiley, PBS, 2006, 2007.
Sunday Morning Shootout, AMC, 2007.
Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show, syndicated, 2007.
Caiga quien caiga, 2007.
"Rendition," History in Focus, 2007.
Also appeared in Captain Kangaroo, CBS; Hawaii Five-O, CBS.
Television Executive Producer; Series:
(With others) Harry, CBS, 1987.
Television Work; Specials:
(With Clark Jones) Director, Twigs, CBS, 1975.
(With others) Producer, "Necessary Parties," Wonder-Works, PBS, 1988.
Television Director; Pilots:
(With others) Fay, NBC, 1975.
Television Director; Episodic:
"The Visit," Trying Times, PBS, 1987.
"The Boss," Trying Times, PBS, 1989.
Albums (Cast Recordings):
Luv: A New Comedy, Columbia, 1965.
Albums (with the Babysitters):
The Babysitters, 1958.
Songs and Fun with the Babysitters, 1960.
The Family Album, 1965.
The Babysitters Menagerie, 1968.
Singles (with the Tarriers):
"The Banana Boat Song," 1957.
Also recorded other projects with the Tarriers.
Man Out Loud, Girl Quiet, Cricket Theatre, 1962.
(And author of lyrics and sketches) A View from under the Bridge, Square East Theatre, 1964.
Composer of songs, including "Cuddle Bug," "That's Me," and "Best Time of the Year."
"The Way of All Fish," Power Plays, Promenade Theatre, Chicago, IL, then Promenade Theatre, New York City, 1998.
The Last Mohican (short), 1965.
Thank God It's Friday (short; also known as T.G.I.F.), Columbia, 1967.
People Soup (short), Columbia, 1969.
Arigo, True Crime Productions, 1998.
Blood (Thinner Than Water) (short), 2004.
(With others) "Necessary Parties," WonderWorks, PBS, 1988.
Tony's Hard Work Day, illustrated by James Stevenson, Harper, 1972.
The Lemming Condition, illustrated by Joan Sandin, Harper, 1976.
The Clearing, Harper, 1986.
Some Fine Grandpa, HarperCollins, 1995.
One Present from Flekman's, HarperCollins, 1999.
Cassie Loves Beethoven, Hyperion, 2000.
Cosmo: A Cautionary Tale, Azro, 2005.
Halfway through the Door: An Actor's Journey toward the Self, Harper, 1979.
Contributor to periodicals, including Galaxy.
Contemporary Authors, Volume 112, Gale, 1985, pp. 30-32.
International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 3: Actors and Actresses, 4th ed., St. James Press, 2000.
Newsmakers, Issue 4, Gale Group, 2007.
Something about the Author, Volume 59, Gale, 1990, pp. 1-8.
Entertainment Weekly, April 11, 1997, p. 63; February 2, 2007, p. 48.
New York Times, February 9, 1986.
Born Alan Wolf Arkin, March 26, 1934, in Brooklyn, NY; son of David I. (an artist and teacher) and Beatrice (a teacher; maiden name, Wortis) Arkin; married Jeremy Yaffe (a nurse), 1955 (divorced, 1960); married Barbara Dana (an actress and screenwriter), June 16, 1964 (divorced); married Suzanne Newlander, c. 1996; children: Adam, Matthew (from first marriage), Anthony (from second marriage). Education: Attended Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles State College, and Bennington College; trained with Second City.
Actor in films, including: The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming!, 1966; Wait Until Dark, 1967; The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, 1968; Inspector Closeau, 1968; Popi, 1969; Catch-22, 1970; The In-Laws, 1979; Joshua Then and Now, 1985; Edward Scissorhands, 1990; Glengarry Glen Ross, 1992; Indian Summer, 1993; Mother Night, 1996; The Slums of Beverly Hills, 1998; 13 Conversations About One Thing, 2001; Eros, 2004; Little Miss Sunshine, 2006. Television appearances include: East Side/West Side, CBS, 1964; The Les Crane Show, ABC, 1964, 1965; Sesame Street, PBS, 1970–72; It Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Guy (movie), 1974; The Other Side of Hell (movie), NBC, 1978; The Defection of Simas Kurdirka (movie), CBS, 1978; A Matter of Principle (play), PBS, 1984; A Deadly Business (movie), CBS, 1986; 100 Centre Street, PBS, 2001; The Pentagon Papers (movie), 2003; And Starring Pancho Villa As Himself (movie), 2003. Stage appearances include: Heloise, Gate Theatre, New York City, 1958; From the Second City, Royale Theatre, New York City, 1961, then Off-Broadway, 1962; Enter Laughing, Henry Miller Theatre, New York City, 1963; Luv, Booth Theatre, 1964; The Opening, 1972; Power Plays, Promenade Theater, New York City, 1998. Also performed with Compass Players, 1959, and Second City comedy troupe, c. 1959–1960. Stage directorial work includes: Eh?, Circle in the Square Theatre, New York City, 1967; The White House Murder Case, Circle in the Square Theatre, New York City, 1970; The Sunshine Boys, Broadhurst Theatre, New York City, 1972; Molly, Alvin Theatre, New York City, 1973; Room Service, Roundabout Theatre, New York City, 1986; (also writer) Power Plays, Promenade Theater, New York City, 1998; Taller Than a Dwarf, 2000. Also musician and songwriter with folk group, the Tarriers, c. late 1950s; contributed to periodicals, including Galaxy; wrote children's books; lectured on creativity at various universities.
Member: American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, American Federation of Musicians, American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, Actors Equity Association, Screen Actors Guild.
Awards: Antoinette Perry Award for best supporting actor, League of New York Theatres and Pro-ducers, for Enter Laughing, 1963; Golden Laurel Award for male new face, Motion Picture Exhibitor magazine, 1967; Golden Globe Award for best motion picture actor—musical/comedy, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, for The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming, 1967; best actor, New York Film Critics Circle, for The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, 1968; best actor, Kansas City Film Critics, for The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, 1969; Obie Award for distinguished directing, Village Voice, for The White House Murder Case, 1970; best actor, Kansas City Film Critics, for Popi, 1970; best supporting actor, New York Film Critics Circle, for Hearts of the West, 1975; Genie Award for best performance by a foreign actor, Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, for Improper Channels, 1982; Genie Award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role, Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, for Joshua Then and Now, 1986; Valladolid International Film Festival Award (with others), best actor, Valladolid International Film Festival, for Glengarry Glen Ross, 1992; best supporting actor, Boston Society of Film Critics, for Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, 2002; (with others) best ensemble cast, Florida Film Critics Circle, for Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, 2003; Academy Award for best performance by an actor in a supporting role, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for Little Miss Sunshine, 2007; BAFTA Award for best actor in a supporting role, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, for Little Miss Sunshine, 2007; Independent Spirit Award for best supporting male, Film Independent, for Little Miss Sunshine, 2007; Screen Actors Guild Award (with others) for outstanding performance by a male actor in a supporting role, for Little Miss Sunshine, 2007; best supporting actor, Vancouver Film Critics Circle, for Little Miss Sunshine, 2007.
Actor Alan Arkin capped a long career as a stage, film, and television actor with a 2007 Academy Award for best supporting actor for his work in the hit indie film Little Miss Sunshine. Playing the loving—but drug-addicted—grandfather brought Arkin well-deserved attention, but it was just one of many memorable roles he portrayed over the years. He believed that many of his characters were similar to him by the nature of the craft. He told Salem Alaton of the Globe and Mail, "What attracts me [to acting] is not the glamour, not the burying yourself in other people, or the pretending to bury yourself in other people. Because I never do, anyway. It's always me. No matter how far away from it you think you're getting, it's always 95 percent you."
Born in 1934 in Brooklyn, New York, Arkin was the son of two teachers, David and Beatrice Arkin. His father was also an artist. Arkin knew he wanted to be an actor by the time he was five years old. He studied acting from an early age, wherever he could. By the time he was eleven years old, the family had moved to Los Angeles where his father hoped to find work as a scenery painter for films. As Arkin reached middle school, he also developed an interest in music and taught himself to play guitar. He made extra money by playing in social clubs as he got older, though acting remained his primary interest. After studying drama at Los Angeles City College and Los Angeles State College in the early 1950s, Arkin returned to the east, attending Bennington College for a few years.
After leaving school, Arkin focused on music for a time by joining a band called the Tarriers. The folk group soon had chart-topping hit songs such as "Cindy, Oh Cindy" and "The Banana Boat Song." The success of the Tarriers in the late 1950s allowed Arkin to return to acting, though his career did not take off right away. Arkin began his acting career on stage. After an early singing role in Heloise in New York City in 1958, then working with the St. Louis, Missouri-based improvisational Compass Players in 1959, Arkin decided he needed training in acting.
To that end, he went to Chicago. Arkin studied improv at Second City and became a member of the original Second City comedy troupe. Arkin learned much from the experience. He told Anna Quindlen of the New York Times, "I took the Second City job because I was failing in New York. I couldn't get arrested. When I got there I wasn't funny at all. But slowly I built one character, then another, and the audience helped teach me what was funny and what didn't work."
Arkin returned to the New York stage with the Second City revue From the Second City in 1961–62. He soon became a star on Broadway with his work in the 1963 production of Enter Laughing at the Henry Miller Theatre and the 1964 production of Luv at the Booth Theatre. He won a Tony Award for Enter Laughing. Arkin then began focusing on film, though he also did a few guest spots on series like East Side/West Side and The Les Crane Show.
Arkin's feature acting career took off in 1966 with an appearance in the comedy The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! which led to an Academy Award nomination. Some of his roles were dark as he played a cold-hearted villain who terrorizes a character played by Audrey Hepburn in 1967's Wait Until Dark. Another early memorable role was playing deaf-mute John Singer in the 1968 film The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, which also garnered Arkin an Oscar nomination. That same year, he played the title role in Inspector Clouseau. The following year, Arkin played Puerto Rican Abraham Rodriguez, the father in Popi. His film career temporarily stalled after he appeared in a box office bomb, the 1970 adaptation of the Joseph Heller novel, Catch-22.
While Arkin continued to appear in films, he also began directing stage productions, finding it more satisfying than acting on stage. Arkin's directorial debut came in 1967 with Eh?, which he did under the pseudonym Roger Short. At the time, the Off-Broadway production was struggling, though it did star a young Dustin Hoffman. Arkin turned the production around and made it a success. Through 1976, Arkin directed at least ten plays in the Northeast, including New York productions of The Sunshine Boys in 1972 and Molly in 1973. His direction of the Off-Broadway production of The White House Murder Case in 1970 won him an Obie Award.
Arkin occasionally worked in television in the 1970s, though the medium was not one he particularly favored unless the role was interesting. In 1970, he began a two-year run on the popular children's series Sesame Street as Larry. When his film career briefly slowed down, he appeared in several television movies, including It Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Guy in 1974, as well as The Other Side of Hell and The Defection of Simas Kurdirka, both airing in 1978. Referring to the latter movies, Arkin told the New York Times' Quindlen, "My agent warned me about doing the two of them because he thought it would kill my movie career. I talked to my family and I finally told my agent if doing terrific work and making terrific money is giving up something, I'll take it."
Arkin's film career rebounded in the late 1970s. In 1979, he starred in the comedy The In-Laws opposite Peter Falk. Arkin played a dentist whose life is turned upside down after he becomes engaged to the daughter of a scheming government agent, played by Falk, who is trying to steal U.S. currency engraving plates and sell them. Arkin's character was dragged into the mess. The film remained popular among comedy fans for years after its release. For Joshua Then and Now, released in 1985, Arkin received praise from critics and audiences for his acting work. In this film, which was based on a novel by Mordecai Richler, he played Reuben, the petty crook father of the titular character, a writer.
While his film career was again going strong, Arkin returned to stage directing several times in the mid-1980s. In 1986, for example, he directed a production of the farce Room Service at the Roundabout Theatre in New York City. Originally produced in 1937, the play focuses on a fly-by-night producer who scams his way into ensuring that his production stays open and his cast has a hotel to stay at in the White Way. The production also featured the stage debut of Arkin's son, Tony, the product of his second marriage to actress-writer Barbara Dana.
Arkin also appeared in a cluster of television series, plays, and movies in the mid- to late 1980s. In addition to appearing in a PBS production of A Matter of Principle, which aired on American Playhouse in 1984, he played Harold Kaufman in 1986's A Deadly Business. The television movie aired on CBS and focused on toxic waste.
In addition, Arkin continued to write and publish books, something he had been doing for many years. While a struggling stage actor in the late 1950s, he had contributed science fiction stories to Galaxy magazine. Arkin penned a number of children's books between acting gigs, including Some Fine Grampa!, which was inspired by his granddaughter, Molly. He also continued to make music and lectured on creativity at various universities.
By this point in his career, Arkin was selective about the roles he would take no matter what the genre. Time with family and having downtime were important to him as he reached his sixties. Despite wanting to slow down, he continued to take on quality film roles. In the early 1990s, he appeared in Edward Scissorhands, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Indian Summer. Arkin's work as a failing salesman in Glengarry Glen Ross was particularly acclaimed by critics.
In the mid- to late 1990s, he continued to challenge himself by taking on a variety of film roles, including a memorable turn as a villain in 1996's Mother Night. Arkin also had a featured role in the 1998 independent hit The Slums of Beverly Hills. Arkin played Murray Abromowitz, a single father of three teenagers, in this coming-of-age story. The film focuses his character's daughter reaching maturity while growing up on the poor side of the wealthy Los Angeles suburb in 1976.
Although Arkin said he would not do stage acting again because of its demands and his own lack of interest, he took on one challenge in 1998. His appearance in the play he wrote, "Virtual Reality," as part of Power Plays, was his first role since 1972's The Opening. Arkin also directed the three humorous one-acts that made up Power Plays and received much critical praise for his three contributions to the production. He directed another play in 2000, Taller Than a Dwarf, as well.
Arkin's film career became limited again in the early 2000s. While doing the occasional mainstream film, he primarily appeared in indies like 13 Conversations About One Thing in 2001 and Eros in 2004. Ar-kin also did more television, including a ten-episode stint on the series 100 Centre Street in 2001 and television movies The Pentagon Papers and And Starring Pancho Villa As Himself, both in 2003.
Arkin saw his career reach a new high with his role as the heroin- and porn-addicted grandfather in the dark family comedy/road flick Little Miss Sunshine in 2006. His character trained his granddaughter, Olive Hoover, as she prepared to compete in a kiddie beauty pageant. While Arkin's Edwin Hoover, aka Grandpa, died during the course of the film, his legacy continued to its end. Arkin's work in Little Miss Sunshine was widely praised, regarded as perhaps the best performance in the film. This opinion was emphasized when Arkin won his first Oscar as best supporting actor. According to Sheigh Crabtree of the Los Angeles Times, in his acceptance speech Arkin said, "More than anything, I'm deeply moved by the open-hearted appreciation our small film has received, which in these fragmented times speaks so openly of the possibility of innocence, growth, and connection."
Landing more plum film roles, including the role of Chief in the big-screen version of the 1960s television program Get Smart, Arkin remained philosophical about his life, varied career, and self-definition. He told David Sterritt of the Christian Science Monitor, "We set limits on what we can think about and what we're capable of doing…. But that's a self-definition. It has nothing to do with who you really are. I'm interested in finding out someday what I really am. I believe strongly there is something within each of us that goes way past what our vision is—something infinitely more exciting than what we conceive ourselves to be."
Tony's Hard Work Day, Harper (New York City), 1972; rev. ed., Gibbs Smith (Salt Lake City, UT), 2002.
The Lemming Condition, Harper, 1976.
The Clearing, Harper and Row (New York City), 1986.
Some Fine Grampa!, HarperCollins (New York City), 1995.
One Present from Flekman's, HarperCollins, 1999.
Cassie Loves Beethoven, Hyperion (New York City), 2000.
Cosmo: A Cautionary Tale, Azro Press (Santa Fe, NM), 2005.
Halfway Through the Door: An Actor's Journey Toward Self, Harper and Row (New York City), 1979.
Halfway Through the Door: First Steps on the Path Toward Enlightenment, Harper and Row, 1984.
Contem porary Theatre, Film and Television, vol. 39, Gale Group (Detroit, MI), 2002.
Chicago Sun-Times, April 26, 1993, sec. 2, p. 4.
Christian Science Monitor, July 8, 1986, p. 1.
Globe and Mail (Canada), September 5, 1985.
Los Angeles Times, February 26, 2007, p. E11.
New York Post, January 26, 1998, p. 41; January 7, 2007, p. C3.
New York Times, February 9, 1986, sec. 2, p. 7; May 22, 1998, p. E1; January 7, 2007, sec. 2A, p. 7.
Seattle Times, March 13, 1998, p. E1.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 13, 1998, p. F4.
Toronto Star, August 28, 1998, p. D3.
Toronto Sun, August 4, 2006, p. E5.
Washington Post, June 15, 1979, p. B2.
"Alan Arkin," Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000273/ (May 16, 2007).
Contemporary Authors Online, Thomson Gale, 2007.
Nationality: American. Born: Alan Wolf Arkin in New York City, 26 March 1934. Education: Attended Los Angeles City College. Family: Married Barbara Dana, 1964; sons: the actor Adam and Matthew from previous marriage, and Anthony. Career: Late 1950s—member of folk singing group the Tarriers; early 1960s—member of Chicago improvisational acting company Second City, a group including Mike Nichols and Elaine May; 1963—Broadway debut in Enter Laughing received much critical attention; mid-1960s—stage directing career began with off-Broadway production of Little Murders; 1966—feature film debut in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming; 1971—directed first feature film, Little Murders; 1987—in TV series Harry. Awards: Best Actor, New York Film Critics, for The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, 1968; Best Supporting Actor, New York Film Critics, for Hearts of the West, 1975; Golden Globe for Comedy Performance, for The Russians Are Coming, 1966; Canadian Genies, for Best Actor for Improper Channels, 1981, and for Best Supporting Actor for Joshua Then and Now, 1985. Address: c/o William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Films as Actor:
That's Me (short)
The Last Mohican (short)
The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (Jewison) (as Rosanov)
Wait until Dark (Young) (as Roat); "The Suicides" ep. of Woman Times Seven (De Sica) (as Fred)
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (Miller) (as John Singer); Inspector Clouseau (Yorkin) (as title role)
Popi (Hiller) (title role); The Monitors (Shea) (cameo)
Catch-22 (Nichols) (as Yossarian)
The Last of the Red Hot Lovers (Saks) (as Barney Cashman); Deadhead Miles (Zimmerman)
Freebie and the Bean (Rush) (as Bean); It Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Guy (Cy Howard—for TV)
Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins (Richards) (as Rafferty); Hearts of the West (Zieff) (as Kessler)
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (Ross) (as Freud)
The Defection of Simon Kudirka (Rich—for TV) (title role)
The Magician of Lublin (Golan) (as Yasha); The In-Laws (Hiller) (as Sheldon Kornpett, + exec pr)
Simon (Brickman) (as Simon Mendelssohn)
Chu Chu and the Philly Flash (Rich); Improper Channels (Till) (as Jeffrey)
The Last Unicorn (Rankin and Bass) (as voice of Schmendrick, the Magician)
The Return of Captain Invincible (Legend in Leotards) (Mora) (title role)
A Matter of Principle (Arner)
Big Trouble (Cassavetes) (as Leonard Hoffman); Bad Medicine (Miller) (as Dr. Madera); Joshua Then and Now (Kotcheff) (as Reuben Shapiro); The Fourth Wise Man (Michael Ray Rhodes—for TV)
A Deadly Business (Korty—for TV)
Escape from Sobibor (Gold—for TV) (as Feldhendler); Necessary Parties (Arner—for TV) (+ sc)
Coupe de Ville (Roth) (as Fred Libner); Too Much Sun (Downey); Edward Scissorhands (Burton) (as Bill Boggs); Havana (Pollack) (as Joe Volpi); The Rocketeer (Johnston) (as Peevy)
Glengarry Glen Ross (Foley) (as George Aaronow)
So I Married an Axe Murderer (Schlamme); Indian Summer (Binder) (as Uncle Lou); Taking the Heat (Tom Mankiewicz—for TV) (as Tommy Canard); Cooperstown (Haid—for TV) (as Harry Willette)
North (Rob Reiner) (as Judge Buckle); The Jerky Boys (Melkonian) (as Lazarro); Doomsday Gun (Robert M. Young—for TV)
Steal Big, Steal Little (Andrew Davis) (as Lou Perilli)
Mother Night (Gordon) (as George Kraft)
Grosse Pointe Blank (Armitage) (as Dr. Oatman); Gattaca (Niccol) (Detective Hugo)
Slums of Beverly Hills (Jenkins) (as Murray Abramowitz); Jakob the Liar (Kassovitz) (as Max Frankfurter)
Arigo (Arkin and Dana); Magicians (Merendino); Varian's War (Chetwynd—for TV)
Films as Director:
T.G.I.F. (short) (+ sc)
People Soup (short) (+ sc)
Little Murders (+ ro as detective)
Fire Sale (+ ro as Ezra Fikus)
Samuel Beckett Is Coming Soon (+ ro as the director)
Arigo (+ ro)
By ARKIN: books—
Tony's Hard Work Day (for children), 1972.
Halfway through the Door: An Actor's Journey Towards the Self, New York, 1979.
The Clearing (for children), New York, 1986.
The Lemming Condition (for children), New York, 1989.
Some Fine Grampa (for children), New York, 1995.
By ARKIN: article—
Interview in Films and Filming (London), November 1967.
On ARKIN: article—
Current Biography 1967, New York, 1967.
"Alan Arkin," in Film Dope (London), March 1988.
* * *
Alan Arkin is the poor man's Jack Lemmon. Think of Lemmon's major film roles, from It Should Happen to You to The Apartment, Save the Tiger to Missing. Arkin could have played any one of these parts effectively. Both actors can play comical bumblers with serious sides, and both excel as sensitive characters whose nervous temperaments are hair-triggered. Considering Arkin's solid talent and his proven versatility, it is regrettable that this actor has not had Lemmon's opportunities to shine on the silver screen.
Arkin was no novice to acting when he made his feature film debut in the popular satirical comedy The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. Three years prior to that, he had won a Tony Award for his much acclaimed starring role in the Broadway production of Carl Reiner's autobiographical seriocomedy Enter Laughing. In Russians, Arkin, co-starring with Reiner and a large star cast, won an Oscar nomination playing a zany Russian squad leader who steps off a Soviet submarine which accidentally has been grounded near an island off the Massachusetts coastline. As he communicated with the startled natives, Arkin spoke a blend of strange Russian lingo and broken Russian-English, which left a bizarre, but very comical, impression.
His next effort, Wait until Dark, was a very showy role for the newcomer. In this taut suspense film, he played a psychotic who dresses up as three different people in order to retrieve a cache of drugs unwittingly in the possession of a blind woman (Audrey Hepburn). His menacing leap at the helpless woman's ankles and the unrelieved wickedness of his character even in his death throes gave audiences the dark and dramatic side of the actor's repertoire. After his appearance the following year in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, as a lonesome deaf-mute who befriends a young girl, it seemed as though Arkin's new status as a major movie star was cemented. So moving was his portrayal that he received his second Academy Award nomination.
Since then, only a handful of important screen roles have come his way. The most significant of these was in Catch-22, where he played Captain Yossarian in Joseph Heller's scathing satire of U.S. Army life during World War II, which was presented in a surreal and absurdist style. He also gave outstanding comic performances in The Last of the Red Hot Lovers and The In-Laws, and made an interesting and credible Freud in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. In fact, Arkin never has done poorly in a film, even when the material was flawed or forgettable. Yet he has been unable to sustain the stardom and attention he obtained so early; the multidimensional, extraordinary roles with which he began his film acting career inexplicably dried up.
Arkin turned to directing in the late 1960s, and in 1971 did a credible job bringing Jules Feiffer's Little Murders to the screen. In the 1970s, he also wrote several books, including an autobiographical work about his involvement with yoga. In the past few years, Arkin has been appearing in films on a steady basis, sometimes enriching mediocre movies with brief but sparkling appearances. His two most significant recent roles have been as the camp director in Indian Summer and a real estate salesman in Glengarry Glen Ross, the film version of David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, in which he shares screen time with Jack Lemmon. Nevertheless, it is a shame that an actor of Arkin's caliber has not, over the years, been offered more and better lead roles, and been allowed to fulfill the promise he exhibited in his earliest films.
—Doug Tomlinson, updated by Audrey E. Kupferberg