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Arkin, Alan W.


ARKIN, ALAN W. (1934– ), U.S. actor. Born in New York City, Arkin began his career as a folk singer. As a founding member of the folk group The Tarriers, he co-composed the "The Banana Boat Song" (also known as "Day-o"), which Harry Belafonte later made a mega-hit. Arkin then became a founding member of Second City in Chicago, a troupe that specialized in improvisations. He appeared in Joseph Stein's comedy Enter Laughing (1963), for which he won a Tony award and became a star overnight. His next Broadway success was in Murray Schisgal's Luv (1964).

In the film industry, Arkin first starred in the comedy The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming in 1966 and won a Golden Globe award for best actor. Nominated as well for an Academy Award for best actor for the same role, Arkin is one of a handful of actors to receive such a nomination for a first screen appearance. His subsequent roles include Wait until Dark (1967); The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (Oscar nomination for best actor, 1968); Popi (1969); Catch 22 (1970); Little Murders (1971); Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1972); Freebie and the Bean (1974); Hearts of the West (1975); The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (as Sigmund Freud, 1976); The Magician of Lublin (1979); The In-Laws (1979); Joshua Then and Now (1985); Edward Scissorhands (1990); Glengarry Glen Ross (1992); Mother Night (1996); Grosse Pointe Blank (1997); Gattaca (1997); Slums of Beverly Hills (1998); Jakob the Liar (1999); Noel (2004); Raising Flagg (2003); and Eros (2004).

Arkin has made numerous television appearances as well, on both made-for-tv movies and popular series such as 100 Centre Street and St. Elsewhere. In the riveting 1987 tv movie Escape from Sobibor, based on a true story, Arkin plays the lead role of Leon Feldhendler, the man who masterminded the escape plan for the 600 Jewish inmates of the Nazi death camp in Poland in 1944. He was nominated for a best actor Emmy for that performance.

In his real-life role as father, Arkin has three sons – Adam, Matthew, and Anthony – all of whom are actors as well. In fact, Arkin was nominated for another best actor Emmy for his appearance on the tv drama Chicago Hope, where he played the father of Dr. Aaron Shutt, the role performed by his son Adam Arkin.

In addition to his acting career, Arkin has directed projects for all media. His many directorial credits for the theater include several productions with Circle in the Square, including Jules *Feiffer's The White House Murder Case, which earned him an Obie award, and on Broadway The Sunshine Boys.

Arkin wrote and directed two short films, t.g.i.f. (1967) and People Soup (1969). The former opened the 1967 New York Film Festival; the latter received an Oscar nomination for Best Short Subject. Arkin went on to direct the feature film version of Little Murders (1971) as well as the films Fire Sale (1977), Samuel Beckett Is Coming Soon (1993), and Arigo (2000).

Also a writer of children's books, Arkin has authored The Lemming Condition; The Clearing; Cassie Loves Beethoven; One Present from Flekman's; and Tony's Hard Work Day.

Another book by Arkin, Halfway through the Door: An Actor's Journey toward the Self (1979), is autobiographical.

[Jonathan Licht and

Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]

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