November 28, 1923
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Other names||Mr. Pathmark
|Spouse(s)||Susan Reed (1958-1967; divorced; 1 child)
Alba Francesca (1986-present)
Life and career
Karen was born Jacob Karnofsky in Wilkes-Barre, in northeastern Pennsylvania, the son of Russian-born Jewish immigrants Mae (née Freed) and Joseph H. Karnofsky, a produce dealer. The first movie Karen has recalled seeing was the Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928). He was later a very good friend of Keaton. As a young man, Karen was encouraged to be an actor by U.S. Congressman Daniel J. Flood, who was an amateur thespian himself, recruiting him into a production at the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre. He attended the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York. His big break came when he was asked to understudy Karl Malden in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire.
On television he played Dr. Burke on As the World Turns and was the original Lincoln Tyler on All My Children. He is perhaps best known for his recurring role on the television series Eight Is Enough. He is also well-known on the east coast for his 20 years as television and radio spokesman for the Pathmark supermarket chain. He appeared in an episode of the 1977 NBC situation comedy The Kallikaks. He also appeared in the Golden Girls as a prospective love interest for Dorothy. He is also known for playing the evil tycoon Nathan Lassiter, who killed the town of Walnut Grove in the final TV movie of Little House on the Prairie.
A life member of The Actors Studio, Karen's notable film credits include 1979's The China Syndrome, 1982's Poltergeist, 1985's The Return of the Living Dead, 1987's Wall Street and most recently in 2006's The Pursuit of Happyness.
He was married to Susan Reed, the former actress and folk singer. They divorced in 1967, and in 1986, he married current wife Alba Francesca, who costarred with him in Hardbodies 2. Karen has one child and two grandchildren.
- Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965)
- Film (1965)
- Hercules in New York (1970)
- All the President's Men (1976)
- Capricorn One (1978)
- The China Syndrome (1979)
- The Jazz Singer (1980)
- Take This Job and Shove It (1981)
- Time Walker (1982)
- Poltergeist (1982)
- The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
- Jagged Edge (1985)
- Invaders from Mars (1986)
- Hardbodies 2 (1986)
- Wall Street (1987)
- Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988)
- The Willies (1991)
- Congo (1995)
- Nixon (1995)
- Piranha (1995)
- Joyride (1996)
- Up Close & Personal (1996)
- Behind Enemy Lines (1997)
- Apt Pupil (1998)
- Any Given Sunday (1999)
- Thirteen Days (2000)
- Mulholland Drive (2001)
- Flickering Blue (2003)
- Unscripted (2005)
- The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
- Superman Returns (2006)
- Outlaw Trail: The Treasure of Butch Cassidy (2006)
- Dark and Stormy Night (2009)
- The Butterfly Room (2012)
- James Karen Biography (1923-)
- James Karen Biography - Yahoo! Movies
- Garfield, David (1980). "Appendix: Life Members of The Actors Studio as of January 1980". A Player's Place: The Story of The Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 278. ISBN 0-02-542650-8.
- Thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed April 2010
Voisin, Scott, Character Kings: Hollywood's Familiar Faces Discuss the Art & Business of Acting. BearManor Media, 2009. ISBN 978-1-59393-342-5.
Psychotronic Video Magazine, 1997 no.24 "James Karen" by writer/interviewer Dennis Daniel.
Filmfax Magazine, December 2010 no. 125 "Frankenstein Meets The Space Monster" Part one by writers/interviewers Lawrence Fultz Jr. and Paul Parla, massive 22 page, two part article and multiple interviews concerning the film.
- James Karen at the Internet Movie Database
- James Karen at the Internet Broadway Database
- Great Character Actors / James Karen
- Pathmark TV commercial with James Karen on YouTube