Gene Saks

Gene Saks (November 8, 1921 – March 28, 2015) was an American stage, film director, and actor. An inductee of the American Theater Hall of Fame, his acting career beginning with a debut on Broadway in 1949. As a director, he was nominated for seven Tony Awards, winning three for his direction of I Love My Wife, Brighton Beach Memoirs and Biloxi Blues. He also directed a number of films during his career. He was married to Bea Arthur from 1950 until 1978, and subsequently to Keren Saks, from 1980 to his death in 2015.

Gene Saks
Jean Michael Saks

(1921-11-08)November 8, 1921
DiedMarch 28, 2015(2015-03-28) (aged 93)
  • American actor
  • stage/film director
Years active1949–2015
Bea Arthur
(m. 1950; div. 1978)

Keren Saks
(m. 1980)

Early life

Saks was born Jean Michael Saks in New York City, the son of Beatrix (née Lewkowitz) and Morris J. Saks.[1] Saks first became involved in theater as a student at Hackensack High School.[2]

He studied at Cornell University and trained for acting at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with the German director Erwin Piscator.


Saks made his acting debut on Broadway in South Pacific in 1949. On stage he also appeared in A Shot in the Dark, The Tenth Man and A Thousand Clowns, in the role of Leo "Chuckles The Chipmunk" Herman, which he reprised in the film version. He portrayed Jack Lemmon's brother in the screen adaptation of Simon's The Prisoner of Second Avenue, and also appeared in Nobody's Fool starring Paul Newman.[3]

Saks shared a long-term professional association with playwright/comedy writer Neil Simon,[4] directing Simon's plays Biloxi Blues, Brighton Beach Memoirs, Jake's Women, Rumors, Lost in Yonkers, Broadway Bound, The Odd Couple (1985 revival with female cast) and California Suite. His additional Broadway credits included Enter Laughing; Half a Sixpence; Nobody Loves an Albatross; Mame; I Love My Wife; Same Time, Next Year and Rags.

Among Saks' film directing credits were Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Cactus Flower (which won Goldie Hawn the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress), Last of the Red Hot Lovers, Mame, Brighton Beach Memoirs, A Fine Romance, and the 1995 television production of Bye Bye Birdie.[3]

Personal life

Saks was married to fellow Actors Studio member actress Bea Arthur,[5] from 1950 until 1978. The couple had two sons, by adoption: Matthew (born in 1961), an actor, and Daniel (born in 1964), a set designer. He also had a daughter by his second wife Keren Saks.[4] Saks succumbed to pneumonia at East Hampton residence on March 28, 2015, aged 93.[4]

Awards, nominations and honours


  • 1977 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – I Love My Wife
  • 1983 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play – Brighton Beach Memoirs
  • 1985 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play – Biloxi Blues


  • 1965 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – Half a Sixpence
  • 1966 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical – Mame
  • 1969 DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in a Movie – The Odd Couple
  • 1975 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play – Same Time, Next Year
  • 1975 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play – Same Time, Next Year
  • 1977 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Musical – I Love My Wife
  • 1985 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play – Biloxi Blues
  • 1987 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Director of a Play – Broadway Bound
  • 1991 Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play – Lost in Yonkers




Year Title Role Notes
1951 Out There Episode: “Misfit”
1954 Omnibus Traveling salesman Episode: “Hilde and the Turnpike”
1955 Danger Episode: “Precinct Girl”
1955 You Are There Pvt. Lambert Episode: “D-Day (June 6, 1944)”
1955 Producers' Showcase Waiter Episode: “Reunion in Vienna”
1955 Pond's Theater Episode: "The Ways of Courage"
1955 The Elgin Hour Mitchell Sanders Episode: “Mind Over Momma”
1955 Playwrights '56 Mr. Baumgarten Episode: “Snow Job”
1956 Playwrights '56 Doctor Episode: “The Center of the Maze”
1956 Playwrights '56 Emcee Episode: “You Sometimes Get Rich”
1958 Kraft Theatre Episode: “Three Plays by Tennessee Williams: Moony's Kid Don't Cry/The Last of My Solid Gold Watches/This Property Is Condemned” Anthology series
1958 Where Is Thy Brother? Mr. Kalish
1959 Bachelor Father Fred Episode:”Bentley, the Organizer”
1959 Mike Hammer Gobo McCoy ”See No Evil”
1959 Brenner Vinnie Harper Episode: “Small Take”
1959 Rendezvous Episode:” The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit”
1960 Play of the Week Mikoel ”The Dybbuk”
1961 Great Ghost Tales Episode: “Bye Bye Baby”
1961 The United States Steel Hour Willie Episode: “Man on the Mountain Top”
1963 Armstrong Circle Theatre Arthur Vernon Episode: “The Embezzler”
1965 A Thousand Clowns Leo
1975 The Prisoner of Second Avenue Harry Edison
1978 The One and Only Sidney Seltzer
1983 Lovesick Frantic Patient
1984 The Goodbye People Marcus Soloway
1991 The Good Policeman
1994 Nobody's Fool Wirf
1994 I.Q. Boris Podolsky
1996 On Seventh Avenue Sol Jacobs
1997 Deconstructing Harry Harry's Father
1998 Law & Order Judge Carl Samuel Episode: “Castoff”


Year Title Notes
1967 Barefoot in the Park
1968 The Odd Couple
1969 Cactus Flower
1972 Last of the Red Hot Lovers
1974 Mame
1986 Brighton Beach Memoirs
1991 A Fine Romance
1995 Bye Bye Birdie TV Movie


  1. Gene Saks profile,, accessed August 23, 2011.
  2. Staff. "Who's Who in the Cast", Playbill, 1981. Accessed August 13, 2018. "Gene Saks (Director) began his theatrical career playing Lord Fancourt Babberley in the Hackensack High School's production of Charlie's Aunt."
  3. Gene Saks at the Internet Broadway Database
  4. Weber, Bruce (March 29, 2015). "Gene Saks, Tony-Winning Director of Neil Simon Hits, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  5. Gene Saks/Beatrice Arthur at the University of Wisconsin's Actor Studio audio collection Archived 2014-05-02 at the Wayback Machine
  6. "On Stage, and Off". The New York Times. December 6, 1991.
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