Sam Jaffe

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Sam Jaffe
Sam Jaffe David Zorba Ben Casey.jpg
BornShalom Jaffe
(1891-03-10)March 10, 1891
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedMarch 24, 1984(1984-03-24) (aged 93)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Cause of deathCancer
Resting placeEden Memorial Park Cemetery in Mission Hills, California
Other namesSam C. Jaffe
EducationCity College of New York, (B.Sc. Engineering)
OccupationActor, teacher, engineer
Years active1934–1984
Spouse(s)Lillian Taiz
(1926-1941; her death)
Bettye Ackerman
(1956-1984; his death)
 
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Sam Jaffe
Sam Jaffe David Zorba Ben Casey.jpg
BornShalom Jaffe
(1891-03-10)March 10, 1891
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedMarch 24, 1984(1984-03-24) (aged 93)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Cause of deathCancer
Resting placeEden Memorial Park Cemetery in Mission Hills, California
Other namesSam C. Jaffe
EducationCity College of New York, (B.Sc. Engineering)
OccupationActor, teacher, engineer
Years active1934–1984
Spouse(s)Lillian Taiz
(1926-1941; her death)
Bettye Ackerman
(1956-1984; his death)

Sam Jaffe (March 10, 1891 – March 24, 1984) was an American actor, teacher, musician and engineer. In 1951, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and appeared in other classic films such as Ben-Hur (1959) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). He may be best remembered for playing the title role in Gunga Din (1939), and the High Lama in Lost Horizon (1937).

Biography[edit]

He was born as Shalom Jaffe to Heida (Ada) and Barnett Jaffe, a Russian Jewish family in New York City, New York. His mother, Ada Jaffe, was a Yiddish actress in Odessa, Ukraine, prior to moving to the United States; his father was a jeweler. He was the youngest of four children; his siblings were Abraham, Sophie, and Annie. As a child, he appeared in Yiddish theater productions with his mother, who after moving to the United States became a prominent actress and vaudeville star. He studied engineering at City College of New York and attended Columbia University. He also worked for several years as a math teacher before turning to acting.

As a young man, he lived in Greenwich Village in the same apartment building as a young John Huston. The two men became good friends and remained so for life. Jaffe was later to star in two of Huston's films: The Asphalt Jungle and The Barbarian and the Geisha. Jaffe's closest friends included Zero Mostel, Edward G. Robinson, Ray Bradbury, and Igor Stravinsky. He began to work in film in 1934, rising to prominence with his very first role as the mad Tsar Peter III in The Scarlet Empress. Remarkably, in 1938 when Jaffe played the iconic title role of water "boy" Gunga Din, he was forty-seven years old. He also made an uncredited appearance in The Adventures of Robin Hood telling the men to "meet Robin at Gallows Oaks".

Jaffe was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses during the 1950s, supposedly for being a communist sympathizer. Despite this, he was hired first by Robert Wise for The Day the Earth Stood Still and then by director William Wyler for his role in the 1959 Academy Award-winning version of Ben-Hur.

Jaffe co-starred in the ABC television series, Ben Casey as Dr. David Zorba from 1961 to 1965 alongside Vince Edwards. He also made many guest starring roles on other series, including Batman as Mr. Zoltan Zorba, and the western Alias Smith and Jones starring Pete Duel and Ben Murphy. In 1975, he co-starred as a retired doctor, who is murdered by Janet Leigh in the Columbo episode "Forgotten Lady", starring Peter Falk. He also appeared with an all star cast in the TV pilot film of Rod Serling's Night Gallery and as Emperor Norton in one episode of Bonanza.

Personal life and death[edit]

Jaffe was married to American operatic soprano and musical comedy star Lillian Taiz from 1926 until her death from cancer in 1941. In 1956, he married actress Bettye Ackerman, with whom he later costarred in Ben Casey. She died on November 20, 2006. He had no children from either marriage.

Sam Jaffe died of cancer in Beverly Hills, California.[1] His interment was in Eden Memorial Park Cemetery.

Select filmography[edit]

Film still of the special TV presentation The Sad and Lonely Sundays (1976). Pictured were Jaffe (left) and Jack Albertson.

Television[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Obituary Variety, March 28, 1984.

External links[edit]