Gene Saks (born Jean Michael Saks; November 8, 1921 – March 28, 2015) was an American director and actor. An inductee of the American Theater Hall of Fame, his acting career began with a Broadway debut in 1949. As a director, he was nominated for seven Tony Awards, winning three for his direction of I Love My Wife, Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues. He also directed a number of films during his career. He was married to Bea Arthur from 1950 until 1978, and subsequently to Keren Saks from 1980 to his death in 2015.
Jean Michael Saks
November 8, 1921
New York City, U.S.
|Died||March 28, 2015 (aged 93)|
East Hampton, New York, U.S.
(m. 1950; div. 1978)
Saks was born in New York City, the son of Beatrix (née Lewkowitz) and Morris J. Saks. Saks first became involved in theater as a student at Hackensack High School. He studied at Cornell University. Upon graduation, he served in the United States Navy during World War II, taking part in the Normandy landings. He also trained for acting at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with the German director Erwin Piscator and helped start a theater cooperative at the Cherry Lane Theater and appeared in a number of productions as Off Broadway blossomed.
Saks made his acting debut on Broadway in South Pacific in 1949. On stage he also appeared in e. e. cummings's Him, A Shot in the Dark, The Tenth Man and A Thousand Clowns, in the role of Leo "Chuckles The Chipmunk" Herman, which he reprised in the film version. He portrayed Jack Lemmon's brother in the screen adaptation of Simon's The Prisoner of Second Avenue, and also appeared in Nobody's Fool starring Paul Newman.
Saks shared a long-term professional association with playwright/comedy writer Neil Simon, directing Simon's plays Biloxi Blues, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Jake's Women, Rumors, Lost in Yonkers, Broadway Bound, The Odd Couple (1985 revival with female cast) and California Suite. His additional Broadway credits included Enter Laughing; Half a Sixpence; Nobody Loves an Albatross; Mame; I Love My Wife; Same Time, Next Year and Rags.
Among Saks's film directing credits were Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Cactus Flower (which won Goldie Hawn the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress), Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Mame, Brighton Beach Memoirs, A Fine Romance, and the 1995 television production of Bye Bye Birdie.
Saks was married to fellow Actors Studio member actress Bea Arthur from 1950 until 1978. The couple had two sons by adoption: Matthew (born in 1961), an actor, and Daniel (born in 1964), a set designer. He also had a daughter by his second wife Keren Saks. Saks died of pneumonia at his East Hampton residence on March 28, 2015, aged 93.
|1967||Barefoot in the Park|
|1968||The Odd Couple|
|1972||Last of the Red Hot Lovers|
|1986||Brighton Beach Memoirs|
|1991||A Fine Romance|
|1995||Bye Bye Birdie||TV Movie|
|1965||A Thousand Clowns||Leo|
|1975||The Prisoner of Second Avenue||Harry Edison|
|1978||The One and Only||Sidney Seltzer|
|1984||The Goodbye People||Marcus Soloway|
|1991||The Good Policeman||Performer|
|1996||On Seventh Avenue||Sol Jacobs|
|1997||Deconstructing Harry||Harry's Father|
|1951||Out There||Performer||Episode: “Misfit”|
|1954||Omnibus||Traveling salesman||Episode: “Hilde and the Turnpike”|
|1955||Danger||Performer||Episode: “Precinct Girl”|
|1955||You Are There||Pvt. Lambert||Episode: “D-Day (June 6, 1944)”|
|1955||Producers' Showcase||Waiter||Episode: “Reunion in Vienna”|
|1955||Pond's Theater||Performer||Episode: "The Ways of Courage"|
|1955||The Elgin Hour||Mitchell Sanders||Episode: “Mind Over Momma”|
|1955||Playwrights '56||Mr. Baumgarten||Episode: “Snow Job”|
|1956||Playwrights '56||Doctor||Episode: “The Center of the Maze”|
|1956||Playwrights '56||Emcee||Episode: “You Sometimes Get Rich”|
|1958||Kraft Theatre||Various Roles||Season 11 - Episode 27|
|1958||Where Is Thy Brother?||Mr. Kalish||Television Movie|
|1959||Bachelor Father||Fred||Episode:”Bentley, the Organizer”|
|1959||Mike Hammer||Gobo McCoy||Episode: See No Evil|
|1959||Brenner||Vinnie Harper||Episode: “Small Take”|
|1959||Rendezvous||Episode:” The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”|
|1960||Play of the Week||Mikoel||”The Dybbuk”|
|1961||Great Ghost Tales||Performer||Episode: “Bye Bye Baby”|
|1961||The United States Steel Hour||Willie||Episode: “Man on the Mountain Top”|
|1963||Armstrong Circle Theatre||Arthur Vernon||Episode: “The Embezzler”|
|1998||Law & Order||Judge Carl Samuel||Episode: “Castoff”|
As an Actor
|1949||South Pacific||Professor||Majestic Theatre, Broadway|
|1950||All You Need is a Good Break||Performer||Mansfield Theatre, Broadway|
|1955||South Pacific||Professor||New York City Center, New York|
|1956-57||The Good Woman of Setzuan||First God||Phoenix Theatre, Broadway|
|1958||The Infernal Machine||Capt. of the Patrol|
|1958||Howie||Professor||46th Street Theatre, Broadway|
|1959-61||The Tenth Man||Rabbi||Booth Theatre |
|1960||Love and Libel||Norman Yarrow||Martin Beck Theatre, Broadway|
|1961-62||A Shot in the Dark||Morestan||Booth Theatre, Broadway|
|1962-63||A Thousand Clowns||Leo Herman||Eugene O'Neill Theatre, Broadway|
As a Director
Awards and nominationsEdit
|1965||Best Direction of a Musical||Half a Sixpence||Nominated|
|1975||Best Direction of a Play||Same Time, Next Year||Nominated|
|1977||Best Direction of a Musical||I Love My Wife||Won|
|1983||Best Direction of a Play||Brighton Beach Memoirs||Won|
|1991||Lost in Yonkers||Nominated|
Drama Desk Awards
|1975||Outstanding Director of a Play||Same Time, Next Year||Nominated|
|1977||Outstanding Director of a Play||I Love My Wife||Nominated|
|1985||Outstanding Director of a Play||Biloxi Blues||Nominated|
- 1969 DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Movie – The Odd Couple - Nom
- 1991 Outer Critics Circle for Outstanding Direction of a Play - Lost in Yonkers - Won
- Gene Saks profile, FilmReference.com, accessed August 23, 2011.
- Staff. "Who's Who in the Cast", Playbill, 1981. Accessed August 13, 2018. "Gene Saks (Director) began his theatrical career playing Lord Fancourt Babberley in the Hackensack High School's production of Charlie's Aunt."
- Gene Saks, Tony-Winning Director of Neil Simon Hits, Dies at 93. The New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2020.
- Friedman, Norman (2011). "E. E. Cummings and the Theatre". Spring (18): 94–108. ISSN 0735-6889. JSTOR 43915380.
- Gene Saks at the Internet Broadway Database
- Weber, Bruce (March 29, 2015). "Gene Saks, Tony-Winning Director of Neil Simon Hits, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
- Gene Saks/Beatrice Arthur at the University of Wisconsin's Actor Studio audio collection Archived 2014-05-02 at the Wayback Machine
- "On Stage, and Off". The New York Times. December 6, 1991.