Alan Wolf Arkin in New York City, 26 March 1934.
Attended Los Angeles City College.
Married Barbara Dana, 1964; sons: the actor Adam and Matthew from
previous marriage, and Anthony.
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
received much critical attention; mid-1960s—stage directing career
began with off-Broadway production of
; 1966—feature film debut in
The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming
; 1971—directed first feature film,
; 1987—in TV series
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
, 1981, and for Best Supporting Actor for
Joshua Then and Now
c/o William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
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)
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)
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.
Interview in Films and Filming (London), November 1967.
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