George Chakiris

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George Chakiris
George Chakiris Medical Center 1970.JPG
Chakiris as Alex Solkin in Medical Center, 1970
Born (1934-09-16) September 16, 1934 (age 84)
Norwood, Ohio, U.S.
Other names George Kerris
Occupation Actor, dancer
Years active 1947–1996
Website GeorgeChakiris.com

George Chakiris (born September 16, 1934) is an American dancer, singer and actor. He is best known for his appearance in the film version of West Side Story as Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks gang, for which he won both the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Life and career

Early Life

Chakiris was born in Norwood, Ohio, to Steven and Zoe (née Anastasiadou) Chakiris,[1] immigrants from Greece. He attended high school in Tucson, Arizona and Long Beach.[2][3]

Chakiris did one year of college but he wanted to dance so he dropped out and moved to Hollywood. He worked in the advertising branch of a department store and began to study dancing at night.[2]

Early Films

Chakiris made his film debut in 1947, in the chorus of Song of Love.

For several years he appeared in small roles, usually as a dancer or a member of the chorus in various musical films, including The Great Caruso (1951), Stars and Stripes Forever (1952), Call Me Madam (1953), Second Chance (1953) and The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953).

He was one of the dancers in Marilyn Monroe's "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" number in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), and was also in Give a Girl a Break (1953).

He can be seen in the funeral dance in the MGM musical film Brigadoon (1954) and was in There's No Business Like Show Business' (1954).

Paramount

Chakiris appeared as a dancer in White Christmas (1954). A publicity photo of Chakiris with Rosemary Clooney from her "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me" scene generated fan mail, and Paramount signed him to a movie contract. "I got lucky with the close-up with Rosemary," said Chakiris[4][5]

Chakiris was in The Country Girl (1954), and The Girl Rush (1955), dancing with Rosalind Russell in the latter. He received a positive notice from Hedda Hopper.[6]

MGM borrowed him for Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956) and he did dancing in Las Vegas.[7]

Chakiris had a small non-dancing part in Under Fire (1957).

West Side Story

Frustrated with the progress of his career, Chakiris left Hollywood for New York. West Side Story had been running for a year on Broadway, and Chakiris auditioned for Jerome Robbins. He was cast in the London production as "Riff", leader of the Jets. The musical launched on the West End in late 1958 and Chakiris received excellent reviews, playing it for almost 22 months.[8]

The Mirisch Brothers brought the film rights to West Side Story and tested Chakiris. They ended up feeling his dark complexion made him more ideal for the role of Bernado, leader of the Sharks, and cast Russ Tamblyn as Riff. Filming took seven months.[9] [2]

The film of West Side Story (1961) was hugely successful and Chakiris won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. This led him to be contracted by the Mirisch Company to a long-term contract.[10]

Chakiris played the lead role in a British film, Two and Two Make Six (1962), directed by Freddie Francis. He was announced for Day of the Damned with Montgomery Clift but it was not made.[11]

He starred as a doctor in the film Diamond Head (1963) opposite Charlton Heston and Yvette Mimieux, which was popular.[12]

In the early 1960s, he embarked on a career as a pop singer, resulting in a couple of minor hit songs. In 1960, he recorded one single with noted producer Joe Meek.

3-Picture Deal with Mirisch Brothers

Chakiris' fee around this time was a reported $100,000 per movie.[13] His first new film for the Mirishes was Flight from Ashiya (1964), shot in Japan with Yul Brynner and Richard Widmark.

The Mirisches announced him for Young Lucifer with Tuesday Weld directed by Irving Kershner but it was not made.[14] Neither was a film version of Carnival!\ which Arthur Freed wanted to make with Chakiris, Yvette Mimieux and Robert Goulet.[15]

Instead the Mirsches reunited Chakiris with Brynner in Kings of the Sun (1963), an epic about the Mayans which was a box office flop. Chakiris went to Italy to make Bebo's Girl (1964) with Claudia Cardinale.

He did 633 Squadron (1964), a popular war movie with Cliff Robertson, the last movie he made for the Mirisches. Chakiris later said he made a mistake with his Hollywood films but looking at the "potential" of them instead of the quality of the roles.[16]

Europe

Chakiris played a Greek terrorist in Cyprus in a British filmThe High Bright Sun (1965) with Dirk Bogarde for which he was paid $100,000. He went to Italy for The Mona Lisa Has Been Stolen (1965) and France for Is Paris Burning? (1966).[17]

He acted along with Catherine Deneuve and Gene Kelly in Jacques Demy's French musical Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967). Around this time his manager cancelled his contract with Capital Records.[18] However he enjoyed his time in Europe saying he had time to "experiment and refine my craft."[16] He also did a nightclub act at Cesar's Palace in Las Vegas, his first stage work since West Side Story.

The show was successful and led to Chakiris receiving an offer to appear alongside Jose Ferrer in a TV production of Kismet (1967). He did The Day the Hot Line Got Hot (1968) in France and The Big Cube (1969) with Lana Turner in America. He made Sharon vestida de rojo (1970) in Spain.[19]

1970s and 1980s

In 1969 Chakiris did a stage production of The Corn is Green in Chicago with Eileen Herlie. He enjoyed the experience and it revived his confidence as an actor. He said all the films he made after West Side Story had been "a waste of time... it was difficult to take them seriously... It was my fault and no one else's".[20]

Chakiris accepted a dramatic role on Medical Center to change his image.[20]

He starred in the first national tour of the Stephen Sondheim musical, Company, touring as Bobby in 1971-72.

Chakiris worked heavily on TV in the 1970s and 1980s in Britain and America, guest starring on shows like Hawaii Five-O, Police Surgeon, Thriller, Notorious Woman, Wonder Woman, Fantasy Island, CHiPs, Matt Houston, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Poor Little Rich Girls, Hell Town and Murder, She Wrote.

He appeared in the final episode of The Partridge Family as an old high school boyfriend to Shirley Partridge (Shirley Jones, also a musical theater veteran and the person who just happened to have presented him with his Academy Award). Their kiss goodbye was the final scene in the program's run. He also starred in a film Why Not Stay for Breakfast? (1979).

Chakris appeared in several episodes of Dallas and had an arc on Santa Barbara.

Later Career

Chakiris had a recurring role on the TV show Superboy as Professor Peterson during the first two seasons from 1988-1990.

He was top billed in the film Pale Blood (1990) and guest starred on Human Target and The Girls of Lido. He played The King And I on stage in 1995 in Los Angeles.

Chakiris' last role to date was in a 1996 episode of the British sitcom Last of the Summer Wine.

He has given occasional television interviews since then, but is mostly retired. His hobby of making sterling silver jewelry has turned into a new occupation,[21] working as a jewelry designer for his own brand, George Chakiris Collections, consisting of handmade original sterling silver jewelry.

A vegetarian himself, in 2012 he presented a musical about veganism titled Loving the Silent Tears.[22][23]

Filmography

Year Film Role Notes
1947 Song of Love Choir boy as George Kerris
1951 The Great Caruso Dancer Uncredited
1952 Stars and Stripes Forever Ballroom dancer Uncredited
1953 Call Me Madam Dancer in 'The Ocarina' Number
The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T Dancer as George Kerris
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Dancer (Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend") Uncredited
Second Chance Background Observer in Dance Sequence Uncredited
Give a Girl a Break Dancer Uncredited
1954 Brigadoon Specialty dancer Uncredited
White Christmas Dancer in 'Mandy' and 'Love' numbers Uncredited
The Country Girl Dancer with pick Uncredited
There's No Business Like Show Business Dancer Uncredited
1955 The Girl Rush Chorus boy, 'Hillbilly Heart' number Uncredited
1956 Meet Me in Las Vegas Young groom as George Kerris
1957 Under Fire Pvt. Steiner Uncredited
1961 West Side Story Bernardo Nuñez Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
1962 Two and Two Make Six Larry Curado
Diamond Head Dr. Dean Kahanna
1963 Kings of the Sun Balam
1964 La ragazza di Bube Bebo
Flight from Ashiya 2nd Lt. John Gregg
633 Squadron Lt. Erik Bergman
1965 The High Bright Sun Haghios
1966 On a volé la Joconde (fr) Vincent
Is Paris Burning? GI in tank
1967 Les Demoiselles de Rochefort Étienne
1968 Le Rouble à deux faces Eric Ericson
1969 The Big Cube Johnny Allen
Sharon vestida de rojo Robert Bowman
1979 Why Not Stay for Breakfast? George Clark
1982 Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again Himself
1990 Pale Blood Michael Fury

Selected television appearances

Year Film Role Other notes
1956 Ford Star Jubilee episode - "You're the Top"
1968 The Carol Burnett Show show #020 - Jan. 22, 1968
1969 The Jackie Gleason Show episode - "Mousey the Dip"
1970–1975 Medical Center Alex Solkin 3 episodes
1972 Hawaii Five-O Chris Lahani 1 episode
1974 The Partridge Family Capt. Chuck 'Cuddles' Corwin episode - "Anchors Aweigh"
Thriller Robert Stone episode - "Kiss Me and Die"
Notorious Woman Frédéric Chopin TV mini-series
1978 Wonder Woman Carlo Indrezzano episode - "Death in Disguise"
Return to Fantasy Island Pierre
1982 Fantasy Island Captain Claude Dumont episode - "The Magic Camera/Mata Hari/Valerie"
1983 CHiPs Bernard DeJardine Fox Trap TV episode
Matt Houston Brett Cole episode - The Showgirl Murders
1984 Matt Houston Clark Sawyer episode - "Waltz of Death"
One Life to Live unknown episodes
Poor Little Rich Girls Prince Rudolph episode - "The Gentleman Caller"
Nihon no omokage Lafcadio Hearn mini-series
Scarecrow and Mrs. King Angelo Spinelli episode - "Lost and Found"
1985 Hell Town Ric Montenez episode - "Let My Jennie Go"
1986 Dallas Nicholas 14 episodes.
1988 Santa Barbara Daniel Espinoza
1989 Murder, She Wrote Eric Bowman episode - "Weave a Tangled Web"
1989–1990 Superboy Professor Peterson 9 episodes
1992 Human Target Robillard episode - "Chances Are"
1995 Les Filles du Lido Saskia mini-series
1996 Last of the Summer Wine Max Bernard episode - "Extra! Extra!"

See also

References

  1. ^ George Chakiris Biography (1934-). Film Reference.com.
  2. ^ a b c Greeks Have a Word for It---Chakiris Los Angeles Times 10 Dec 1961: Q4.
  3. ^ George Chakiris. Yahoo! Movies.
  4. ^ George Chakiris makes holiday homecoming Kiesewetter, John. Cincinnati Enquirer; Cincinnati, Ohio [Cincinnati, Ohio]12 Dec 2011.
  5. ^ "Biography for George Chakiris" on TCM.com
  6. ^ Edmond O'Brien Cast in Jack Webb 'Blues' Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 8 Feb 1955: B6.
  7. ^ Dance Star Does Unique 'Viva Vegas' Role; Kent Taylor in Films Again Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times 22 July 1955: 17.
  8. ^ Playboys of the Western World Wilson, Angus. The Observer 14 Dec 1958: 15.
  9. ^ Vidal Will Write 'Reunion' Script: Tamblyn and Chakiris Join Cast of 'West Side Story' Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times 28 June 1960: B8.
  10. ^ p.201 Mirisch, Walter I Thought We Were Making Movies, Not History Univ of Wisconsin Press, 10 Apr 2008
  11. ^ Chakiris of Sharks in 'Day of Damned' Los Angeles Times 12 Dec 1961: C7.
  12. ^ Constant, Hard Work Pays Off for George By Louella O. Parsons. The Washington Post, Times Herald 01 Apr 1962: G2.
  13. ^ Chakiris' Salary Hits Six Figures: Philippine Actor Climbing; Wide Screen for 'Squares'? Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 30 May 1962: C9.
  14. ^ How to Make $100 Million in the Motion Picture Business: Brothers Hit It Rich; That Ain't Popcorn Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times 23 Sep 1962: N1.
  15. ^ Stars Sparkle at Orry-Kelly's Gala: George Chakiris Will Dance in Arthur Freed's 'Carnival' Hopper, Hedda. Los Angeles Times (1923-1995); Los Angeles, Calif. [Los Angeles, Calif]18 Jan 1963: D7.
  16. ^ a b Chakiris Likes Nightclub Life Scott, John L. Los Angeles Times 4 Aug 1967: d7.
  17. ^ Two Signed for 'Paris' Briggs, Andrew. Los Angeles Times 21 Sep 1965: c13.
  18. ^ CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD; Gracious dance; George Chakiris remains grateful to choreographer and director Jerome Robbins for 'West Side Story.' King, Susan. Los Angeles Times 11 Nov 2013: D.3.
  19. ^ Everything Is Roses for George Chakir Florabel Muir:. The Washington Post, Times Herald 6 Sep 1967: B13.
  20. ^ a b Hollywood Today: George Chakiris Tries Cutting the Ice as Hollywood Looks at His New Image Norma Lee Browning. Chicago Tribune 22 Nov 1970: nw2.
  21. ^ Holleran, Scott. A Boy Like That. BoxOfficeMojo.com. 21 March 2003.
  22. ^ "In-Depth with Loving the Silent Tears Guest Speaker: George Chakiris (Vegetarian)". GodsDirectContact.org. 2012. Retrieved 31 May 2018. 
  23. ^ Wagley, Catherine (30 October 2012). "That Musical About Veganism Starring Jon Secada and Based on the Poetry of Supreme Master Ching Hai, Explained". LA Weekly. Retrieved 31 May 2018. 

External links

  • Official website
  • George Chakiris on IMDb
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