Akim Mikhailovich Tamiroff[a] (born Hovakim Tamiryants;[b] October 29, 1899 – September 17, 1972) was an Armenian-American actor of film, stage, and television. One of the premier character actors of Hollywood's Golden Age, Tamiroff appeared in at least 80 motion pictures in a career spanning 37 years, developing a prolific career despite his thick accent.
October 29, 1899
|Died||September 17, 1972 (aged 72)|
Palm Springs, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||Moscow Art Theatre|
He was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performances in The General Died at Dawn (1936) and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), and the latter won him the first Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. Orson Welles, a personal friend and oft-collaborator, praised him as "the greatest of all screen actors."
Early life and educationEdit
Tamiroff was born Hovakim Tamiryants (Armenian: Հովակիմ Թամիրյանց) to Armenian parents living in the Russian Empire. Different sources cite either Tiflis (in modern-day Georgia) or Baku (in modern-day Azerbaijan) as places of birth. His father was an oil worker, and his mother a seamstress. He trained at the Moscow Art Theatre drama school for nine years from the age of 19, where he was a pupil of Konstantin Stanislavski. During that time, he changed his name to the russified moniker Akim Mikhailovich Tamiroff (Russian: Аким Михайлович Тамиров).
During his time at the Theatre, he became acquainted with fellow Armenian Nikita Balieff. Following the Russian Revolution, Tamiroff and several other émigrés joined Balieff in Paris to form the La Chauve-Souris touring revue.
He arrived in the U.S. for the first time, in January 1923 on a three-month tour with the revue, and starred in a repertory of Russian plays directed by Stanislavski. He returned in November and stayed until 1924. His final trip with them was in October 1927 when he decided to stay permanently. He joined the Theatre Guild in New York City, where he met his wife Tamara Shayne. Both were later naturalized as United States citizens.
Film and television careerEdit
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). Though ethnically Armenian, his many character roles have included a range of ethnicities, including Russian, Mexican, and Chinese.
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 Melina Mercouri, 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's unfinished version of Don Quixote, in which he played Sancho Panza.
He was twice nominated for Academy Awards, both times for Best 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.
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 his age is given as 27 and in the 1930 census as 32. He married fellow actress Tamara Shayne, with whom he performed nightclub acts, in February 1933 in Los Angeles. Yet, according to the above-mentioned 1930 census, the couple was living in Chicago, Illinois as married under the (misspelled) name Tameriroff. It appears also that this was his second marriage.
Tamiroff was fluent in five languages - Armenian, Russian, English, French, and Italian.
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. 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. He was mentioned in J.D. Salinger's "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" (1942 New Yorker), and the Walker Percy's 1961 novel The Moviegoer.
|1932||Okay, America!||Bit Role||Uncredited|
|1933||Clear All Wires!||Moscow Hotel Clerk|
|Gabriel Over the White House||Delegate to The Debt Conference|
|Professional Sweetheart||The Hotel Waiter|
|Storm at Daybreak||Gypsy Fiddler|
|The Devil's in Love||Adjutant|
|1934||Fugitive Lovers||Deaf-Mute Bus Passenger|
|The Great Flirtation||Paul Wengler|
|Whom the Gods Destroy||Peter Korotoff|
|Straight Is the Way||Mr. Slavko||Uncredited|
|Now and Forever||French Jeweller|
|The Scarlet Empress||Granin||Uncredited|
|The Merry Widow||Maxim's Manager|
|Lady by Choice||Poupolis|
|The Captain Hates the Sea||General Salazaro|
|Here is My Heart||Manager of Hotel|
|1935||The Lives of a Bengal Lancer||Emir|
|La Veuve joyeuse||Le Turc|
|The Winning Ticket||Giuseppe|
|Reckless||Chef At Wedding||Uncredited|
|Go into Your Dance||Mexican In La Cucaracha Cantina|
|Paris in Spring||Cafe Manager|
|China Seas||Paul Romanoff|
|The Gay Deception||Spellek|
|The Big Broadcast of 1936||Boris|
|The Last Outpost||Mirov||Uncredited|
|1936||The Story of Louis Pasteur||Dr. Zaranoff|
|Woman Trap||Joe Ramirez De La Valle|
|Anthony Adverse||Carlo Cibo|
|The General Died at Dawn||General Yang||Nominated- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|The Jungle Princess||Karen Neg|
|I Loved a Soldier||Unknown||Unfinished|
|1937||Her Husband Lies||Ed "Big Ed" Bullock|
|The Soldier and the Lady||Ogareff|
|King of Gamblers||Steve Kalkas|
|The Great Gambini||The Great Gambini|
|High, Wide, and Handsome||Joe Varese|
|This Way Please||Tartar Chieftain||Uncredited|
|1938||The Buccaneer||Dominique You|
|Dangerous to Know||Stephan Recka|
|Spawn of the North||"Red" Skain|
|Ride a Crooked Mile||Mike Balan|
|1939||Paris Honeymoon||Mayor Peter Karloca|
|King of Chinatown||Frank Baturin|
|The Magnificent Fraud||Jules LaCroix / President Alvarado|
|Honeymoon in Bali||Tony, The Window Washer|
|Disputed Passage||Dr. "Tubby" Forster|
|1940||The Way of All Flesh||Paul Kriza|
|The Great McGinty||The Boss|
|North West Mounted Police||Dan Duroc|
|Texas Rangers Ride Again||Mio Pio|
|1941||New York Town||Stefan Janowski|
|The Corsican Brothers||Baron Colonna|
|1942||Reap the Wild Wind||The Lamb (voice)||Uncredited|
|1943||Five Graves to Cairo||Farid|
|For Whom the Bell Tolls||Pablo||Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture|
Nominated- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
|His Butler's Sister||Popoff|
|1944||The Miracle of Morgan's Creek||The Boss|
|The Bridge of San Luis Rey||Uncle Pio|
|Dragon Seed||Wu Lien|
|Can't Help Singing||Prince Gregory Stroganovsky|
|1945||Pardon My Past||Jim Arnold|
|1946||A Scandal in Paris||Emile Vernet|
|The Gangster||Nick Jammey|
|1948||My Girl Tisa||Mr. Grumbach|
|1949||Outpost in Morocco||Lieutenant Glysko|
|1953||Desert Legion||Private Plevko|
|1954||They Who Dare||Captain George One|
|You Know What Sailors Are||The President of Agraria|
|1955||Cartouche||Il Marchese Di Salpiere|
|The Widow||Carlo Serra|
|Mr. Arkadin||Jakob Zouk|
|1956||The Black Sleep||Odo|
|Anastasia||Boris Andreevich Chernov|
|1957||Yangtse Incident: The Story of H.M.S. Amethyst||Colonel Peng|
|1958||Touch of Evil||Joe "Uncle Joe" Grandi|
|Me and the Colonel||Szabuniewicz|
|1959||Desert Desperadoes||The Merchant|
|1960||Ocean's 11||Spyros Acebos|
|1961||La moglie di mio marito||Presidente Agenzia Pubblicitaria|
|Romanoff and Juliet||Vadim Romanoff|
|The Last Judgment||The Director|
|The Italian Brigands||'O Zingaro|
|Ursus and the Tartar Princess||Khan of the Tartars|
|1962||Invasion 1700||Jan Onufry Zagłoba|
|The Reluctant Saint||Bishop Durso|
|A Queen for Caesar||Gnaeus Pompeius|
|1964||The Black Tulip||Marquis de Vigogne|
|Topkapi||Gerven, The Cook|
|Spuit Elf||Bakker / Brandmeester|
|1965||Le bambole||Monsignor Arcudi||Segment: "Monsignor Cupido"|
|Crime on a Summer Morning||Frank Kramer|
|Marco the Magnificent||The Old Man of the Mountain|
|Marie-Chantal contre le docteur Kha||Professor Lambaré / Dr. Kha|
|1966||Adultery Italian Style||Max Portesi|
|Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N.||Tanamashu|
|I nostri mariti||Cesare||Segment: "Il marito di Olga"|
|After the Fox||Okra|
|Un gangster venuto da Brooklyn||Joe Montano|
|1967||The Vulture||Professor Hans Koniglich|
|A Rose for Everyone||Basilio|
|1968||O tutto o niente||Pigsty / Dean Light|
|The Girl Who Couldn't Say No||Uncle Egidio|
|1969||100 Rifles||General Romero||Deleted role|
|Marquis de Sade: Justine||Du Harpin|
|The Great Bank Robbery||Papa|
|Death of a Jew||Inspector Mehdaloun|
|1972||Don Quixote||Sancho Panza||Unfinished, filmed between 1955 and 1969|
|1952||Schlitz Playhouse of Stars||Unknown||Episode: "Trouble in Pier Twelve"|
|1954||The Black Forest||Baron Von Moribund||Television film|
|1955||The Chocolate Soldier||Major Ludek||Television film|
|The Best of Broadway||Nick Verdis||Episode: "Broadway"|
|Climax!||Albert Ganz||Episode: "To Wake at Midnight"|
|1956||Four Star Playhouse||Mendoza||Episode: "One Forty Two"|
|Ethel Barrymore Theatre||Pancho Villa||Episode: "This Is Villa"|
|1957||Playhouse 90||Mr. Anagnos||Episode: "The Miracle Worker"|
|Producers' Showcase||General Otakar Zandek||Episode: "The Great Sebastians"|
|1958||DuPont Show of the Month||The Governor||Episode: "Cole Porter's 'Aladdin'"|
|Matinee Theatre||Unknown||Episode: "The Inspector General"|
|The Rifleman||Cesar Tiffauges||Episode: "New Orleans Menace"|
|1959||The DuPont Show with June Allyson||Tony||Episode: "Love Is a Headache"|
|1960||Tales of the Vikings||Eyulf||2 episodes|
|Johnny Ringo||Andy Baranov||Episode: "The Assassins"|
|Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse||Captain Farago||Episode: "Thunder in the Night"|
|1961||Wagon Train||Joe Muharich||Episode: "The Joe Muharich Story"|
|1962||Route 66||Sam Benjamin||Episode: "Blues for the Left Foot"|
|The Dick Powell Show||Inspector Boulanger||Episode: "View from the Eiffel Tower"|
|Kraft Television Theatre||Captain Farago||Episode: "Thunder in the Night"|
|1962–1963||Naked City||Emil Pappas / Demetru Lapesku||2 episodes|
|1963||The Defenders||John Solasky||Episode: "The Trial of Twenty-Two"|
|Breaking Point||Goldstein||Episode: "A Pelican in the Wilderness"|
|1966||The Man from U.N.C.L.E.||Chairman Georgi Koz||Episode: "The Jingle Bells Affair"|
|1969||Then Came Bronson||"Papa Bear"||Episode: "Pilot"|
- Wikisource. (in Armenian). p. 948 – via
- "Akim Tamiroff, Actor, Is Dead; Had Screen Career of 35 Years". The New York Times. 1972-09-19. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-06-19.
- "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.
- "This Hour has Seven Days: Chuvalo, Welles, and the Klan". CBC Archives. 1965-10-24. Archived from the original on 2017-11-04.
- Adalian, Rouben Paul (2010). Historical Dictionary of Armenia. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 415. ISBN 978-0-8108-6096-4.
- Parish, James Robert (1978). Hollywood Character Actors. Arlington House. p. 478. ISBN 0-87000-384-4.
- Robinson, Harlow (2007). Russians in Hollywood. ISBN 9781555536862.
- 'Practice Fun' Music Studio Archived October 29, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. Dougmacaulay.com. Retrieved on April 1, 2014.
- "Akim Tamiroff". Archived from the original on February 1, 2005. Retrieved September 2, 2016.. theoscarsite.com. Retrieved on April 1, 2014.
- King, Susan (August 26, 2012). "Cinecon film festival unearths some old treasures". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
- King, Susan (September 1, 1995). "HOME ENTERTAINMENT : New 'Bell' Tolls With Original Luster". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
- McCarthy, Todd (May 19, 1992). "Don Quijote de Orson Welles Don Quixote of Orson Welles". Variety. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
- Lim, Dennis (August 17, 2008). "'Quixote' eerily like Welles' life". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
- "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.
- "Akim Tamiroff | Hollywood Walk of Fame". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
- "Akim Tamiroff - Hollywood Star Walk". Los Angeles Times. September 19, 1972. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
- 1923 passenger list, Birth year 1896. "Ancestry.com". Ancestry.com.
- Census 1930, Tameriroff couple. "Ancestry.com". Ancestry.com.
- Marriage date. "Ancestry.com". Ancestry.com.
- Corliss, Richard (October 23, 2010). "Unsung Creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle Dies". Time. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
- Low-rated and barely animated, Rocky & Bullwinkle became a TV touchstone. Tv.avclub.com. Retrieved on July 8, 2013.
- The Moviegoer. (New York: Vintage, 1998), 165
- Media related to Akim Tamiroff at Wikimedia Commons
- Akim Tamiroff at IMDb
- Akim Tamiroff at AllMovie
- Akim Tamiroff at the TCM Movie Database
- Akim Tamiroff at the Internet Broadway Database
- Akim Tamiroff at Find a Grave
- Akim Tamiroff at WFMU
- Akim Tamiroff at Katz's Film Encyclopedia
- Akim Tamiroff at Great Character Actors