Oscar Actors: Tamiroff, Akim–Two Nominations, General Dies at Dawn, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Career Summary:

Born: 1899

Died: 1972, age 72

Career Span: over three decades

Akim Tamiroff received two Supporting Actor Oscar nominations.

1936: The General Dies at Dawn, age 37

1943: For Whom the Bell Tolls, age 44 (photo below)


Oscar Context:

In 1936, the Best Supporting Actor winner was Walter Brennan for Come and get It.

In 1943, Tamiroff lost to Charles Coburn for the comedy The More the Merrier.


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Akim Mikhailovich Tamiroff, an Armenian-American actor, was born on October 29, 1899 in the Russian Empire; he died September 17, 1972, age 72.

Stage Actor

He trained at the Moscow Art Theatre drama school for nine years.  He arrived in the U.S. for the first time in January 1923 on a tour with troupe of actors. He returned in November and stayed until 1924. His final trip with his group was in October 1927 when he decided to stay permanently.

Tamiroff managed to develop a career in Hollywood despite, and sometimes because of, his thick accent.

Tamiroff’s debut came in 1932 in an uncredited role in Okay, America!. He performed in several more uncredited roles until 1935, when he co-starred in The Lives of a Bengal Lancer. He also appeared in the lavish epic China Seas in 1935 with Clark Gable, Wallace Beery, Jean Harlow, Rosalind Russell and Robert Benchley. The following year, he was cast in the titular role in The General Died at Dawn. He appeared in the 1937 musical High, Wide, and Handsome with Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott, and the 1938 proto-noir Dangerous to Know opposite Anna May Wong, frequently singled out as his best role.[8]

He also appeared in The Buccaneer (1938) with Fredric March, The Great McGinty (1940), The Corsican Brothers (1941), Tortilla Flat (1942) with Spencer Tracy, Hedy Lamarr and John Garfield, Five Graves to Cairo (1943) with Erich von Stroheim as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, Frank Borzage’s His Butler’s Sister (1943), For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943) with Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman,[9] for which he received another Oscar nomination, and Preston Sturges’ The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944).

Tamiroff appeared in Ocean’s 11 (1960) with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin’s Rat Pack, Topkapi (1964) with Peter Ustinov and Simone Signoret, Alphaville (1965).

Collaborations with Orson Welles

Tamiroff enjoyed a long collaboration with Orson Welles including Touch of Evil (1958) with Charlton Heston, Mr Arkadin (1955), The Trial (1962) and Welles’ unfinished version of Don Quixote, in which he played Sancho Panza.

His performance as the boss in The Great McGinty is regarded as the inspiration for the cartoon character Boris Badenov, the male of the villainous husband-and-wife team Boris and Natasha on “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.”