Jack Gilford
Jack Gilford
Jack Gilford
General Actor Information
Gender: Male
Birth name: Jacob Aaron Gelman
Born: (1907-07-25)July 25, 1907
Birthplace Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Died July 4, 1990(1990-07-04) (aged 82)
Death Location Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Actor/Voice Artist
Years active: 1944-1988
Appearances/Series information
Appeared on: Night Court
appeared in:
"An Old Flame" (Season 2)

'Jack Gilford (born Jacob Aaron Gelman on July 25, 1907 - died on June 4, 1990) appeared in a guest role on Night Court, as Marty Ratner, an old beau of Selma Hacker in the Season 3 episode "An Old Flame". Surviving in the entertainment industry on the stage through the 1950s tidal wave of paranoia known as "McCarthyism", which was spearheaded by U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, which suspected subversion against the U.S. government that swept the American society, and which suspected many important people, including those in the world of the arts and entertainment, Jack enjoyed a lengthy acting career in films, TV and the stage which lasted over 5 decades.


Esrly work

In 1938, Gilford worked as the master of ceremonies in the first downtown New York integrated nightclub, "Cafe Society", owned and operated by Barney Josephson. He was a unique blend of the earlier style of the Yiddish theater, vaudeville and burlesque, and started the tradition of monology such as later comedians Lenny Bruce and Woody Allen used. He won numerous industry awards. He was nominated for several Tony Awards for best supporting actor as Hysterium in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1963), and for his role as Herr Schultz in Cabaret (1966).

Sir Rudolf Bing engaged Gilford for the comic speaking role of the tippling jailer Frosch in the operetta Die Fledermaus.

Loved in the part, Gilford performed it 77 times between 1950 and 1964 One of Gilford's specialties was pantomime, and this talent was put to good use by director George Abbott when he cast Gilford as the silent King Sextimus in Once upon a Mattress (Off-Broadway, 1959). Gilford shared the stage with a young Carol Burnett in this production, and reprised his performance with her in two separate televised versions of the show, in 1964 and in 1972.

Hollywood blacklist

Gilford's career was derailed for a time during the 1950s and McCarthyism. He was an activist who campaigned for social change, integration and labor unions. He was quite active both socially and politically in left wing causes, as was his wife, Madeline Lee. The couple were implicated for their alleged Communist sympathies by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Gilford and Madeline were specifically named by choreographer Jerome Robbins in his testimony to the HUAC.

Gilford and his wife were called to testify before the HUAC in 1953. The couple had difficulty finding work during much of the rest of the 1950s due to the Hollywood blacklist. The couple often had to borrow money from friends to make ends meet. He found work towards the end of the 1950s and during the early 1960s with the end of the McCarthy era.

He made a notable Broadway comeback performance as Hysterium in the 1962 Broadway musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. He co-starred in the play with his close friend, Zero Mostel, who was also blacklisted during the McCarthy era. Ironically, thw production was also choreographed by Jerome Robbins, who had previously testified before HUAC in 1953.

Later career work (1960's-1980's)

Jack became successful mostly through roles on the Broadway stage, such as Drink To Me Only, Romanoff and Juliet, and The Diary of Anne Frank. He later, from the mid 1960's on into the mid 1980's began enjoying success in film and television appearing in guest spots on such shows as Catch-22, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Get Smart, Policewoman, Taxi, Alice, Lou Grant, Taxi, Night Court, and Mama's Family as well as a series of nationwide television commercials for Cracker Jack.

He also began to find steady work films such as Enter Laughting (1967), They Might Be Giants (1971), Save the Tiger (1973) for which was nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role as Phil Green (his co-star Jack Lemmon won for Best Actor), Harry and Walter Go to New York (1976), voice over work in the animated TV film The Doonesbury Special in 1977, Cheaper to Keep Her (1980), as well as a notable role as Bernie Leftkowitz in the Oscar-winning Ron Howard directed blockbuster film Cocoon (1985) and its equally popular sequel, Cocoon 2: The Return (1988).


Following a year-long battle with stomach cancer, he died in his Greenwich Village home in 1990, aged 82. His wife, Madeline Lee Gilford, died on April 15, 2008, from undisclosed causes. He was survived by his longtime wife, actress Madeline Lee (born May 20, 1923), whom he had married in 1949, and three children: Lisa Gilford, a producer (from Madeline's previous marriage); Joe Gilford, a screenwriter/playwright/stage director; and Sam Max Gilford, an artist/archivist. His widow,

Madeline, died onbApril 15, 2008, from undisclosed causes.


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