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Theodore Bikel

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Theodore Meir Bikel (born May 2, 1924) is a Jewish Academy Award- and Tony Award-nominated character actor, folk singer and musician. He made his film debut in The African Queen (1951) and was nominated for an Academy award for his role as the Southern Sheriff in The Defiant Ones (1958).

Life and career

Bikel was born in Vienna, Austria, the son of Miriam (née Riegler) and Josef Bikel from Bukovina.[1] His family fled to Palestine following the Nazi occupation of Austria. In Palestine, Bikel started acting while in his teens. He co-founded the Cameri Theatre there—which has gone on to become one of Israel's biggest theaters—before moving to London to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1945.[2] In 1948, Michael Redgrave recommended Bikel to his friend Laurence Olivier as understudy for the parts of both Stanley Kowalski and Mitch in the West End premiere of Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire.[3] Bikel graduated from understudy to star opposite the director's wife, Vivien Leigh, who would go on to recreate her role as Blanche DuBois in the film version opposite Marlon Brando.

After several plays and films in Europe, Bikel moved to the United States in 1954, and became a naturalized citizen in 1961. He was the U-boat first officer to Curt Jürgens in The Enemy Below (1957) and played the captain of the Russian submarine in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966). Bikel was screentested for the role of Auric Goldfinger in the James Bond film Goldfinger (1964). The screentest can be seen on the "Ultimate Edition" DVD released in 2006. Bikel also appeared in Frank Zappa's 1971 film 200 Motels.

On Broadway he originated the role of Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music in 1959, for which he received his second Tony nomination. In 1964, he played Zoltan Karpathy, the dialect expert, in the film version of My Fair Lady. Since his first appearance as Tevye in the musical Fiddler on the Roof in 1967, Bikel has performed the role more often than any other actor (more than 2,000 times to date). When an injury required 74 year old fellow Israeli performer Chaim Topol (veteran of many productions of the stage show and star of the motion picture of Fiddler on the Roof) to withdraw from a high budget much promoted 2009 North American tour of the musical due to an injury Bikel substituted for him in several Canadian appearances and has scheduled appearances in the musical beyond his 86th birthday in May 2010.

In the 1950s, Bikel produced and sang in several albums of Jewish folk songs, as well as Songs of a Russian Gypsy, in 1958. He was a co-founder of the Newport Folk Festival (together with Pete Seeger and George Wein) in 1959. In 1962, he heard Bob Dylan give his premiere performance of "Blowin' in the Wind". Bikel then went to his scheduled performance and became the first singer besides Dylan to perform the song in public. Bikel (with partner Herb Cohen) opened the first folk music coffeehouse in Los .Anngeles, The Unicorn. Its popularity led to the two opening a second club, Cosmo Alley, which in addition to folk music presented poets such as Maya Angelou and comics including Lenny Bruce. Bikel became increasingly involved with civil rights issues and progressive causes, and was a delegate to the 1968 Democratic Convention.[4]

In addition to scores of appearances on film and on the stage, Bikel was a guest star on many popular television shows since the 1960s, including The Twilight Zone, Wagon Train, Hawaii Five-0, Columbo, Charlie's Angels, Little House on the Prairie, Mission: Impossible, Dynasty, Knight Rider and Law & Order. He appeared on the game show Super Password as a celebrity guest in 1988.

In the early 1990s, he appeared on Star Trek: The Next Generation, in the episode "Family", playing Sergey Rozhenko, the Russian-born adopted father of Worf, who, as a petty officer on the Starfleet vessel Intrepid, had found Worf at the site of the Khitomer Massacre and taken him home to raise as his son. Bikel performed two roles in the Babylon 5 universe. In 1994 he portrayed Rabbi Koslov in the first season episode "TKO". In 1998 he appeared in the TV movie Babylon 5: In the Beginning as Anla'Shok leader Lenonn.

Theodore made a most memorable guest appearance in the 1992 PBS special, Chanukkah at Grover's Corner. Bikel made latkes with a talking puppet named Mozart and wore a pink sweater, much to the delight of Terry A La Berry.

Bikel is President of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America, and was president of Actors' Equity in the late 1970s and early 1980s. U.S. President Jimmy Carter appointed him to serve on the National Council for the Arts in 1977 for a six year term. On January 28, 2007, he was elected to serve as Chair of the Board of Directors of Meretz USA.[5] Bikel is also a lecturer. Bikel's autobiography Theo was published in 1995 by Harper Collins, and re-issued in an updated version by the University of Wisconsin Press in 2002.

Filmography

  • The African Queen (1951)
  • Moulin Rouge (1952)
  • Never Let Me Go (1953)
  • The Little Kidnappers (1953)
  • Betrayed (1954) (uncredited)
  • The Colditz Story (1955)
  • Above Us the Waves (1955)
  • The Vintage (1957)
  • The Pride and the Passion (1957)
  • The Enemy Below (1957)
  • Fräulein (1958)
  • I Bury the Living (1958)
  • The Defiant Ones (1958)
  • I Want to Live! (1958)
  • Woman Obsessed (1959)

  • The Angry Hills (1959)
  • A Dog of Flanders (1960)
  • My Fair Lady (1964)
  • Sands of the Kalahari (1965)
  • The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966)
  • Sweet November (1968)
  • My Side of the Mountain (1969)
  • 200 Motels (1971)
  • Victory at Entebbe (1976) (TV)
  • Columbo: The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case (1977) (TV)
  • The Stingiest Man In Town (1978) (TV) (voice)
  • The Return of the King (1980) (voice)
  • The Final Days (1989) (TV)
  • Shattered (1991)
  • Shadow Conspiracy (1996)

References

External links

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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Theodore Bikel. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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