Jack Albertson

From Wikipedia the free encyclopedia

Jack Albertson
Albertson in 1971
Harold Albertson

(1907 -06-16)June 16, 1907
DiedNovember 25, 1981(1981-11-25) (aged 74)
Other namesJohn Alberts
  • Actor
  • dancer
  • singer
Years active1926–1981
June Wallace Thomson
(m. 1952)

Harold "Jack" Albertson (June 16, 1907 – November 25, 1981) was an American actor, dancer and singer who also performed in vaudeville.[1] Albertson was a Tony, Oscar, and Emmy winning actor, which ranks him among a rare stature of 24 actors who have been awarded the "Triple Crown of Acting".’

For his performance as John Cleary in the 1964 play The Subject Was Roses and its 1968 film adaptation, he won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play, and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. This again places him amongst a select status as one of eleven peers who have won both awards for the same role. His other roles include Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), Manny Rosen in The Poseidon Adventure (1972), and Ed Brown in the television sitcom Chico and the Man (1974–1978), for which he won an Emmy. For his contributions to the television industry, Albertson was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1977 at 6253 Hollywood Boulevard.[2]

Early life


Albertson was born on June 16, 1907, in Malden, Massachusetts,[3] the son of Russian-Jewish immigrants Flora (née Craft) and Leopold Albertson.[4][5] His older sister was actress Mabel Albertson. Their mother, a stock actress, supported the family by working in a shoe factory.[4] Until the age of 22, Albertson was known as "Harold Albertson".[4] His father abandoned his mother before Jack was born, and the boy was raised by his stepfather, Alex Erlich, a barber.

During a 1972 New York Daily News interview with Sidney Fields, Albertson reminisced:

"I was bright but disruptive. I didn't do homework. To cover, I made wisecracks and funny faces at the teachers. They told me to take my business elsewhere."

Albertson dropped out of high school, ending his formal education after a single year. He worked at several different jobs including: the local General Electric plant; in one of many shoe factories in the Lynn, Massachusetts area; and as a rack boy in neighborhood pool parlors, where he was a fairly good pool hustler, although he was always on guard to avoid playing anyone who could "out-hustle" him. The pool hall provided Albertson with an opportunity to learn a few tap dance routines from his fellow hustlers.

When he was eighteen, he began to be paid for his prize winning shows. His sister Mabel taught him the first "time steps" in tap dancing, and he picked up additional routines by watching vaudeville acts that played his hometown. Around this time, he started singing with a group called "The Golden Rule Four," who held their practice sessions beneath a railroad bridge.[6]





Albertson joined the vaudeville road troupe known as the Dancing Verselle Sisters. He then worked in burlesque as a hoofer (soft shoe dancer) and straight man to Phil Silvers on the Minsky's Burlesque Circuit.[7] Besides vaudeville and burlesque, he appeared on the stage in many Broadway plays and musicals, including High Button Shoes, Top Banana, The Cradle Will Rock, Make Mine Manhattan, Show Boat, Boy Meets Girl, Girl Crazy, Meet the People, The Sunshine Boys – for which he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor, and The Subject Was Roses – for which he won a Tony for Best Supporting Actor.[8]



Albertson appeared in more than 30 films. He had an early minor role in Miracle on 34th Street as a postal worker who redirects dead letters addressed to "Santa Claus" to the courthouse where Kris Kringle is on trial. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1968 film The Subject Was Roses.[9] He later apologized to child actor and fellow nominee Jack Wild for winning the award; Albertson expected Wild to win for his role in Oliver! Also nominated was Albertson's later Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory co-star Gene Wilder, for his role in The Producers.

Albertson appeared as Charlie Bucket's Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), and in The Poseidon Adventure (1972), where he played Manny Rosen,[9] husband to Belle, played by Shelley Winters.

Albertson said that his one regret was that he did not reprise his role in the movie version of The Sunshine Boys. When producer Ray Stark acquired the film rights from Neil Simon in 1973, Albertson was expected to play the part, but by the time MGM had bought the rights in 1974 and was preparing to begin filming in February 1975, Albertson was not available because he was appearing on Chico and the Man on TV.[10]



Albertson was a radio performer early in his career. Among the shows he appeared on were Just Plain Bill, Lefty, That's My Pop and The Jack Albertson Comedy Show. In the late 1940s he was for a time a regular on the Milton Berle Show.[11]



Albertson appeared in many television series, such as Hey, Jeannie! with Jeannie Carson, the syndicated Western series Frontier Doctor with Rex Allen, Rod Cameron's syndicated crime drama State Trooper, and the 1961–1962 drama series Bus Stop. He guest-starred on the David Janssen crime-drama series Richard Diamond, Private Detective.

From 1960 to 1961, Albertson was cast in three episodes of Pete and Gladys, with Harry Morgan and Cara Williams. On January 2, 1961, Albertson was cast as Sampson J. Binton, with DeForest Kelley as Alex Jeffords, in "Listen to the Nightingale", the series finale of Riverboat, starring Darren McGavin.[12] Albertson had a recurring role as the neighbor Walter Burton in eight episodes of the 1962 ABC sitcom Room for One More, with Andrew Duggan and Peggy McCay. He had recurring roles in Ensign O'Toole (1962–63)[13] and Run, Buddy, Run (1966). Between 1961 and 1964, Albertson appeared seven times on Mister Ed as Paul Fenton, brother-in-law (later just brother) to Wilbur Post's next-door-neighbor Kay, appearing as a stopgap regular for several episodes after the death of Larry Keating in 1963.

Other 1960s series on which Albertson appeared were: NBC's sitcom Happy, starring Ronnie Burns; Glynis, starring Glynis Johns; and Keith Andes, which aired for 13 weeks in the fall of 1963. Albertson appeared in two episodes of The Twilight Zone.[14] In a 1967 episode of The Andy Griffith Show, he played the ne'er-do-well cousin, Bradford J. Taylor, of series character Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier). He also appeared in a 1969 episode of the TV series The Virginian entitled "Girl in the Shadows." He appeared in The Big Valley episode "The Battle of Mineral Springs" (1969). In 1970, Albertson appeared as Billy "Moose" Valentine in The Men From Shiloh, the rebranded name for The Virginian in the episode titled "With Love, Bullets and Valentines".

From 1971 to 1972, he co-starred, with actor Sam Groom, in the Canadian TV series Dr. Simon Locke. He then co-starred as "The Man" Ed Brown on the popular series Chico and the Man with Freddie Prinze. He stayed for its entire run from 1974 to 1978. He earned an Emmy Award for that role in 1976, which was his second; his first was for an appearance on the variety show Cher in 1975.[15]

Personal life


He resided for many years in West Hollywood, California. In 1978, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, but kept this information private and continued to act. Two of his last roles were in the television movies, My Body, My Child (1982) and Grandpa, Will You Run with Me? (1983), both filmed in 1981 and released posthumously. His final theatrical role was as the hunter, Amos Slade, in Disney's 24th animated feature, The Fox and the Hound, originally released in the summer of 1981, four months before his death.

He and his wife, June, had a daughter, Maura Dhu.[16]



On the morning of November 25, 1981, Albertson died at his Los Angeles home in the Hollywood Hills[15] at the age of 74 from colon cancer.[8] He and his elder sister, Bewitched actress Mabel Albertson (who died ten months later from Alzheimer's disease), were cremated and their ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.[3]




Year Title Role Notes
1938 Next Time I Marry Reporter
1940 Strike Up the Band Barker Uncredited
1947 Miracle on 34th Street Al Uncredited
1952 Anything Can Happen Flower Vendor Uncredited
1954 Top Banana Vic Davis
1955 Bring Your Smile Along Mr. Jenson
1956 Over-Exposed Les Bauer
The Harder They Fall Pop
The Eddy Duchin Story Piano tuner Uncredited
The Unguarded Moment Prof
You Can't Run Away from It Third proprietor
1957 Monkey on My Back Sam Pian
Man of a Thousand Faces Dr. J. Wilson Shields
Don't Go Near the Water Rep. George Jansen
1958 Teacher's Pet Guide
1959 Never Steal Anything Small Sleep-Out Charlie Barnes
The Shaggy Dog Reporter Uncredited
1961 The George Raft Story Milton
Lover Come Back Fred
1962 Convicts 4 Art Teacher
Period of Adjustment Desk Sergeant
Who's Got the Action? Officer Hodges
Days of Wine and Roses Trayner
1963 Son of Flubber Mr. Barley
1964 Kissin' Cousins Capt. Robert Jason Salbo
A Tiger Walks Sam Grant
The Patsy Theatergoer with Helen
Roustabout Lou (tea house manager)
1965 How to Murder Your Wife Dr. Bentley
1967 The Flim-Flam Man Mr. Packard
1968 How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life Mr. Slotkin
The Subject Was Roses John Cleary Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor[17]
1969 Changes The Father
Justine Cohen
1970 Squeeze a Flower Alfredo Brazzi
Rabbit, Run Marty Tothero
1971 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Grandpa Joe Bucket
The Late Liz Reverend Gordon Rogers
1972 Pickup on 101 Jedediah Bradley
The Poseidon Adventure Manny Rosen
1981 Dead & Buried William G. Dobbs
The Fox and the Hound Amos Slade Voice, final theatrical role


Year Title Role Notes
1956 Burns and Allen Eddie 'Bozo Schultz' Wilson Episode: "Burlesque"
I Love Lucy Helicopter Dispatcher Episode: "Bon Voyage"
Crusader Ernie Duchek Episode: "The Syndicate"
Sheriff of Cochise Greenbriar Merritt Episode: "Closed for Repairs"
1957–1959 The Thin Man Lt. Harry Evans 14 episodes
1957–1960 Have Gun – Will Travel Mayor Whiteside
Jason Coldwell
3 episodes
1958 Bachelor Father Charlie Sharpe
2 episodes
The People's Choice Luther Jenkins Episode: "Daisies Won't Tell", with Jackie Cooper
1959 Richard Diamond, Private Detective Fallace Episode: "Boomerang Bait"
1959–1961 The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis Bison Lodge Member
Police Sergeant
Newspaper Reporter
Mr. Quimby
Police chief
5 episodes
1959–1962 The Jack Benny Program Reporter 6 episodes
1960 The Gale Storm Show Freddy Morell Episode: "Show Biz"
The Tab Hunter Show Coach Episode: "My Darling Teacher"
The Ann Sothern Show Mr. Dooley Episode: "Billy"
Happy Ed Langley Episode: "Chris' Night Out"
Klondike Eskimo Eddie Episode: "Sure Thing, Men"
1961 Riverboat Sampson J. Binton Episode: "Listen to the Nightingale"'
The Tab Hunter Show Harry
Dr. Hocker
P. T. Bailey
Episode: "Weekend on Ice"
Episode: "Me and My Shadow"
Episode: "Crazy Over Horses"
The Twilight Zone Jerry Harlowe Episode: "The Shelter"[14]
1961–1964 Mister Ed Paul Fenton 7 episodes
1962 The Dick Van Dyke Show Mr. Eisenbauer Episode: "The Twizzle"
Bus Stop Lawson Episode: "Turn Home Again"
Lawman Doc Peters Episode: "The Unmasked"
Saints and Sinners Dr. Felixson Episode: "All the Hard Young Men"
Room for One More Walter Burton 8 episodes
1962–1963 Ensign O'Toole Lt. Cdr. Virgil Stoner 32 episodes[13]
1963 Glynis Al Episode: "The Pros and Cons"[13]
The Twilight Zone The Genie Episode: "I Dream of Genie"[14]
The Lieutenant District Attorney George O'Leery Episode: "Cool of the Evening"
1964 Death Valley Days Pearlman Episode: "Sixty-Seven Miles of Gold"
1966–1967 Run for Your Life Harry Krissel 2 episodes
1967 The Andy Griffith Show Bradford J. Taylor Episode: "Aunt Bee's Cousin"
1968 Ironside Money Howard Episode: "Side Pocket"'
1968 Here Come the Brides role as Merlin S1, E10 "A Man and His Magic"
1968–1972 Bonanza Jonathan May
Enos Blessing
2 episodes
1969 The Big Valley Judge Ben Moore Episode: "The Battle of Mineral Springs"
The Monk Tinker ABC Movie of the Week
1969–1970 Land of the Giants Professor Kirmus
2 episodes
The Virginian Billy "Moose" Valentine
Nathaniel E. "Doc" Watson
2 episodes
1969–1974 Gunsmoke Moses Darby
Joshua Finch
Lucius Prince
Danny Wilson
3 episodes
1970 Marcus Welby, M.D. Mr. Chambers Episode: "Go Get 'Em, Tiger"
The Immortal Dr. Koster Episode: "Reflections on a Lost Tomorrow"
Daniel Boone Sweet Episode: "Run for the Money"
Nanny and the Professor Edwin Higgenbotham Botkin Episode: "The Haunted House"
1971 Sarge Harry Wainwright Episode: "A Terminal Case of Vengeance"
Love, American Style Archie Segment: "Love and the Second Time"
1971–1972 Dr. Simon Locke Dr. Andrew Sellers
1972 Night Gallery Bullivant Episode: "Dead Weight"
1973 The Streets of San Francisco Tim Murphy Episode: "The Set-Up"
1974 Gunsmoke Moses Darby Episode: "Cowtown Hustler" S19E22 Aired on May 11, 1974 Archived March 3, 2019, at the Wayback Machine
1974–1978 Chico and the Man Ed Brown 88 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (1976)[17]
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (1975, 1977)[17]
1975 Tony Orlando and Dawn Himself Episode: #1.20
Mitzi and 100 Guys Himself TV movie
Cher Himself Episode: "Episode #1.4"
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Continuing or Single Performance by a Supporting Actor in Variety or Music[17]
Match Game '75 Himself 5 episodes
1976 Donny & Marie Himself 1 Episode dated April 6, 1976
Andy Himself 1 Episode dated October 6, 1976
1978 Grandpa Goes to Washington Senator Joe Kelley 7 episodes[13]
1980 Charlie's Angels Edward Jordan Episode: "Angel in Hiding"
1981 Charlie and the Great Balloon Chase Charlie Bartlett TV movie
1982 My Body, My Child Poppa MacMahon TV movie; filmed in 1981; released posthumously; final television role
Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special
Terror at Alcatraz George 'Deacon' Wheeler TV movie, (final film role)


Year Title Role Notes
1940 Meet the People
1942 Strip for Action Eddie
1944 Allah Be Praised! Caswell / Emir
1945 A Lady Say Yes Dr. Bartoli
1947 High Button Shoes Mr. Pontdue (replacement)
The Cradle Will Rock Yasha
1950 Tickets, Please! Roller Derby
1951 Top Banana Vic Davis
1964 The Subject Was Roses John Cleary Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play
1972 The Sunshine Boys Willie Clark Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance
Nominated – Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Play

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Results Ref.
1968 Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor The Subject Was Roses Won [18]
1973 Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Performance The Sunshine Boys Won [19]
1975 Primetime Emmy Awards Outstanding Continuing or Single Performance by a Supporting Actor in Variety or Music Cher Won [20]
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series Chico and the Man Nominated
1976 Won
1977 Nominated
1982 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Special My Body, My Child Nominated[a]
1965 Tony Awards Best Featured Actor in a Play The Subject Was Roses Won [21]
1973 Best Leading Actor in a Play The Sunshine Boys Nominated [22]

See also



  1. ^ Albertson received this nomination posthumously, having died in '81 prior to those two succeeding '82 events: the television premiere of the film and the subsequent Emmys ceremony.


  1. ^ Obituary Variety, December 2, 1981.
  2. ^ "Hollywood Walk of Fame – Jack Albertson". walkoffame.com. Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
  3. ^ a b "Wallace Thomson Albertson Obituary". Los Angeles Times. April 26, 2015.
  4. ^ a b c Jack Albertson's Kinship to Cloris Leachman Archived October 8, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, genealogymagazine.com; accessed October 19, 2015.
  5. ^ Berkvist, Robert (January 7, 1973). "Jack Spreads A Little Sunshine; Jack Spreads Sunshine". The New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  6. ^ "Current Biography 1976". The H.W. Wilson Company. 1976. P#3-4
  7. ^ Sage, Dusty (June 7, 2016). Burlesque In a Nutshell – Girls, Gimmicks & Gags. BearManor Media.
  8. ^ a b Jack Albertson at the Internet Broadway Database
  9. ^ a b Jack Alberston on TCM.com
  10. ^ Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys at the AFI Catalog of Feature Films
  11. ^ Terrace, Vincent. (1998) Radio Programs, 1924–1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland. p.229 ISBN 9780786445134
  12. ^ ""Listen to the Nightingale", Riverboat". IMDb.com. January 2, 1961. Retrieved February 21, 2013.
  13. ^ a b c d Leszczak, Bob (November 8, 2012). Single Season Sitcoms, 1948–1979: A Complete Guide. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-9305-0.
  14. ^ a b c Presnell, Don; McGee, Marty (July 11, 2015). A Critical History of Television's The Twilight Zone, 1959–1964. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-1038-2.
  15. ^ a b "From the Archives: Jack Albertson Dies of Cancer". Los Angeles Times. November 26, 1981. Retrieved February 25, 2020.
  16. ^ Blau, Eleanor (November 28, 1981). "Jack Albertson, Versatile Star of Stage, Film and TV Series". The New York Times.
  17. ^ a b c d Franks, Don (September 22, 2004). Entertainment Awards: A Music, Cinema, Theatre and Broadcasting Guide, 1928 through 2003, 3d ed. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-1798-8.
  18. ^ "The 41st Academy Awards (1969) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved August 25, 2011.
  19. ^ "Nominees and Recipients – 1973 Awards". Drama Desk Awards. Retrieved October 3, 2023.
  20. ^ "Jack Albertson". Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Retrieved October 3, 2023.
  21. ^ "1965 Tony Awards". Tony Awards. Retrieved October 3, 2023.
  22. ^ "1973 Tony Awards". Tony Awards. Retrieved October 3, 2023.