March 10, 1891
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||March 24, 1984
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Cancer|
|Resting place||Eden Memorial Park Cemetery in Mission Hills, California|
|Other names||Sam C. Jaffe|
|Education||City College of New York, (B.Sc. Engineering, 1912) |
|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 graduated from Townsend Harris High School and studied engineering at City College of New York, graduating in 1912. He later attended Columbia University for graduate studies. He also worked for several years as a teacher, and then dean, of mathematics at the Bronx Cultural Institute, a college preparatory school, before returning to acting in 1915.
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. In 1938, Jaffe was forty-seven years old when he played the title role of water "boy" Gunga Din. 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. In 1975, he co-starred as a retired doctor who is murdered by Janet Leigh in the Columbo episode "Forgotten Lady". 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.
- A Cheap Vacation (1916 short)
- The Scarlet Empress (1934) - Grand Duke Peter
- We Live Again (1934) - Gregory Simonson
- Lost Horizon (1937) - High Lama
- Gunga Din (1939) - Gunga Din
- Stage Door Canteen (1943) - Sam Jaffe
- 13 Rue Madeleine (1946) - Mayor Galimard
- Gentleman's Agreement (1947) - Professor Fred Lieberman
- The Accused (1949) - Dr. Romley
- Rope of Sand (1949) - Dr. Francis Hunter
- The Asphalt Jungle (1950) - Doc Erwin Riedenschneider
- Under the Gun (1951) - Samuel Gower
- I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1951) - Sam Cooper
- The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) - Professor Jacob Barnhardt
- Main Street to Broadway (1953) - Sam Jaffe- First Nighter (uncredited)
- Les Espions (The Spies) (1957) - Sam Cooper
- The Barbarian and the Geisha (1958) - Henry Heusken
- Ben-Hur (1959) - Simonides
- A Guide for the Married Man (1967) - Technical Adviser (Shrink)
- Tarzan's Jungle Rebellion (1967) (archive footage) - Dr. Singleton
- La Bataille de San Sebastian (Guns for San Sebastian) (1968) - Father Joseph
- The Great Bank Robbery (1969) - Brother Lilac Bailey (Art Forger)
- The Dunwich Horror (1970) - Old Whateley
- Quarantined (1970 TV movie) - Mr. Berryman
- The Old Man Who Cried Wolf (1970 TV movie) - Abe Stillman
- Who Killed the Mysterious Mr. Foster? (1971 TV movie) - Toby
- Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971) - Bookman
- Enemies (1971 TV movie) - Gittelman
- The Tell-Tale Heart (1971 short) - The Old Man
- Saga of Sonora (1973 movie) - Old Sam
- The Sad and Lonely Sundays (1976 TV movie) - Dr. Sweeny
- Gideon's Trumpet (1980 TV movie) - 1st Supreme Court Justice
- Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) - Dr. Hephaestus
- Nothing Lasts Forever (1984) - Father Knickerbocker
- Rio Abajo (1984) - El Gabacho (Last appearance)
- The Law and Mr. Jones, 1960–1961, two episodes as Martin Berger
- The Westerner, episode "The Old Man" (1961) - Old Man McKeen
- The Untouchables, episode "Augie 'The Banker' Ciamino" (1961) - Luigi Valcone
- Naked City, Economy of Death (1961) - Lazslo Lubasz
- The Islanders, "To Bell a Cat" (1961) - Papa Mathews
- Ben Casey (series, 1961–1965), with Vince Edwards (127 episodes)
- Daniel Boone, episode "The First Beau" (1965) - Jed Tolson
- Bonanza, episode "The Emperor Norton" (1966) - Joshua Norton
- Batman, episode "Walk The Straight and Narrow" (1966) - Zoltan Zorba (uncredited)
- Night Gallery, "The Escape Route" segment (1969)
- Alias Smith and Jones, episodes "The Great Shell Game" (1971), "A Fistful of Diamonds" (1971) and "Bad Night in Big Butte" (1972) - Soapy Saunders
- The Snoop Sisters, episode "Corpse and Robbers" (1973) - Issac Waldersack
- QB VII (1974 miniseries)
- The Streets of San Francisco, episode "Mr. Nobody" (1974) - Alex Zubatuk
- S.W.A.T., episode "Omega Red" (1975) - Dr. Brunner
- Columbo: "Forgotten Lady" (1975)
- Harry O, episode "The Acolyte" (1975) - Dr. Howard Cambridge
- The Bionic Woman, episode "Kill Oscar: Part 3" (1976) - Admiral Richter
- Kojak, episode "Tears for All Who Loved Her" (1977) - Papa
- Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, episode "Flight Of The War Witch" (1980) - Council Leader
- Flint, Peter B. (25 March 1984). "Sam Jaffe, A Character Actor On Stage and Film, Dies at 93". The New York Times.