Theodore Bikel is a multifaceted, award winning performer of stage, screen and television. Born in 1924, Theodore Bikel was thirteen when Hitler and Göring paraded with their invading army beneath his apartment window on one of the main thoroughfares in Vienna - Mariahilfestrasse. He and his parents were able to leave six months later for Palestine. Already fluent in Hebrew, Yiddish, and German with a respectable command of English and French, he intended to study and teach comparative linguistics – but many other talents intervened.
Bikel’s theatre life began at age 19 as a student actor in the Habima Theatre in Israel. Soon after, in 1944, he co-founded the Cameri Theatre in which he worked for several years before entering the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London from which he graduated with honors. He then appeared in several West End plays including A Streetcar Named Desire, starring Vivien Leigh at the invitation and under the direction of Sir Laurence Olivier and The Love of Four Colonels by and with Peter Ustinov.
He was invited to America to appear on Broadway in Tonight In Samarkand, and has since appeared in many memorable stage performances including The Sunshine Boys, My Fair Lady and Zorba to name just a few. He created the role of Baron von Trapp on Broadway in The Sound of Music opposite Mary Martin and in the past 37 years he has played the role of Tevye over 2000 times in Fiddler On The Roof.
A master of languages, dialects and accents, Bikel has played every sort of film villain imaginable, and always adds depth, dimension and even sympathy to these characters. He made his film debut in AFRICAN QUEEN and he has since made more than 35 films including: THE ENEMY BELOW, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE LITTLE KIDNAPPERS, MY FAIR LADY, I WANT TO LIVE and he received an Academy Award nomination for his compelling performance in THE DEFIANT ONES. Bikel made 3 films for Republic Studios A DAY TO REMEMBER directed by Ralph Thomas, THE DIVIDED HEART directed by Charles Crichton and ABOVE US THE WAVES directed by Ralph Thomas.
Bikel has guest starred in many television shows and he received an Emmy Award for his portrayal of Harris Newmark.
He has been active for many years in Actors’ Equity Association, serving as Vice-President for nine years and President for nine years. During that time he helped establish the Actors Federal Credit Union and wrote several Equity regulations regarding protection for Equity members. Bikel served as Vice President of the International Federation of Actors (FIA) for ten years, is currently President of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America (4A’s) and was appointed by President Jimmy Carter in 1977 to serve a 5-year term on the National Council for the Arts.
On the national scene, Theodore Bikel was a delegate to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago and played a significant role in the Civil Rights Movement participating in marches and voter registration drives in the south and playing concerts throughout the county – concerts whose content was the message of equality for all people. He was jailed for his witness to these principles and for his work on behalf of Soviet Jewry.
Theodore Bikel is also an accomplished translator of song lyrics. His book, Folksongs and Footnotes, published by Meridian Books in 1961, has had three reprint editions. He was a co-founder of the Newport Folk Festival in 1961. He has recently released two new CDs: IN MY OWN LIFETIME - a bouquet of Theatre Songs and OUR SONG a compilation of duets with renowned Cantor Alberto Mizrahi. His updated autobiography, Theo, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press.
REPUBLIC FILM CREDITS
A Day to Remember
The Divided Heart
Above Us the Waves