Alan Arkin

Alan Arkin


Life Story

Alan Arkin is an Academy Award-winning American actor who is also an acclaimed director, producer, author, singer and composer.

He was born Alan Wolf Arkin on March 26, 1934, in Brooklyn, New York. His family were Jewish emigrants from Russia and Germany. In 1946, the Arkins moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, California. His father, David I. Arkin, was an artist and writer, who worked as a teacher, and lost his job for merely refusing to answer questions about his political affiliation during the 1950s Red Scare. His father challenged the politically biased dismissal and eventually prevailed, but unfortunately it was after his death. His mother, Beatrice (Wortis) Arkin, a teacher, shared his fathers views. Young Arkin was fond of music and acting, he was taking various acting classes from the age of 10. He attended Franklin High School, in Los Angeles, then Los Angeles City College from 1951 - 1953, and Bennington College in Vermont from 1953 - 1954. He sang in a college folk-band, and was involved in a drama class. He dropped out of college to form the folk music group The Tarriers, in which Arkin was the lead singer and played guitar. He co-wrote the 1956 hit "The Banana Boat Song" - a Jamaican calypso folk song, which became better known as Harry Belafonte's popular version, and reached #4 on the Billboard chart. At that time Arkin was a struggling young actor who played bit parts on television and on stage, and made a living as a delivery boy, repairman, pot washer and baby sitter. From 1958 - 1968 he performed and recorded with the children's folk group, The Babysitters. He has also recorded an entire album for the Elektra label titled "Folksongs - Once Over Lightly."


Suzanne Newlander Arkin (1999 - present)


Father of Adam Arkin, Matthew Arkin and Anthony Arkin.
Founding member, Second City improv troupe.
Wrote "The Lemming Condition," "Cassie Loves Beethoven" and "One Present for Flekman's."
He was originally slated to play Saul Bloom in Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Eleven (2001); after dropping out of the production, he was replaced by Carl Reiner. Arkin won a 1963 Tony Award as Best Featured Actor in a Play as well as a Theatre World Award playing a character based on Carl Reiner in the Broadway production of Reiner's autobiographical novel Enter Laughing (1967).
Two of his movies, Popi (1969) and Freebie and the Bean (1974), were later adapted into television series starring Hector Elizondo in the roles Arkin brought to the screen. Elizondo also co-starred in the television series Chicago Hope (1994) with Arkin's son, Adam Arkin.
Biography in: "Who's Who in Comedy" by Ronald L. Smith. pg. 24-25. New York: Facts on File, 1992. ISBN 0816023387.
Father-in-law of Phyllis Lyons and Amelia Campbell.
A founding member of the folk group The Tarriers, he co-wrote "The Banana Boat Song" (also known as "Day-o"), which later became a mega-hit for Harry Belafonte.
In the foreword for the Second City book, Arkin revealed that he was reluctant to head to Chicago. He says that his first paying job as an actor was in St. Louis, where he ran into a fellow who was starting up the Second City theater troupe in Chicago, and said that if Arkin were ever to come to Chicago, he would hire him. Arkin halfheartedly agreed, thinking that it was just a joke, and headed back to New York for another year as a struggling actor. Arkin called the man and asked if a position was still open. The man confirmed it and Arkin headed to Chicago, thinking that his life was over. But when he joined Second City, he said that he realized he was with a group of people who fostered the kind of acting that he was involved in, and protected him from the fear of the world.
Although he usually plays quirky, fatherly types these days, back in the '60s and '70s he was known as an edgy, intense actor. His darkest role is almost certainly Harry Roat in Wait Until Dark (1967), who was a vicious but intelligent psychopath who terrifies a seemingly defenseless blind woman (Audrey Hepburn).
Was cast in the title role of Inspector Clouseau (1968) after Peter Sellers declined to reprise the role a third time. It was the last Clouseau film until Sellers returned to the role in The Return of the Pink Panther (1975).

Personal Quotes 

[on his character Harry Roat Jr. terrorizing Suzy Hendrix (Audrey Hepburn) in Wait Until Dark (1967)] I hated it. I just thought she was terrific. I had an enormous amount of regard for her. I didn't like being cruel to her. It made me very uncomfortable.
It's not enough for me to just be a personality and go up there and say lines nicely. I want to tell a story with a character.
Well, I've always been a character actor. I've never been a leading man. It gave me an opportunity not to have to take my clothes off all the time.
I don't believe in competitions between artists. This is insane. Who has the authority to say someone is better?
[on why he thinks he won the Oscar in 2007] I haven't got a clue. I think it's my age. Everybody thinks I'm going to keel over in a year or two.
[about Abigail Breslin and her Oscar nomination] I hope she loses, frankly. No, I'm serious. I am not joking. What, next year she is going to get the Nobel Prize? It's enough. She has had enough attention. I love her and I love her family, and I feel enough is enough. She is a kid, she needs to have a childhood.
[on making Wait Until Dark (1967)] It was the only heavy I'd ever played up until then, and I had a miserable time; I was crazy about Audrey Hepburn. I was just in awe of her. She was an extraordinary person in every way, and I just hated terrorizing her. It just wasn't fun for me.


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