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August 19: Alan Arkin

August 18, 2015

Alan Arkin in "The Russians are Coming." Photo © 1966, United ArtistsActor Alan Arkin, best known for his roles in Wait Until Dark; The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming; The Heart is a Lonely Hunter; Catch-22; Edward Scissorhands; Glengarry Glen Ross; and Little Miss Sunshine (for which he won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award), was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1934. His parents were leftwingers, and his father, a writer and painter, had a run-in with McCarthyism that cost him his career as a film set designer. Arkin began studying his craft at the age of 10, and his career has included directing films and plays. He has also written numerous children’s books, and a 2011 memoir, An Improvised Life. “Alan Arkin built a career for himself out of playing slightly gruff and opinionated yet endearing eccentrics,” writes the New York Times. “Though not commonly recognized as such, Arkin’s ability extends not only beyond the range of the comedic but far beyond the scope of acting.” To see him in one of his dark-side roles, with Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark, look below.

“I had to jump around in the arts for a while just to survive. I earned a little money here and there, playing the guitar at union meetings, functions. I sold some science-fiction stories. I knew there was absolutely no question of me not being connected with the arts, but I couldn’t find any acting jobs.” —Alan Arkin