Oscar Actors: Albertson, Jack–Background, Career, Awards, Cum Advantage(Oscar, Tony, Emmy awards)

Updated June 28, 2020
Jack Albertson Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: Yes; mother stock actress; sister also actress;

Social Class:

Race/Ethnicity: Jewish


Education: Father abandoned before his birth


Teacher/Inspirational Figure:

Radio Debut:

TV Debut:

Stage Debut:

Broadway Debut:

Film Debut:

Breakthrough Role:

Oscar Role: The Subject Was Roses, 1968; age 61

Other Noms: No

Other Awards: The Subject Was Roses, Tony; Emmys

Frequent Collaborator:

Screen Image: character actor

Last Film: 1981 (film and TV) age 74

Career Output:

Film Career Span:

Marriage: 1


Death: Nov 25, 1981; age 74


Harold “Jack” Albertson, an American actor, comedian, dancer, and singer, had earned a Tony, Oscar and Emmy Awards. He is known for his roles as John Cleary in The Subject Was Roses (1968), for which he received Best Supporting Actor Oscar ; Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971); Manny Rosen in The Poseidon Adventure (1972); and Ed Brown in the TV sitcom Chico and the Man (1974–78), for which he won an Emmy.

For his contributions to the television industry, Albertson was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Until the age of 22, Albertson was known as “Harold Albertson.”

Albertson was born on June 16, 1907, in Malden, Massachusetts, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants Flora (née Craft) and Leopold Albertson. His older sister was actress Mabel Albertson. Albertson’s mother, a stock actress, supported the family by working in shoe factory. His father abandoned his mother before Jack was born, and the boy was raised by his stepfather, Alex Erlich, a barber.

During a 1972 interview, Albertson reminisced: “I was bright but disruptive. I didn’t do homework. To cover, I made wisecracks and funny faces at the teachers. They told me to take my business elsewhere.”

Albertson dropped out of high school, ending his formal education after a single year. He worked at several different jobs, as the local General Electric plant; in shoe factory in Lynn, MA, as a rack boy in neighborhood pool parlors, where he was a fairly good hustler.  The pool hall provided Albertson with opportunity to learn tap dance routines from his fellow hustlers.

When he was 18, he began to be paid for his prize winning shows. His sister Mabel taught him the first “time steps” in tap dancing, and he picked up other routines by watching vaudeville acts that played his hometown.  He started singing with a group called “The Golden Rule Four,” who held their practice sessions beneath a railroad bridge.

Albertson joined the vaudeville road troupe known as the Dancing Verselle Sisters. He then worked in burlesque as a hoofer (soft shoe dancer) and straight man to Phil Silvers on the Minsky’s Burlesque Circuit. He appeared on the stage in many Broadway plays and musicals, including High Button Shoes, Top Banana, The Cradle Will Rock, Make Mine Manhattan, Show Boat, Boy Meets Girl, Girl Crazy, Meet the People. For “The Sunshine Boys,” he received Tony Award nomination for Best Actor, and for “The Subject Was Roses,” he won a Tony for Best Supporting Actor.

Albertson appeared in more than 30 films. He had an early minor role in Miracle on 34th Street as a postal worker who redirects dead letters addressed to “Santa Claus” to the courthouse where Kris Kringle is on trial.

He won Best Supporting Actor Oscar for reprising his role in the 1968 film The Subject Was Roses. He apologized to child actor and fellow nominee Jack Wild for winning, as he expected Wild to win for his role in Oliver!

Albertson appeared as Charlie Bucket’s Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), and in The Poseidon Adventure (1972), where he played Manny Rosen, husband to Belle, played by Shelley Winters.

Albertson regretted that he did not reprise his role in the movie version of The Sunshine Boys. When producer Ray Stark acquired the rights from Neil Simon in 1973, Albertson was expected to play the part, but by the time MGM had bought the rights in 1974 and filming began in February 1975, Albertson was not available as he was appearing on Chico and the Man on TV.

Albertson was a radio performer early in his career, and among his shows were Just Plain Bill, Lefty, That’s My Pop and The Jack Albertson Comedy Show. In the late 1940s a regular on the Milton Berle Show.

Albertson appeared in many TV series, such as Hey, Jeannie! with Jeannie Carson, the syndicated Western series Frontier Doctor with Rex Allen, Rod Cameron’s syndicated crime drama State Trooper, and the 1961–62 drama series Bus Stop. He guest-starred on the David Janssen crime-drama series Richard Diamond, Private Detective.

From 1960–1961, Albertson was cast in three episodes of Pete and Gladys, with Harry Morgan and Cara Williams. In 1961, Albertson was cast as Sampson J. Binton, with DeForest Kelley as Alex Jeffords, in “Listen to the Nightingale,” the series finale of Riverboat, starring Darren McGavin.

Albertson had a recurring role as the neighbor Walter Burton in eight episodes of the 1962 ABC sitcom Room for One More, with Andrew Duggan and Peggy McCay. He had recurring roles in Ensign O’Toole (1962–63) and Run, Buddy, Run (1966).

Other 1960s series on which Albertson appeared were: NBC’s sitcom, Happy starring Ronnie Burns; Glynis, starring Glynis Johns; and Keith Andes, which aired for 13 weeks in the fall of 1963. Albertson appeared in two episodes of The Twilight Zone. In a 1967 episode of The Andy Griffith Show, he played the ne’er-do-well cousin, Bradford J. Taylor, of series character Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier). He also appeared in a 1969 episode of the TV series The Virginian entitled Girl in the Shadows. In 1970, Albertson appeared as Billy “Moose” Valentine in The Men From Shiloh, the rebranded name for The Virginian in the episode titled “With Love, Bullets and Valentines.”

He co-starred as “The Man” Ed Brown on the popular series Chico and the Man with Freddie Prinze, staying for its entire run from 1974 to 1978. He earned an Emmy Award for that role in 1976, which was his second, his first was for the variety show Cher in 1975.

In 1978, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, but kept this information private and continued to act. Two of his last roles were in the TV movies, My Body, My Child (1982) and Grandpa, Will You Run with Me? (1983), both in 1981 and released posthumously.

Last Role

His final role was as the ill-tempered hunter, Amos Slade, in Disney’s 24th animated feature, The Fox and the Hound, released in summer of 1981, 4 months before his death.

He and his wife June had a daughter, Maura Dhu.

On November 25, 1981, Albertson died at his Hollywood Hills home at the age of 74 from colon cancer.