Jack Albertson (June 16, 1907 - November 25, 1981) was considered a complete entertainer from the old school. He was an American actor, comedian, dancer, singer, and musician.
Jack was born in Malden, Massachusetts to Flora Craft, a Russian immigrant, and Leo Albertson, a Polish immigrant. He had a sister, Mabel, and a brother, Frank, who were also actors.
Jack dropped out of high school and traveled to New York City in an attempt make it big in show business. He was too poor to get a room in a flop house, so in the winter he would sleep on the IRT subway for a nickel and hide out when the transit workers would clear out the train at the end of the line. In the summer he would sleep in Central Park (This was in the age before the muggers took over the park at night). His first real job in show business was with a vaudeville road troupe, the Dancing Verselle Sisters.
Jack soon worked in burlesque as a hoofer (soft shoe dancer) and straight man to Phil Silvers on the Minsky's Burlesque Circuit. Besides vaudeville and burlesque, he appeared on the stage in many Broadway plays 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 nomination for Best Actor), and The Subject was Roses (for which he won a Tony for Best Supporting Actor). He was also know for two radio programs, Just Plain Bill and The Jack Albertson Comedy Show.
Jack Albertson had a prolific movie career as well, mostly playing supporting roles. Notable among these were:
a bit part as the postal worker who redirected all of Santa Claus' mail to the New York Courthouse in Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
a film version of Top Banana (1953), teamed again with his friend Phil Silvers
The Subject was Roses (1968), for which he won a best supporting actor Oscar
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
Other films include:
Big Business Girl (1931)
Don't Go Near the Water (1957)
Monkey on My Back (1957)
Teacher's Pet (1958)
Period of Adjustment (1962)
Days of Wine and Roses (1962)
Kissin' Cousins (1964)
How To Murder Your Wife (1965)
The Flim-Flam Man (1967)
How To Save A Marriage and Ruin Your Life (1968)
Justine, Changes, The Monk (all 1969)
Squeeze A Flower (1970)
Rabbit, Run (1970)
Once Upon A Dead Man (1971)
The Late Liz (1971)
Pickup on 101 (1972)
Where Eagles Fly (1972)
Charlie and the Great Balloon Chase (1978)
The Comedy Company (1978)
Marriage is Alive and Well (1979)
Charlie's Balloon (1981)
The Fox and the Hound (1981)
Dead and Buried (1981)
(by no means an exhaustive list) His one regret was that he was not asked to reprise his role in the movie version of The Sunshine Boys.
Television also saw much of Albertson's talent. He had reoccurring or starring roles on:
The Burns and Allen Show
The Thin Man
Chico and the Man, for which he won an Emmy, making him one of the few entertainers to win the triple crown of entertainment (Tony, Oscar, and Emmy)
Grandpa goes to Washington
He also guest starred on numerous shows, including:
The Twilight Zone
The Dick Van Dyke Show
Run For Your Life
The Andy Griffith Show
Land of the Giants
Marcus Welby M.D.
Nanny and the Professor
Love American Style
McMillan and Wife
The Streets of San Francisco
(again, by no means an exhaustive list)
Jack Albertson was married to Wallace (Wally) Thompson and had one daughter, Maura. He resided for years in a modest home in West Hollywood. In 1978 he was diagnosed with colon cancer, but kept this information from the public so he could continue to act. He made one movie, My Body, My Child (1982) and one TV movie, Grandpa, Will You Run With Me? (1982) before his death that were released posthumously.
Jack Albertson died on Wednesday, November 25th, 1981 at 1:30 in the afternoon. He was 74 years old. He was cremated and his ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean.