Akim Tamiroff

Akim Mikhailovich Tamiroff (Armenian: Ակիմ Թամիրով, Russian: Аким Михайлович Тамиров; born Hovakim Tamiryants (Armenian: Հովակիմ Թամիրյանց);[1] October 29, 1899 – September 17, 1972) was an Armenian-American actor. He was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performances in The General Died at Dawn (1936) and For Whom the Bell Tolls (1943), and the latter won him the first Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. Tamiroff appeared in at least 80 American motion pictures in a career spanning thirty-seven years.

Akim Tamiroff
Akim Tamiroff in the Netherlands in 1964
Hovakim Tamiryants

(1899-10-29)October 29, 1899
DiedSeptember 17, 1972(1972-09-17) (aged 72)
Years active1932–1972
Tamara Shayne
(m. 1932; his death 1972)


Tamiroff was born in either Tiflis[2] or Baku, Russian Empire,[3] to an Armenian family.[4] He trained at the Moscow Art Theatre drama school for nine years.[5] He arrived in the U.S. for the first time, in January 1923 on a three-month tour with a troupe of actors. He returned in November and stayed until 1924. His final trip with his theatre group was in October 1927 when he decided to stay permanently.[3][6][7] Tamiroff managed to develop a career in Hollywood despite his thick accent.[3]

Film career

Tamiroff's film 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]

In the following decade, he appeared in such films as 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,[3] and Preston Sturges' The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944).

In later years, 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), and had 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.[10][11]


While Tamiroff may not be a household name now, his malapropistic performance as the boss in The Great McGinty is thought to have been the inspiration for the cartoon character Boris Badenov,[12] the male half of the villainous husband-and-wife team Boris and Natasha on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.[13] He was also spoofed in a 1969 episode of the TV show H.R. Pufnstuf entitled "The Stand-in" in which a frog named "Akim Toadanoff" directs a movie on Living Island.

Personal life

Tamiroff's accepted birth year was 1899, although in at least two instances this appeared to be different. In his second trip to America in November 1923[14] his age is given as 27 and in the 1930 census as 32.[15] He married fellow actress Tamara Shayne, with whom he performed nightclub acts,[3] in February 1933[16] in Los Angeles. Yet, according to the above-mentioned 1930 census, the couple was living in Chicago, Illinois as married under the (misspelled) name Tameriroff.[15] It appears also that this was his second marriage.


Tamiroff died on September 17, 1972, from cancer.[3]


In 1944 Tamiroff was the first Golden Globe Award winner for Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture for his work in For Whom the Bell Tolls.[17]

He was twice nominated for Academy Awards, both times for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The first was for his work in The General Died at Dawn, and the second was for his work in For Whom the Bell Tolls.[3]

Tamiroff received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for motion pictures at 1634 Vine Street.[18][19]

Tamiroff was mentioned in J. D. Salinger's "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" (1942 New Yorker). He is also mentioned in Walker Percy's 1961 novel The Moviegoer.[20]



Year Title Role Notes
1932 Okay, America! Bit Role Uncredited
1933 Clear All Wires! Moscow Hotel Clerk Uncredited
1933 Gabriel Over the White House Delegate to the Debt Conference Uncredited
1933 The Barbarian Colonel Uncredited
1933 Professional Sweetheart Hotel Waiter Uncredited
1933 Storm at Daybreak Gypsy Fiddler Uncredited
1933 The Devil's in Love Adjutant Uncredited
1933 Queen Christina Pedro Uncredited
1934 Fugitive Lovers Deaf-Mute Bus Passenger Uncredited
1934 Sadie McKee Riccori
1934 The Great Flirtation Paul Wengler
1934 Whom the Gods Destroy Peter Korotoff
1934 Straight Is the Way Mr. Slavko Uncredited
1934 Now and Forever French Jeweller Uncredited
1934 Chained Pablo, the Ranch Chef
1934 The Scarlet Empress Bit Part Uncredited
1934 The Merry Widow Manager of Maxim's Uncredited
1934 Lady by Choice Poupolis Uncredited
1934 The Captain Hates the Sea Gen. Salazaro
1934 Here is My Heart Manager of Hotel
1935 The Lives of a Bengal Lancer Emir
1935 La Veuve joyeuse Le Turc
1935 The Winning Ticket Guiseppe
1935 Rumba Tony Uncredited
1935 Naughty Marietta Rudolpho
1935 Black Fury Sokolsky
1935 Reckless Chef at Wedding Uncredited
1935 Go into Your Dance Mexican in La Cucaracha Cantina
1935 Paris in Spring Cafe Manager
1935 China Seas Paul Romanoff
1935 Ladies Love Danger Undetermined Role Scenes deleted
1935 The Gay Deception Spellek
1935 The Big Broadcast of 1936 Boris
1935 Two-Fisted Taxi Driver
1935 The Last Outpost Mirov Uncredited
1936 The Story of Louis Pasteur Dr. Zaranoff
1936 Desire Avilia, Police Official
1936 Woman Trap Joe Ramirez de la Valle
1936 Anthony Adverse Carlo Cibo
1936 The General Died at Dawn General Yang Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1936 The Jungle Princess Karen Neg
1936 I Loved a Soldier Unfinished film
1937 Her Husband Lies Big Ed Bullock
1937 The Soldier and the Lady Ogareff
1937 King of Gamblers Steve Kalkas
1937 The Great Gambini The Great Gambini
1937 High, Wide, and Handsome Joe Varese
1937 This Way Please Tartar Chieftain Uncredited
1938 The Buccaneer Dominique You
1938 Dangerous to Know Stephan Recka
1938 Spawn of the North Red Skain
1938 Ride a Crooked Mile Mike Balan
1939 Paris Honeymoon Mayor Peter Karloca
1939 King of Chinatown Frank Baturin
1939 Union Pacific Fiesta
1939 The Magnificent Fraud Jules LaCroix / President Alvarado
1939 Honeymoon in Bali Tony, the Window Washer
1939 Disputed Passage Dr. 'Tubby' Forster
1940 The Way of All Flesh Paul Kriza
1940 Untamed Joe Easter
1940 The Great McGinty The Boss
1940 North West Mounted Police Dan Duroc
1940 Texas Rangers Ride Again Mio Pio
1941 New York Town Stefan Janowski
1941 The Corsican Brothers Baron Colonna
1942 Reap the Wild Wind The Lamb (voice) Uncredited
1942 Tortilla Flat Pablo
1943 Five Graves to Cairo Farid
1943 For Whom the Bell Tolls Pablo Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1943 His Butler's Sister Popoff
1944 The Miracle of Morgan's Creek The Boss
1944 The Bridge of San Luis Rey Uncle Pio
1944 Dragon Seed Wu Lien
1944 Can't Help Singing Prince Gregory Stroganovsky
1945 Pardon My Past Jim Arnold
1946 A Scandal in Paris Emile Vernet
1947 Fiesta Chato Vasquez
1947 The Gangster Nick Jammey
1948 My Girl Tisa Mr. Grumbach
1948 Relentless Joe Faringo
1949 Outpost in Morocco Lt. Glysko
1949 Black Magic Gitano
1953 Desert Legion Pvt. Plevko
1954 They Who Dare Captain George One
1954 You Know What Sailors Are President of Agraria
1955 Cartouche Il marchese di Salpiere
1955 The Widow The Uncle Carlo Serra Italian title: La vedova X
1955 Mr. Arkadin Jakob Zouk Alternative title: Confidential Report
1956 The Black Sleep Odo
1956 Anastasia Boris Adreivich Chernov
1957 Yangtse Incident: The Story of H.M.S. Amethyst Colonel Peng Alternative title: Battle Hell
1958 Touch of Evil 'Uncle' Joe Grandi
1958 Me and the Colonel Szabuniewicz
1959 Desert Desperadoes The Merchant Italian title: La peccatrice del deserto
1960 Ocean's 11 Spyros Acebos
1961 La moglie di mio marito Presidente agenzia pubblicitaria
1961 The Bacchantes Teiresias Italian title: Le baccanti
1961 Romanoff and Juliet Vadim Romanoff
1961 The Last Judgment The director Italian title: Il giudizio universale
1961 The Italian Brigands O Zingaro Italian title: I briganti italiani
1961 Ursus and the Tartar Princess Khan of the Tartars Italian title: Ursus e la ragazza tartara
1962 Invasion 1700 Jan Onufry Zagłoba Italian title: Col ferro e col fuoco
1962 The Reluctant Saint Bishop Durso
1962 The Trial Bloch
1962 A Queen for Caesar Gnaeus Pompeius Italian title: Una regina per Cesare
1964 The Black Tulip Marquis de Vigogne French title: La Tulipe noire
1964 Panic Button Pandowski
1964 Topkapi Gerven the Cook
1964 Spuit Elf Bakker / Brandmeester
1965 Le bambole Monsignor Arcudi Segment: "Monsignor Cupido"
1965 Lord Jim Schomberg
1965 Crime on a Summer Morning Frank Kramer French title: Par un beau matin d'été
1965 Alphaville Henri Dickson French title: Alphaville: une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution
1965 Marco the Magnificent The Old Man of the Mountain French title: La Fabuleuse Aventure de Marco Polo
1965 Marie-Chantal contre le docteur Kha Prof. Lambaré / Dr. Kha Alternative title: Blue Panther
1965 The Liquidator Sheriek
1966 Adultery Italian Style Max Portesi Italian title: Adulterio all'italiana
1966 Lt. Robin Crusoe, U.S.N. Tanamashu
1966 I nostri mariti Cesare Segment: "Il marito di Olga"
1966 After the Fox Okra Italian title: Caccia alla volpe
1966 Un gangster venuto da Brooklyn Joe Montano
1966 Hotel Paradiso Anniello
1967 The Vulture Prof. Hans Koniglich
1967 A Rose for Everyone Basilio Italian title: Una rosa per tutti
1967 Monsieur Lecoq Unfinished film
1968 O tutto o niente Pigsty / Dean Light
1968 The Girl Who Couldn't Say No Uncle Egidio Italian title: Tenderly
1968 Great Catherine Sergeant
1969 100 Rifles General Romero Scenes deleted
1969 Marquis de Sade: Justine Du Harpin Italian title: Justine, ovvero le disavventure della virtù
1969 The Great Bank Robbery Papa – Juan's Father
1969 Death of a Jew Inspector Mehdaloun
1972 Don Quixote Sancho Panza Unfinished film, filmed between 1955–1969


Year Title Role Notes
1952 Schlitz Playhouse of Stars Episode: "Trouble in Pier Twelve"
1954 The Black Forest Baron von Moribund Television film
1955 The Chocolate Soldier Major Ludek Television film
1955 The Best of Broadway Nick Verdis Episode: "Broadway"
1955 Climax! Albert Ganz Episode: "To Wake at Midnight"
1956 Four Star Playhouse Mendoza Episode: "One Forty Two"
1956 Ethel Barrymore Theatre Pancho Villa Episode: "This Is Villa"
1957 Playhouse 90 Mr. Anagnos Episode: "The Miracle Worker"
1957 Producers' Showcase General Otakar Zandek Episode: "The Great Sebastians"
1958 DuPont Show of the Month Governor Episode: "Cole Porter's 'Aladdin'"
1958 Matinee Theatre Episode: "The Inspector General"
1958 The Rifleman Cesar Tiffauges Episode: "New Orleans Menace"
1959 The DuPont Show with June Allyson Tony Episode: "Love Is a Headache"
1960 Tales of the Vikings Eyulf 2 episodes
1960 Johnny Ringo Andy Baranov Episode: "The Assassins"
1960 Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse Captain Farago Episode: "Thunder in the Night"
1961 Wagon Train Joe Muharich Episode: "The Joe Muharich Story"
1962 Route 66 Sam Benjamin Episode: "Blues for the Left Foot"
1962 The Dick Powell Show Inspector Boulanger Episode: "View from the Eiffel Tower"
1962 Kraft Television Theatre Captain Farago Episode: "Thunder in the Night"
1962–1963 Naked City Emil Pappas / Demetru Lapesku 2 episodes
1963 The Defenders John Solasky Episode: "The Trial of Twenty-Two"
1963 Breaking Point Goldstein Episode: "A Pelican in the Wilderness"
1966 The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Chairman Georgi Koz Episode: "The Jingle Bells Affair"
1969 Then Came Bronson Papa Bear Episode: "Pilot"


  1. Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia (in Armenian). p. 948 via Wikisource.
  2. Parish, James Robert (1978). Hollywood Character Actors. Arlington House. p. 478. ISBN 0-87000-384-4.
  3. "Akim Tamiroff, Actor, Is Dead; Had Screen Career of 35 Years". The New York Times. 19 September 1972. Archived from the original on 24 March 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  4. Adalian, Rouben Paul (2010). Historical Dictionary of Armenia. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 415. ISBN 978-0-8108-6096-4.
  5. "Russians in Hollywood".
  6. 'Practice Fun' Music Studio Archived October 29, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. Dougmacaulay.com. Retrieved on April 1, 2014.
  7. "Akim Tamiroff". Archived from the original on February 1, 2005. Retrieved September 2, 2016.. theoscarsite.com. Retrieved on April 1, 2014.
  8. King, Susan (August 26, 2012). "Cinecon film festival unearths some old treasures". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  9. King, Susan (September 1, 1995). "HOME ENTERTAINMENT : New 'Bell' Tolls With Original Luster". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  10. McCarthy, Todd (May 19, 1992). "Don Quijote de Orson Welles Don Quixote of Orson Welles". Variety. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  11. Lim, Dennis (August 17, 2008). "'Quixote' eerily like Welles' life". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  12. Corliss, Richard (October 23, 2010). "Unsung Creator of Rocky and Bullwinkle Dies". Time. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  13. Low-rated and barely animated, Rocky & Bullwinkle became a TV touchstone. Tv.avclub.com. Retrieved on July 8, 2013.
  14. 1923 passenger list, Birth year 1896. "Ancestry.com".
  15. Census 1930, Tameriroff couple. "Ancestry.com".
  16. Marriage date. "Ancestry.com".
  17. "Golden Globe Awards for 'Akim Tamiroff'". Golden Globe Awards. Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Archived from the original on 16 January 2016. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  18. "Akim Tamiroff | Hollywood Walk of Fame". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  19. "Akim Tamiroff - Hollywood Star Walk". Los Angeles Times. September 19, 1972. Retrieved March 1, 2018.
  20. The Moviegoer. (New York: Vintage, 1998), 165
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