Oscar Actors: Cobb, Lee J.

Born Leo Jacob December 8, 1911 in New York City; died in 1976.

The son of a compositor at The Jewish Daily Forward, Cobb was raised on New York's Lower East Side and showed early promise as a virtuoso child violinist, but a broken wrist ended his plans for a musical career. At 17, he ran away from home, going to Hollywood in an unsuccessful bid for a career in films.

Returning to New York, he began acting on radio dramas while studying accounting night at CCNY. In 1931, Cobb made his stage debut at the Pasadena Playhouse, and in 1935, again in New York, he joined the famed Group Theatre and appeared in such plays as “Waiting for Lefty” and “Golden Boy.” His stage career culminated in 1949, when he created on Broadway the role of Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's “Death of a Salesman” to rave reviews. He repeated the role in 1966 in an acclaimed TV version. He is also remembered by TV audiences for his role of Judge Garth in the longrunning “The Virginian” series.

In films from 1934, Cobb played leads and numerous character roles, often as a menacing heavy, sometimes as an imposing patriarch or a brooding community leader or business executive. Memorable as Johnny Friendly, the union racketeer in “On the Waterfront” (1954) and as Fyodor Karamazov in “The Brothers Karamazov” (1958), roles for which he was nominated for Academy Awards as best supporting actor.

Oscar Alert

In 1954, Cobb competed for the Supporting Actor Oscar with Edmond O'Brien, who won for “The Barefoot Contessa,” Karl Malden and Rod Steiger, both nominated for “On the Waterfront,” and Tom Tully in “The Caine Mutiny.”

In 1958, the other nominees for the Supporting Actor Oscar were Burl Ives who won for “The Big Country,” Theodore Bikel in “The Defiant Ones,” and Gig Young for “Teacher's Pet.”