Martin Balsam

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Martin Balsam
Martin Balsam in trailer for "The Carpetbaggers" (1964)
Born Martin Henry Balsam
(1919-11-04)November 4, 1919
Bronx, New York City,
New York, USA
Died February 13, 1996(1996-02-13) (aged 76)
Rome, Italy
Resting place
Cedar Park Cemetery in Emerson, New Jersey
Alma mater DeWitt Clinton High School
Occupation Actor
Years active 1947–1995
Spouse(s) Pearl Somner (1952–1954)
Joyce Van Patten (1957–1962; 1 child)
Irene Miller (1963–1987; 2 children)
Children Talia Balsam, born 1959
Adam Balsam
Zoe Balsam

Martin Henry Balsam (November 4, 1919 – February 13, 1996)[1] was an American actor. He is known for his Oscar-winning role as Arnold Burns in A Thousand Clowns and his role as private investigator Milton Arbogast in Psycho.

Early life[edit]

Martin Balsam was born in Bronx borough of New York City to Jewish parents, Lillian (née Weinstein) and Albert Balsam, who was a manufacturer of ladies sportswear.[2][3] He attended DeWitt Clinton High School, where he participated in the drama club.[2] He studied at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with the influential German director Erwin Piscator and then served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.


Martin Balsam (r) on the set of Unknown Soldier, 1995

Martin Balsam made his professional debut in August 1941 in a production of The Play's the Thing in Locust Valley.[4] In early 1948, he was selected by Elia Kazan to be a member in the recently formed Actors Studio.[5] Balsam would go on to perform in several episodes of the Studio's dramatic television anthology series, broadcast between September 1948 and 1950. He appeared in many other television drama series, including Decoy with Beverly Garland, The Twilight Zone (episodes "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" and "The New Exhibit"), as a psychologist in the pilot episode, Five Fingers, Target: The Corruptors!, The Eleventh Hour, Breaking Point, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Fugitive, and Mr. Broadway, as a retired U.N.C.L.E. agent in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode, "The Odd Man Affair", and guest starred in the two-part Murder, She Wrote episode, "Death Stalks the Big Top". He also appeared in the "Route 66" episode, "Somehow it Gets to be Tomorrow".

Balsam appeared in such films as On the Waterfront, 12 Angry Men (as Juror #1), Time Limit, Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Carpetbaggers, Seven Days in May, The Anderson Tapes, Hombre, Catch-22, Tora! Tora! Tora! (as Admiral Husband E. Kimmel), Little Big Man, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, All the President's Men, Murder on the Orient Express,The Delta Force, and The Goodbye People.

In 1960, he appeared in one of his most famous roles as Detective Arbogast in the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho.

Along with Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum, Martin Balsam appeared in both the original Cape Fear (1962), and the 1991 Martin Scorsese remake.

In 1965, he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Arnold Burns in A Thousand Clowns. In 1968, he won a Tony Award for his appearance in the 1967 Broadway production of You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running.

Balsam played Washington Post editor Howard Simons in the 1976 blockbuster All the President's Men.[6] He also appeared in a film that eventually became a highly popular Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, the 1975 Joe Don Baker police drama Mitchell. In 1973, he played Dr. Rudy Wells when the Martin Caidin novel Cyborg was adapted as the TV-movie, The Six Million Dollar Man, though he did not reprise the role for the subsequent weekly series. He appeared as a spokesman/hostage in the 1976 TV movie Raid on Entebbe and as a detective in the 1977 TV movie Contract on Cherry Street. He also appeared on an episode of Quincy ME. Balsam starred as Murray Klein on the All in the Family spin-off Archie Bunker's Place for two seasons (1979–1981). He even filled in for Charles Nelson Reilly on Match Game for one question when Reilly was late for a taping.


Year Film Role Notes
1954 On the Waterfront Gillette uncredited
1957 12 Angry Men Juror #1
Time Limit Sergeant Baker
1958 Marjorie Morningstar Dr. David Harris
1959 Al Capone Mac Keeley, reporter
Middle of the Night Jack
1960 Psycho Detective Milton Arbogast
Everybody Go Home Sergente Quintino Fornaciari
1961 Ada Steve Jackson
Breakfast at Tiffany's O.J. Berman
1962 Cape Fear Police Chief Mark Dutton
Conquered City Joseph Feinberg
1963 Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed Sanford Kaufman
1964 Seven Days in May Paul Girard
The Carpetbaggers Bernard B. Norman National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor
Youngblood Hawke cameo uncredited
1965 Harlow Everett Redman
The Bedford Incident Lt. Cmdr. Chester Potter, M.D.
A Thousand Clowns Arnold Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Laurel Award for Top Male Supporting Performance
1966 After the Fox Harry Granoff
1967 Hombre Mendez
1969 Me, Natalie Uncle Harold
The Good Guys and the Bad Guys Mayor Wilker
Trilogy Ivor Belli segment: Among the Paths to Eden
1970 Catch-22 Colonel Cathcart
Tora! Tora! Tora! Admiral Husband E. Kimmel
Little Big Man Mr. Merriweather
1971 Confessions of a Police Captain Commissario Bonavia
The Anderson Tapes Tommy Haskins
1972 Chronicle of a Homicide Giudice Aldo Sola
The Hassled Hooker District Attorney Turrisi
The Man Jim Talley
1973 The Stone Killer Al Vescari
Counselor at Crime Don Antonio Macaluso
Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams Harry Walden Nominated-Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
1974 The Taking of Pelham One Two Three Harold Longman (AKA: Green) Nominated-BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Murder on the Orient Express Bianchi
1975 Smiling Maniacs Carlo Goja
Cipolla Colt Petrus Lamb
Mitchell James Arthur Cummings
Il tempo degli assassini Commissioner Katroni
1976 All the President's Men Howard Simons Nominated-BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Meet Him and Die Giulianelli
Death Rage Commissario
Two-Minute Warning Sam McKeever
1977 The Sentinel Professor Ruzinsky
1978 Eyes Behind the Stars Ira Davidoff
Silver Bears Joe Flore
1979 Gardenia Salluzzo
Cuba General Bello
1980 There Goes the Bride Elmer Babcock
The Warning Questore Martorana
1981 The Salamander Captain Steffanelli
1984 The Goodbye People Max Silverman
1985 St. Elmo's Fire Mr. Beamish
Death Wish 3 Bennett
1986 The Delta Force Ben Kaplan
Whatever It Takes Hap Perchicksky
1987 P.I. Private Investigations Cliff Dowling
Brothers in Blood Major Briggs
1988 The Brother from Space Father Howard
1990 The Last Match Lawyer
1991 Cape Fear Judge
1994 The Silence of the Hams Detective Martin Balsam
1996 Unknown Soldier original Italian title Soldato Ignoto Military Priest
1997 Legend of the Spirit Dog Gramps

Personal life[edit]

In 1951, Balsam married his first wife, actress Pearl Somner. They divorced three years later. His second wife was actress Joyce Van Patten. This marriage lasted for four years (from 1958 until 1962) and had one daughter, Talia Balsam. He married his third wife, Irene Miller, in 1963. They divorced in 1987 and had two children, Adam and Zoe Balsam.[2]


On February 13, 1996, Balsam died of a sudden stroke in his hotel room in Rome, Italy, while on vacation. He was 76. Balsam is interred at Cedar Park Cemetery, in Emerson, New Jersey.[7] He was survived by his three children and Renee Landau, his companion.[2]


National Board of Review

Academy Awards

Tony Awards

Golden Globe Awards

BAFTA Awards

Primetime Emmy Awards

  • (1977) Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie – Raid on Entebbe (Nominated)


  1. ^ "Balsam, Martin Henry". Who Was Who in America : with World Notables, v. XI (1993–1996). New Providence, N.J.: Marquis Who's Who. 1996. p. 13. ISBN 0837902258. 
  2. ^ a b c d The New York Times, February 14, 1996: "Martin Balsam Is Dead at 76; Ubiquitous Character Actor" Retrieved 2012-06-15
  3. ^ Great Character Actors
  4. ^ Ian Herbert, ed. (1981). "BALSAM, Martin". Who's Who in the Theatre 1. Gale Research Company. pp. 39–40. ISSN 0083-9833. 
  5. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Birth of The Actors Studio: 1947–1950". A Player's Place: The Story of the Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 52. ISBN 0-02-542650-8. "Others usually considered founding members in Kazan's group were added in the early months of 1948. They include Martin Balsam, Kim Hunter, and Vivian Nathan." 
  6. ^ All the President's Men (1976)
  7. ^ "Sometimes the Grave Is a Fine and Public Place". New York Times. March 28, 2004. 

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