Sam Levene

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Sam Levene
Sam Levene in Shadow of the Thin Man trailer.jpg
Levene in The Killers
Born Scholem Lewin
(1905-08-28)August 28, 1905
Russia
Died December 28, 1980(1980-12-28) (aged 75)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting place Mount Carmel Cemetery, Glendale, Queens
Years active 1927–1980
Spouse(s) Constance Kane (1953-?) (divorced) (1 child)
Children Joseph Levene[1]

Sam Levene (born Scholem Lewin, August 28, 1905 – December 28, 1980) was an American Broadway and film actor, known for creating legendary starring comedic roles in numerous original Broadway productions and establishing himself as one of the great noir stalwarts with a long list of film noir credits, a cinematic term used primarily to describe stylish Hollywood crime dramas.

Sam Levene created starring roles in 33 original Broadway productions including: Dinner at Eight (1932), Room Service (1937), Three Men on a Horse (1935), Margin For Error (1939), Light Up the Sky (1948), Guys and Dolls (1950), Fair Game (1957), The Devil's Advocate (1961), written, produced and directed by Dore Schary, based on the novel by Morris West, for which Sam Levene was nominated for the 1961 Tony Award for Best Actor in a play, Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys (1972). In 1954 Sam Levene originated the role of Horace Vandergelder in the world premiere production of Tyrone Guthrie's The Matchmaker in Newcastle, England, a role he also played in the UK production directed by Tyrone Guthrie.

Sam Levene established himself as one the great noir stalwarts; his film noir credits include: Golden Boy (1939), Action in the North Atlantic (1943), The Purple Heart (1944), The Killers (1946), Brute Force, (1947), Crossfire (1947), Boomerang (1947), Killer McCoy (1947), Dial 1119 (1950), Sweet Smell of Success (1957), Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1957).

Sam Levene made his Broadway debut in a 1927 with a five line part in a play titled Wall Street, and over a span of 54 years, appeared on Broadway in 37 shows, of which 33 were original Broadway productions. Sam Levene made his film debut in 1936, recreating the role of Patsy that he had played for seventy weeks in the Broadway production of Three Men on a Horse (1935). He also appeared in the 1944 USO tour of this same show, the first legitimate production mounted overseas; the radio version; the musical version that opened on Broadway called Let It Ride (1961) as well as the 1969 Broadway revival of the play directed by George Abbott, the original Broadway director and co-author.

Sam Levene starred in several Broadway revivals, portraying the roles of: Boss Mangan in George Bernard Shaw's Heartbreak House (1959), Patsy in the revival of Three Men On A Horse (1969) and Oscar Wolfe in the all-star revival of George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's The Royal Family (1975) directed by Ellis Raab; the production was filmed for the PBS series Great Performances on November 9, 1977,[2]; this version was released on DVD. Sam Levene replaced comedian Alan King in the starring role of Dr. Jack Kingsley in The Impossible Years (1965), a role he also played in the 1967 national tour of the play .

Although not known as a singer, Sam Levene originated the role of Nathan Detroit in the original 1950 Broadway production and original cast recording of the musical Guys and Dolls, and later reprised the role of Nathan Detroit in 1953 in the first UK production. His solo number, "Sue Me," was written in one octave to compensate for his lack of vocal range. Sam Levene lost the role to Frank Sinatra in the film version. Guys & Dolls director Joseph L. Mankiewicz wanted original Broadway star Sam Levene, but producer Sam Goldwyn insisted on giving the part to Frank Sinatra. Joseph L. Mankiewicz said "if there could be one person in the world more miscast as Nathan Detroit than Frank Sinatra that would be Laurence Olivier and I am one of his greatest fans; the role had been written for Sam Levene who was divine in it". Fordham Professor of Music Larry Stempel, author of "Showtime: A History of the Broadway Musical Theater" said if given a choice, he would cast Sam Levene, who created the role on Broadway, as the ideal Nathan Detroit instead of Nathan Lane, who played the part in the Broadway revival or Frank Sinatra, who played the part on film, stating "Musically, he may have been tone-deaf, but he inhabited Frank Loesser’s world as a character more than a caricature. Listen to Sam Levene sing “All right, already, I’m just a no-goodnick . . .” on the original Guys & Dolls cast recording of “Sue Me".

Sam Levene never received a Tony Award; by the time the Tony's were established in 1947, Sam Levene had already created roles in 16 original Broadway shows, including original Broadway productions of Dinner at Eight (1932), Three Men on a Horse (1935), Room Service (1937) and Margin For Error (1939). 43 years after making his Broadway debut, Levene made his Off-Broadway debut, starring in Irv Bauer's A Dream Out Of Time at the Promenande Theatre, his only Off-Broadway appearance.

In 1936 Levene moved to Hollywood and made his film debut by re-creating his stage role as Patsy in the film Three Men on a Horse (1936) directed and produced by Mervyn LeRoy. Sam Levene was the only member of the original Broadway production of the play Yellow Jack to appear in the 1938 film of the same name. Sam Levene was cast as a police lieutenant in After the Thin Man (1936), The Mad Miss Manton (1938), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) and The Killers (1946) which included the film debut of Burt Lancaster, who just a year prior was professionally credited as Burton Lancaster when Sam Levene helped the former circus acrobat land a part in the original Broadway production of A Sound of Hunting.

Sam Levene and Burt Lancaster became lifelong friends; when nearly all the major Hollywood studios starting making offers to Burt Lancaster, Sam Levene, Lancaster's co-star in the 1946 Broadway play A Sound of Hunting, offered to represent him. Together Burt Lancaster and Sam Levene were invited to restaurants, hearing offers from David O. Selznick, 20th Century-Fox and Hal B. Wallis, who had a deal at Paramount Pictures, and ultimately introduced Lancaster to Harold Hecht, his long-time agent and Hollywood film production partner. In addition to working together on Broadway, Sam Levene appeared in four films with Burt Lancaster, including: The Killers (1946), Brute Force (1947), Three Sailors and a Girl (1953) and Sweet Smell of Success (1957). Burt Lancaster was one of the speakers at Sam Levene's 1980 West Coast services organized by Joseph K. Levene, the actor's son. Sam Levene played a small but vital role in the 1939 film classic Golden Boy as William Holden's taxi-driving brother-in-law "Siggie", a Doolittle Flyer and Japanese POW in The Purple Heart (1944), and many film noir classics, such as The Killers (1946), Brute Force (1947) and Crossfire (1947). Levene made 49 films total during his Hollywood career. His final film role was in the courtroom drama ...And Justice for All (1979).

In 1960 Sam Levene was awarded the prestigious Actors Fund Medal of Honor, at the time, only the second actor to be awarded the honor; Sam Levene's son Joseph K. Levene donated the medallion given to his dad along with Sam Levene's archives collected and accumulated over the legendary actor's 54 year Broadway career to The Museum of The City of New York.[citation needed] In 1984, Levene was posthumously inducted in the Theatre Hall of Fame; his son, Joseph K. Levene, accepted the award stating "if my dad were here today; he would want to know one thing: why did it take you guys such a long time to give me this award?"

In December 1980, Sam Levene died of a heart attack in New York City.

Partial filmography[edit]

Broadway Performances

Horowitz and Mrs. Washington

Starring Sam Levene as Samuel Horowitz
Originated role, original Broadway production

Apr 02, 1980 - Apr 06, 1980
The Royal Family

Starring Sam Levene as Oscar Wolfe
Broadway Revival

Dec 30, 1975 - Jul 18, 1976
Dreyfus in Rehearsal

Starring Sam Levene as Arnold
Originated role, original Broadway production

Oct 17, 1974 - Oct 26, 1974
The Sunshine Boys

Starring Sam Levene as Al Lewis
Originated role, original Broadway production

Dec 20, 1972 - Apr 21, 1974
Paris Is Out!

Starring Sam Levene as Daniel Brand
Originated role, original Broadway production

Feb 02, 1970 - Apr 18, 1970
Three Men on a Horse

Starring Sam Levene as Patsy
Revival of Broadway production

Oct 16, 1969 - Jan 10, 1970
Nathan Weinstein, Mystic, Connecticut

Starring Sam Levene as Nathan Weinstein
Originated role, original Broadway production

Feb 25, 1966 - Feb 26, 1966
The Impossible Years

Starring Sam Levene as Dr. Jack Kingsley
Replaced Alan King, original Broadway production

Oct 13, 1965 - May 27, 1967
The Last Analysis

Starring Sam Levene as Philip Bummidge
Originated role, original Broadway production

Oct 01, 1964 - Oct 24, 1964
Cafe Crown

Starring Sam Levene as Hymie
Originated role, original Broadway production

Apr 17, 1964 - Apr 18, 1964
Seidman and Son

Starring Sam Levene as Morris Seidman
Originated role, original Broadway production

Oct 15, 1962 - Apr 20, 1963
Let It Ride

Starring Sam Levene as Patsy
Originated role, original Broadway production
Musical version based on Three Men on a Horse by John Cecil Holm and George Abbott.

Oct 12, 1961 - Dec 09, 1961
The Devil's Advocate

Starring Sam Levene as Dr. Aldo Meyer
Originated role, original Broadway production

Mar 09, 1961 - Jun 17, 1961
The Good Soup

Starring Sam Levene as Odilon
Originated role, original Broadway production

Mar 02, 1960 - Mar 19, 1960
Heartbreak House

Starring Sam Levene as Boss Mangan
Broadway revival

Oct 18, 1959 - Jan 23, 1960
Make a Million

Starring Sam Levene as Sid Gray
Originated role, original Broadway production

Oct 23, 1958 - Jul 18, 1959
Fair Game

Starring Sam Levene as Lou Winkler
Originated role, original Broadway production

Nov 02, 1957 - May 10, 1958
The Hot Corner

Starring Sam Levene as Fred Stanley
Directed by Sam Levene
Originated role, original Broadway production

Jan 25, 1956 - Jan 28, 1956
Guys and Dolls

Starring Sam Levene as Nathan Detroit
Originated role, original Broadway production
Sam Levene also starred first UK production & first Las Vegas production

Nov 24, 1950 - Nov 28, 1953
Light Up the Sky

Starring Sam Levene as Sidney Black
Originated role, original Broadway production

Nov 18, 1948 - May 21, 1949
A Sound of Hunting

Starring Sam Levene as Pvt. Dino Collucci
Originated role, original Broadway production
Broadway debut Burt Lancaster

Nov 20, 1945 - Dec 08, 1945
Margin for Error

Starring Sam Levene as Officer Finkelstein
Originated role, original Broadway production

Nov 03, 1939 - Jun 15, 1940
Room Service

Starring Sam Levene as Gordon Miller
Originated role, original Broadway production

May 19, 1937 - Jul 16, 1938
Three Men on a Horse

Starring Sam Levene as Patsy
Originated role, original Broadway production
Motion Picture debut in film of the same name

Jan 30, 1935 - Jan 09, 1937
Spring Song

Performer: Sam Levene as Milton
Originated role, original Broadway production

Oct 01, 1934 - Nov 1934
The Milky Way

Performer: Sam Levene as Gabby Sloan
Replacement, Original Broadway production

May 8, 1934 - Jul 1934
Yellow Jack

Performer: Sam Levene as Busch
Originated role, original Broadway production
Appeared in motion picture

Mar 06, 1934 - May 1934
Dinner At Eight

Starring Sam Levene as Max Kane
Originated role, original Broadway production

Oct 22, 1932 - May 6, 1933
Wonder Boy

Performer: Sam Levene as Schwartz
Originated role, original Broadway production

Oct 22, 1931 - Nov 1931
Three Times the Hour

Performer: Sam Levene as Cooper
Originated role, original Broadway production

Aug 25, 1931 - Sep 1931
The Up and Up

Performer: Sam Levene Solly
Replacement Broadway production

Sep 08, 1930 - Nov 1930
This Man's Town

Performer: Samuel Levene [Rosso]
Originated role, original Broadway production

Mar 10, 1930 - Mar 1930
Headquarters

Performer: Samuel Levene as Isadore Lipwitz
Originated role, original Broadway production

Dec 04, 1929 - Dec 1929
Street Scene

Performer: Sam Levene as Forrest
Replacement Original Broadway production

Jan 10, 1929 - Jun 1930
Tin Pan Alley

Performer: Sam Levene as Telephone Troublehunter
Originated role, original Broadway production

Nov 01, 1928 - Dec 1928
Jarnegan

Performer: Sam Levene as Guest at Leedman's Party
Original Broadway production

Sep 24, 1928 - Jan 1929
Wall Street

Performer: Samuel Levine as William Thompson, Asst. District Attorney
Originated role, original Broadway production, Broadway debut

Apr 20, 1927 - May 1927

References[edit]

https://www.bard.org/news/nathan-detroits-through-time

External links[edit]