Jack Gilford – MovieActors.com
Gilford (right) in A FUNNY THING
HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM.
About Jack Gilford (1907 – 1990)
Jack Gilford was born Jacob Yankel Gellman on July 25th, 1908, in Brooklyn, New York, into a Romanian Jewish family. His immigrant parents were Sophie, who ran a restaurant, and Aaron Gellman, who was a furrier. Jack was the middle son of three boys. His older brother was Murray, and his younger brother was Nathaniel.
Jack's talent for comedy appeared early when Jack was a child; specifically his ability to do impersonations and imitations. His parents allowed him to get involed with Yiddish theater, where he competed with other children, including Jackie Gleason.
He began his entertaining career at Amateur Night in clubs around town, then graduated to playing nightclubs as a comedian, doing satire, impersonations such as Jimmy Durante and pantomime. He was famous for his "pea soup coming to a boil" imitation, done with just facial expressions.
Jack was discovered, so the story goes, while working in a pharmacy, by Milton Berle.
Gilford was nominated for a Tony for best supporting actor as Hysterium in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM (1963), as well as for his role as Herr Schultz in Cabaret (1966).
Jack Gilford, along with his wife, actress Madeline Lee Gilford, were both activists who campaigned for labor unions. This is where they met each other, and married in 1949.
They had been denounced by Jerome Robbins, a choreographer. They were blacklisted in Hollywood by the House Un-American Activities Committee after an investigation, in 1953, and did not work for the rest of the 50's.
Jack returned to Broadway, and kept busy being in THE WORLD OF SHOLEM ALEICHEM, THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, ROMANOFF AND JULIET, DRINK TO ME ONLY, LOOK AFTER LULU, ONCE UPON A MATTRESS (Off-Broadway), and THE TENTH MAN.
Something good did come out of their troubles with McCarthyism. In 2008, their son, Joe Gilford, wrote a stage play about his parents' experiences, called FINKS, that opened on Off-Broadway at New York's Ensemble Studios in April of 2013. FINKS was nominated for a DRAMA DESK AWARD for Outstanding Play, and also received a Bes tActress nomination for its female lead thespian, Miriam Silverman.
The door was opened wider in Hollywood for Jack's thespian comeback for films and television because his performance in a supporting actor role of Hysterium in the hit Broadway musical, A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM (1962-'64). His good friend, Zero Mostel, an actor that was also black-listed was cast as the lead; the slave, Pseudolus.
When the film version of A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM was being cast, both Jack and Zero were asked to reprise their roles for the film that came out in 1966.
Jack's workload came back with a vengeance during the 60's. Jack made a fine living as an ensemble actor in many television series and movies. He was the guy with the rubber face on Cracker Jack commercials; 1960-1972.
In 1973, Jack was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for best supporting actor in (1973) for his role as Phil Green in SAVE THE TIGER, with Jack Lemmon, who won for Best Actor.
In 1979, Jack Gilford won a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Invidiual achievement in Children's Programming, for the show, THE BIG BLUE MARBLE - for episode: "Hello In There."
On the benefits of being a character actor, Gilford explained, "You stay in the business longer. Even leading men who have been character actors prolong their careers -- we all know character actors who have been around for a long time. I was always a character actor."
Jack Gilford died from stomach cancer on June 2nd, 1990, in his Greenwich Village home, in New York Ctiy. He was survived by his wife, Madeline Lee, her daughter; Lisa, who Jack adopted, and sons, Joe Gilford and Sam Max Gilford.
Jack Gilford's notable movie credits include....
COCOON: THE RETURN (1988)
HEY , ROOKIE (1944)
A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM (1966)
WHO'S MINDING THE MINT? (1967)
CATCH 22 (1970)
SAVE THE TIGER (1973)
HARRY AND WALTER GO TO NEW YORK (1976)
WHOLLY MOSES (1980)
Jack Gilford's television credits include...
TAXI (series - Alex's father) (1971-1981)
Jack Gilford in COCOON.