Oscar Actors: Jaffe, Sam

Born March 8, 1891 in New York City; died in 1984. A distinguished character player of the American stage, screen, and TV.

As a youngster, he appeared with his mother, Ada Steinberg Jaffe, on the Yiddish stage. He was a teacher, then dean of math at the Bronx Cultural Institute before resuming his stage career with the Washington Square Players in 1915. He subsequently appeared in numerous stage productions, making his film debut in 1934.

A dynamic character player, he achieved enormous screen and stage presence despite his small, frail physique. He won the Venice Festival best actor award and was nominated for a best supporting role Oscar for his performance as a coolheaded crime mastermind in “The Asphalt Jungle”(1950).

He was also memorable as the ancient as High Lama in “Lost Horizon” (1937) and in the title role of “Gunga Din” (1939).

Jaffe played Dr. Zorba in the “Ben Casey” TV series, which also featured his second wife, Betty Ackerman (born 1928). His first wife, actress Lillian Taiz Jaffe, died in 1941.

Oscar Alert:

In 1950, Sam Jaffe competed for the Supporting Actor Oscar with Jeff Chandler in “Broken Arrow,” Edmund Gwenn in “Mister 880,” George Sanders (who won) in “All About Eve,” and Erich von Stroheim in “Sunset Boulverad.”