March 10, 1891
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||March 24, 1984
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Cause of death
|Eden Memorial Park Cemetery in Mission Hills, California|
|Other names||Sam C. Jaffe|
|Education||City College of New York, (B.Sc. Engineering)|
|Occupation||Actor, teacher, engineer|
(1926-1941; her death)
(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).
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
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.
- The Scarlet Empress (1934)
- We Live Again (1934)
- Lost Horizon (1937)
- The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) - uncredited
- Gunga Din (1939)
- 13 Rue Madeleine (1947)
- Gentleman's Agreement (1947)
- The Accused (1949)
- Rope of Sand (1949)
- The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
- Under the Gun (1951)
- I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1951)
- The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) - Professor Barhardt
- Les Espions (The Spies) (1957)
- The Barbarian and the Geisha (1958)
- Ben-Hur (1959)
- A Guide for the Married Man (1967)
- Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion (1967)
- La Bataille de San Sebastian (Guns for San Sebastian) (1968)
- Night Gallery (1969)
- The Great Bank Robbery (1969)
- Quarantined (TV, 1970)
- The Dunwich Horror (1970)
- The Old Man Who Cried Wolf (TV, 1970)
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971)
- The Tell-Tale Heart (1971)
- Enemies (TV, 1971)
- Ghost Story (TV, 1972)
- Saba of Sonora (TV, 1973)
- Columbo: Forgotten Lady (TV, 1975)
- The Sad and Lonely Sundays (TV, 1976)
- Gideon's Trumpet (TV, 1980)
- Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)
- Nothing Lasts Forever (1984)
- Rio Abajo (1984)
- The Law and Mr. Jones, 1960–1961, two episodes as Martin Berger
- Naked City, Economy of Death, (1961) as Lazslo Lubasz
- The Islanders, "To Bell a Cat" (1961) as Papa Mathews
- Ben Casey (series, 1961–1965), with Vince Edwards
- Bonanza one episode, "The Emperor Norton" (1966)
- Batman episode 36, 1966
- QB VII (miniseries, 1974)
- Alias Smith and Jones (1971–1972)
- Columbo: Forgotten Lady (1975)
- S.W.A.T. one episode, "Omega One" (1975)
- Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as the Keeper in the two part episode "Flight of the War Witch" (1980)
- The Streets of San Francisco as Alex Zubatuk in "Mr. Nobody" (1974) with Laurie Heineman
- Flint, Peter B. (25 March 1984). "Sam Jaffe, A Character Actor On Stage and Film, Dies at 93". The New York Times.
- Sam Jaffe at Find a Grave
- Sam Jaffe at the Internet Movie Database
- Sam Jaffe at the Internet Broadway Database