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Akim Mikhailovich Tamiroff (Armenian: Ակիմ Թամիրով, Russian: Аким Михайлович Тамиров; birth name Hovakim Tamirian, Armenian: Հովակիմ Թամիրյան; 29 October 1899 – 17 September 1972) was an Armenian-American actor. He won the first Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor, was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and appeared in at least 80 American motion pictures in a career spanning thirty-seven years.

Akim Tamiroff
Akim Tamiroff 1964.jpg
Akim Tamiroff in the Netherlands in 1964
Akim Mikhailovich Tamiroff

(1899-10-29)October 29, 1899
DiedSeptember 17, 1972(1972-09-17) (aged 72)
Years active1932–1972
Spouse(s)Tamara Shayne (1932–1972; his death)



Tamiroff was born in Baku, Russian Empire, on the Caspian Sea,[1] to an Armenian family.[2] He trained at the Moscow Art Theatre drama school for nine years.[3] He arrived in the U.S. for the first time, in January 1923 on a three-month tour with a troupe of actors. He returned in November and stayed until 1924. His final trip with his theatre group was in October 1927 when he decided to stay permanently.[1][4][5] Tamiroff managed to develop a career in Hollywood despite his thick accent.

Film careerEdit

In Touch of Evil (1958)

Tamiroff's film debut came in 1932 in an uncredited role in Okay, America!. He performed in several more uncredited roles until 1935, when he co-starred in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer. He also appeared in the lavish epic China Seas in 1935 with Clark Gable, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, Rosalind Russell and Robert Benchley. The following year, he was cast in the titular role in The General Died at Dawn. He appeared in the 1937 musical High, Wide, and Handsome with Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott, and the 1938 proto-noir Dangerous to Know opposite Anna May Wong, frequently singled out as his best role.

In the following decade, he appeared in such films as The Buccaneer (1938) with Fredric March, The Great McGinty (1940), The Corsican Brothers (1941), Tortilla Flat (1942) with Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamarr and John Garfield, Five Graves to Cairo (1943) with Erich von Stroheim as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, Frank Borzage's His Butler's Sister (1943), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman, for which he received another Oscar nomination, and Preston Sturges' The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944).

In later years, Tamiroff appeared in Ocean's 11 (1960) with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin's Rat Pack, Topkapi (1964) with Peter Ustinov and Simone Signoret, Alphaville (1965), and had a long collaboration with Orson Welles including Touch of Evil (1958) with Charlton Heston, Mr Arkadin (1955), The Trial (1962) and Welles' unfinished version of Don Quixote, in which he played Sancho Panza.


While Tamiroff may not be a household name now, his malapropistic performance as the boss in The Great McGinty is thought to have been the inspiration for the cartoon character Boris Badenov, the male half of the villainous husband-and-wife team Boris and Natasha on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.[6] He was also spoofed in a 1969 episode of the TV show H.R. Pufnstuf entitled "The Stand-in" in which a frog named "Akim Toadanoff" directs a movie on Living Island.

Personal lifeEdit

Tamiroff's accepted birth year was 1899, although in at least two instances this appeared to be different. In his second trip to America in November 1923[7] his age is given as 27 and in the 1930 census as 32.[8] He married fellow actress Tamara Shayne, with whom he performed nightclub acts,[1] in February 1933[9] in Los Angeles. Yet, according to the above-mentioned 1930 census,[8] the couple was living in Chicago, Illinois as married under the (misspelled) name Tameriroff. It appears also that this was his second marriage.


Tamiroff died on September 17, 1972, from cancer.


In 1944 Tamiroff was the very first Golden Globe Award winner (Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture) for his work in For Whom the Bell Tolls.[10]

He was twice nominated for Academy Awards, both times for Actor in a Supporting Role. The first was for his work in The General Died at Dawn, and the second was for his work in For Whom the Bell Tolls.[11]

In popular cultureEdit

Tamiroff was mentioned in J. D. Salinger's "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" (1942 New Yorker). He is also mentioned in Walker Percy's 1961 novel The Moviegoer.[12]

Selected filmographyEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Akim Tamiroff, Actor, Is Dead; Had Screen Career of 35 Years". The New York Times. 19 September 1972. Archived from the original on 24 March 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  2. ^ The Multi-Russian: Akim Tamiroff. (2007-05-13). Retrieved on 2014-04-01.
  3. ^ "Russians in Hollywood".
  4. ^ 'Practice Fun' Music Studio Archived 2006-10-29 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2014-04-01.
  5. ^ "Akim Tamiroff". Archived from the original on February 1, 2005. Retrieved September 2, 2016.. Retrieved on 2014-04-01.
  6. ^ Low-rated and barely animated, Rocky & Bullwinkle became a TV touchstone. Retrieved on July 8, 2013.
  7. ^ 1923 passenger list, Birth year 1896. "".
  8. ^ a b Census 1930, Tameriroff couple. "".
  9. ^ Marriage date. "".
  10. ^ "Golden Globe Awards for 'Akim Tamiroff'". Golden Globe Awards. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on 16 January 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  11. ^ "("Tamiroff" search results)". Academy Awards Database. Retrieved 24 March 2018.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ The Moviegoer. (New York: Vintage, 1998), 165

External linksEdit