Lou Jacobi

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Lou Jacobi
Lou Jacobi in Ivan the Terrible 1976.jpg
Jacobi in Ivan the Terrible (1976)
Louis Harold Jacobovitch

(1913-12-28)December 28, 1913
DiedOctober 23, 2009(2009-10-23) (aged 95)
Years active1924-1994
Ruth Ludwin
(m. 1957; died 2004)

Lou Jacobi (born Louis Harold Jacobovitch; December 28, 1913 – October 23, 2009) was a Canadian character actor.

Life and early career[edit]

Jacobi was born Louis Harold Jacobovitch in Toronto, Canada, to Joseph and Fay Jacobovitch.[1]

Jacobi began acting as a boy, making his stage debut in 1924 at a Toronto theater, playing a violin prodigy in The Rabbi and the Priest. After working as the drama director of the Toronto Y.M.H.A., the social director at a summer resort, a stand-up comic in Canada's equivalent of the Borscht Belt, and the entertainment at various weddings and bachelor parties, Jacobi moved to London to work on the stage, appearing in Guys and Dolls and Pal Joey. Jacobi made his Broadway debut in 1955 in The Diary of Anne Frank playing Hans van Daan, the less-than-noble occupant of the Amsterdam attic where the Franks were hiding, and reprised the role in the 1959 film version. Other Broadway performances included Paddy Chayefsky’s The Tenth Man (1959), Woody Allen’s Don’t Drink the Water (1966), and Neil Simon’s debut play Come Blow Your Horn (1961), in which he portrayed the playboy protagonist’s disappointed father. His reading of the film line "Aha!" stuck with the Times columnist William Safire so vividly that he cited it when writing about the meaning of the word 40 years later.[2]

Jacobi's star on Canada's Walk of Fame

Screen career[edit]

Jacobi's film debut was in the 1953 British comedy, Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary? with the country's blond sex symbol of the day, Diana Dors. Other notable films in which he appeared include, The Diary of Anne Frank (1959), Irma la Douce (1963), Penelope (1966), Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972) as Sam Musgrave, a middle-aged married man experimenting with women's clothes, Arthur (1981) as the lucky florist, My Favorite Year (1982) as Benjy's unsophisticated Uncle Morty, and in Amazon Women on the Moon (1987), as a man named Murray who got zapped into the television and is wandering throughout sketches looking for his wife. In Barry Levinson's Avalon (1990), in a semi-dramatic role, as one of four Russian brothers (elders) trying to build a future in Baltimore in the early 20th century, with the memorable comic relief catchphrase, "You cut the turkey!?" after he would notoriously arrive late to family Thanksgiving dinner, every year. His final film role was I.Q. (1994), playing philosopher/mathematician Kurt Gödel.[3]

He guest-starred on such television shows as Playhouse 90, Too Close for Comfort, Tales from the Darkside, Love, American Style, That Girl, Sanford and Son, Barney Miller and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and was a regular on The Dean Martin Show. In the summer of 1976, Jacobi was the star of a CBS comedy series Ivan the Terrible, in which he played a Russian headwaiter living with nine other people in a small Moscow apartment.[3] Comics Christopher Hewett, Phil Leeds, Alan Cauldwell and, in her TV series debut, Nana Visitor (here billed under her birth name, Nana Tucker). Harvey Korman appeared as a Soviet bureaucrat in an uncredited cameo at the close of each episode. The executive producer of the short-lived series was noted comic Alan King. The comedy series only lasted 5 episodes.

In 1999, Jacobi, who was 85 at the time, was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame.[4] On the occasion of the dedication, film critic Roger Ebert interviewed Jacobi, later writing, "I look at Lou, and I’m not afraid to be 85, if I can get there in Lou's style."

Personal life[edit]

Jacobi was married to Ruth Ludwin from 1957 until her death in 2004. Jacobi died on October 23, 2009, of natural causes, at his home in Manhattan. He was 95. He was survived by his brother, Avrom Jacobovitch, and sister, Rae Jacobovitch, both of Toronto.

Jacobi was one of the voice inspirations for the Futurama character Dr. Zoidberg.[5]


Year Title Role Notes
1953 Is Your Honeymoon Really Necessary? Captain Noakes
1953 The Good Beginning Bookmaker Uncredited
1955 A Kid for Two Farthings Blackie Isaacs
1956 Charley Moon Theatre Manager
1959 The Diary of Anne Frank Mr. Hans Van Daan
1960 Song Without End Potin
1963 Irma la Douce Moustache
1966 The Last of the Secret Agents? Papa Leo
1966 Penelope Ducky
1970 Cotton Comes to Harlem Goodman
1971 Little Murders Judge Stern
1971 The Battle of Love's Return Talking Head Uncredited
1972 Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) Sam
1976 Next Stop, Greenwich Village Herb
1976 Everybody Rides the Carousel Stage 1 Voice
1977 Roseland Stan (The Waltz)
1979 The Magician of Lublin Wolsky
1980 The Lucky Star Elia Goldberg
1981 Arthur Plant Store Owner
1981 Chu Chu and the Philly Flash Landlord
1982 My Favorite Year Uncle Morty
1984 Isaac Littlefeathers Abe
1986 The Boss' Wife Harry Taphorn
1987 Amazon Women on the Moon Murray (segment "Murray in Videoland")
1990 Avalon Gabriel Krichinsky
1992 I Don't Buy Kisses Anymore Irving Fein
1994 I.Q. Kurt Gödel (final film role)


  1. ^ Gates, Anita (2009-10-25), "Lou Jacobi, Critically Acclaimed Actor of Film and Stage, Dies at 95", New York Times, retrieved 2009-10-26
  2. ^ Safire, William (1997-02-16). "Aha!". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-02-11.
  3. ^ a b Lou Jacobi at IMDb
  4. ^ "Toronto-born actor-comedian Lou Jacobi dead at 95", CTV, 25 October 2009, retrieved 2009-10-26
  5. ^ "Billy West: The Many (Cartoon) Voices In His Head". Fresh Air. National Public Radio. July 15, 2010. Retrieved September 5, 2010. 'That voice is a combination of a couple of people in show business that I always found really funny and interesting. ... One was from vaudeville ... named George Jessel, and he was the 'Toastmaster General of the United States,' and he would always have appropriate toasts for every occasion. And he had a kind of a marble mouth. ... And the other guy was an actor by the name of Lou Jacobi. He was in the movie Arthur.'

Further reading[edit]

  • Oderman, Stuart, Talking to the Piano Player 2. BearManor Media, 2009; ISBN 1-59393-320-7.

External links[edit]