Jack Albertson

Jack Albertson (June 16, 1907 – November 25, 1981) was an American actor, comedian, dancer, and singer who also performed in vaudeville.[1] Albertson is known for his role as John Cleary in The Subject Was Roses (1968), for which he received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor; Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971); Manny Rosen in The Poseidon Adventure (1972); and Ed Brown in the television sitcom Chico and the Man (1974–78). For his contributions to the television industry, Albertson was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1977 at 6253 Hollywood Boulevard.[2]

Jack Albertson
Albertson in the special TV presentation The Sad and Lonely Sundays (1986).
Harold Albertson

(1907-06-16)June 16, 1907
DiedNovember 25, 1981(1981-11-25) (aged 74)
Hollywood Hills, California, U.S.
Other namesJohn Alberts
  • Actor
  • vaudevillian
  • comedian
  • dancer
  • singer
Years activeca. 1926–1981
Notable credit(s)
TelevisionChico and the Man (1974–1978)
June Wallace Thompson (m. 1952)

Early life

Albertson was born on June 16, 1907, in Malden, Massachusetts,[3] the son of Russian Jewish immigrants Flora (née Craft) and Leopold Albertson.[4][5] His older sister was actress Mabel Albertson. Albertson's mother, a stock actress, supported the family by working in a shoe factory.[4] Until at least the age of 22, Albertson was known as "Harold Albertson".[4] His father abandoned his mother before Jack was born, and the boy was raised by his stepfather, Alex Erlich, a barber. Albertson's formal education ended after a single year in high school. During a New York Daily News interview (January 2, 1973) with Sidney Fields he reminisced: "I was bright but disruptive. I didn't do homework. To cover, I made wisecracks and funny faces at the teachers. They told me to take my business elsewhere." For a while Albertson worked at the local General Electric plant and in one of the many shoe factories in the Lynn, Massachusetts, area. He was also a rack boy in neighborhood pool parlors, where he was by his own admission a fairly good pool hustler, although he was always on guard to avoid playing anyone who could "out-hustle" him. Reportedly, at one point he ran away to sea, an undertaking not as romantic as it sounds, since his parents apparently helped him pack for the voyage. His pool hall days provided Albertson with an opportunity to learn a few tap-dance routines from his fellow hustlers, and when he was eighteen he began to be paid for his prize-winning shows. His sister Mabel taught him the first "time" steps in tap-dancing, and he picked up additional routines by watching vaudeville acts that played his hometown. About that time he started singing with a group called "The Golden Rule Four," who held their practice sessions beneath a railroad bridge.[6]



Albertson dropped out of high school to join the vaudeville road troupe known as the Dancing Verselle Sisters. He then worked in burlesque as a hoofer (soft shoe dancer) and straight man to Phil Silvers on the Minsky's Burlesque Circuit. Besides vaudeville and burlesque, he appeared on the stage in many Broadway plays and musicals, including High Button Shoes, Top Banana, The Cradle Will Rock, Make Mine Manhattan, Show Boat, Boy Meets Girl, Girl Crazy, Meet the People, The Sunshine Boys – for which he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor, and The Subject Was Roses – for which he won a Tony for Best Supporting Actor.[7]


Albertson appeared in more than 30 films. He had an early minor role in Miracle on 34th Street as a postal worker who redirects dead letters addressed to "Santa Claus" to the courthouse where Kris Kringle is on trial. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role in the 1968 film The Subject Was Roses.[8] He later apologized to child actor Jack Wild for winning the award; Wild was also nominated for his role in Oliver! and Albertson expected Wild to win.

Albertson appeared as Charlie Bucket's Grandpa Joe in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), and in The Poseidon Adventure (1972), where he played Manny Rosen,[8] husband to Belle, played by Shelley Winters. The actor Arthur O'Connell, who physically resembled Albertson, also appeared in the movie as the ship's chaplain.

Albertson said that his one regret was that he did not reprise his role in the movie version of The Sunshine Boys. When producer Ray Stark acquired the film rights from Neil Simon in 1973, Albertson was expected to play the part, but by the time MGM had bought the rights in 1974 and was preparing to begin filming in February 1975, Albertson was not available because he was appearing on Chico and the Man on TV.[9]


Albertson was a radio performer early in his career. Among the shows he appeared on were Just Plain Bill, Lefty, That's My Pop and The Jack Albertson Comedy Show. In the late 1940s he was for a time a regular on the Milton Berle Show.[10]


Albertson appeared in many television series, such as Hey, Jeannie! with Jeannie Carson, the syndicated Western series Frontier Doctor with Rex Allen, Rod Cameron's syndicated crime drama State Trooper, and the 1961–62 drama series Bus Stop. He guest-starred on the David Janssen crime-drama series Richard Diamond, Private Detective.

From 1960–1961, Albertson was cast in three episodes of Pete and Gladys, with Harry Morgan and Cara Williams. On January 2, 1961, Albertson was cast as Sampson J. Binton, with DeForest Kelley as Alex Jeffords, in "Listen to the Nightingale", the series finale of Riverboat, starring Darren McGavin.[11] Albertson had a recurring role as the neighbor Walter Burton in eight episodes of the 1962 ABC sitcom Room for One More, with Andrew Duggan and Peggy McCay. He had recurring roles in Ensign O'Toole (1962–63) and Run, Buddy, Run (1966).

Other 1960s series on which Albertson appeared were NBC's sitcom, Happy starring Ronnie Burns, and Glynis, starring Glynis Johns and Keith Andes, which aired for 13 weeks in the fall of 1963. Albertson appeared in two episodes of The Twilight Zone. In a 1967 episode of The Andy Griffith Show, he played the ne'er-do-well cousin, Bradford J. Taylor, of series character Aunt Bee (Frances Bavier). He also appeared in a 1969 episode of the TV series The Virginian entitled Girl in the shadows. In 1970 Albertson appeared as Billy "Moose" Valentine in The Men From Shiloh, the rebranded name for The Virginian in the episode titled "With Love, Bullets and Valentines."

He co-starred as "The Man" Ed Brown on the popular series Chico and the Man with Freddie Prinze. He stayed for its entire run from 1974 to 1978. He earned an Emmy Award for his role in 1976.

Personal life and death

He resided for many years in West Hollywood, California. In 1978, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, but kept this information private and continued to act. Two of his last roles were in the television movies, My Body, My Child (1982) and Grandpa, Will You Run with Me? (1983), both filmed in 1981 and released posthumously. His final theatrical role was as the ill-tempered hunter, Amos Slade, in Disney's 24th animated feature, The Fox and the Hound, originally released in the summer of 1981, four months before his death.

He and his wife, June (July 23, 1924 – January 9, 2015) had a daughter, Maura Dhu.[12] Albertson died on November 25, 1981,[7] at the age of 74, of colorectal cancer. He and his elder sister, Mabel Albertson, (who died ten months later from Alzheimer's disease) were cremated and their ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean.[3]



Year Title Role Notes
1938 Next Time I Marry Reporter
1940 Strike Up the Band Barker Uncredited
1947 Miracle on 34th Street Al Uncredited
1952 Anything Can Happen Flower Vendor Uncredited
1954 Top Banana Vic Davis
1955 Bring Your Smile Along Mr. Jenson
1956 Over-Exposed Les Bauer
The Harder They Fall Pop
The Eddy Duchin Story Piano tuner Uncredited
The Unguarded Moment Prof
You Can't Run Away from It Third proprietor
1957 Monkey on My Back Sam Pian
Man of a Thousand Faces Dr. J. Wilson Shields
Don't Go Near the Water Rep. George Jansen
1958 Teacher's Pet Guide
1959 Never Steal Anything Small Sleep-Out Charlie Barnes
The Shaggy Dog Reporter Uncredited
1961 The George Raft Story Milton
Lover Come Back Fred
1962 Convicts 4 Art Teacher
Period of Adjustment Desk Sergeant
Who's Got the Action? Officer Hodges
Days of Wine and Roses Trayner
1963 Son of Flubber Mr. Barley
1964 Kissin' Cousins Capt. Robert Jason Salbo
A Tiger Walks Sam Grant
The Patsy Theatergoer with Helen
Roustabout Lou (tea house manager)
1965 How to Murder Your Wife Dr. Bentley
1967 The Flim-Flam Man Mr. Packard
1968 How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life Mr. Slotkin
The Subject Was Roses John Cleary Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1969 Changes The Father
Justine Cohen
1970 Squeeze a Flower Alfredo Brazzi
Rabbit, Run Marty Tothero
1971 Once Upon a Dead Man
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Grandpa Joe Bucket
The Late Liz Reverend Gordon Rogers
1972 Pickup on 101 Jedediah Bradley
The Poseidon Adventure Manny Rosen
1981 Dead & Buried William G. Dobbs
The Fox and the Hound Amos Slade Voice, final theatrical role


Year Title Role Notes
1956 I Love Lucy Helicopter Dispatcher Episode: "Bon Voyage"
Crusader Ernie Duchek Episode: "The Syndicate"
Sheriff of Cochise Greenbriar Merritt Episode: "Closed for Repairs"
1957–1959 The Thin Man Lt. Harry Evans 14 episodes
1957–1960 Have Gun – Will Travel Mayor Whiteside
Jason Coldwell
3 episodes
1958 Bachelor Father Charlie Sharpe
2 episodes
The People's Choice Luther Jenkins Episode: "Daisies Won't Tell", with Jackie Cooper
1959 Richard Diamond, Private Detective Fallace Episode: "Boomerang Bait"
1959–1961 The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis Bison Lodge Member
Police Sergeant
Newspaper Reporter
Mr. Quimby
Police chief
5 episodes
1959–1962 The Jack Benny Program Reporter 6 episodes
1960 The Gale Storm Show Freddy Morell Episode: "Show Biz"
The Tab Hunter Show Coach Episode: "My Darling Teacher"
The Ann Sothern Show Mr. Dooley Episode: "Billy"
Happy Ed Langley Episode: "Chris' Night Out"
Klondike Eskimo Eddie Episode: "Sure Thing, Men"
1961 Riverboat Sampson J. Binton Episode: "Listen to the Nightingale"'
The Twilight Zone Jerry Harlowe Episode: "The Shelter"
1961–1964 Mister Ed Paul Fenton 7 episodes
1962 The Dick Van Dyke Show Mr. Eisenbauer Episode: "The Twizzle"
Bus Stop Lawson Episode: "Turn Home Again"
Lawman Doc Peters Episode: "The Unmasked"
Saints and Sinners Dr. Felixson Episode: "All the Hard Young Men"
Room for One More Walter Burton 8 episodes
1962–1963 Ensign O'Toole Lt. Cdr. Virgil Stoner 32 episodes
1963 Glynis Al Episode: "The Pros and Cons"
The Twilight Zone The Genie Episode: "I Dream of Genie"
The Lieutenant District Attorney Episode: "Cool of the Evening"
1964 Death Valley Days Pearlman Episode: "Sixty-Seven Miles of Gold"
1966–1967 Run for Your Life Harry Krissel 2 episodes
1967 The Andy Griffith Show Bradford J. Taylor Episode: "Aunt Bee's Cousin"
1968 Ironside Money Howard Episode: "Side Pocket"'
1968–1972 Bonanza Jonathan May
Enos Blessing
2 episodes
1969 The Big Valley Judge Ben Moore Episode: "The Battle of Mineral Springs"
The Monk Tinker ABC Movie of the Week
1969–1970 Land of the Giants Professor Kirmus
2 episodes
The Virginian Billy "Moose" Valentine
Nathaniel E. "Doc" Watson
2 episodes
1969–1974 Gunsmoke Moses Darby
Joshua Finch
Lucius Prince
Danny Wilson
3 episodes
1970 Marcus Welby, M.D. Mr. Chambers Episode: "Go Get 'Em, Tiger"
The Immortal Dr. Koster Episode: "Reflections on a Lost Tomorrow"
Daniel Boone Sweet Episode: "Run for the Money"
Nanny and the Professor Edwin Higgenbotham Botkin Episode: "The Haunted House"
1971 Love, American Style Archie Segment: "Love and the Second Time"
1971–1972 Dr. Simon Locke Dr. Andrew Sellers
1972 Night Gallery Bullivant Episode: "Dead Weight"
1973 The Streets of San Francisco Tim Murphy Episode: "The Set-Up"
1974 Gunsmoke Moses Darby Episode: "Cowtown Hustler" S19E22 Aired on May 11, 1974
1974–1978 Chico and the Man Ed Brown 88 episodes
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (1976)
Nominated-Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (1975, 1977)
1975 Tony Orlando and Dawn Himself Episode: #1.20
Mitzi and 100 Guys Himself TV movie
Cher Himself Episode: "Episode #1.4"
Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Continuing or Single Performance in Variety or Music
Match Game '75 Himself 5 episodes
1976 Donny & Marie Himself Episode dated April 6, 1976
1978 Grandpa Goes to Washington Senator Joe Kelley 7 episodes
1980 Charlie's Angels Edward Jordan Episode: "Angel in Hiding"
1982 My Body, My Child Poppa MacMahon TV movie; filmed in 1981; released posthumously; final television role
Terror at Alcatraz George 'Deacon' Wheeler TV movie, (final film role)


  1. Obituary Variety, December 2, 1981.
  2. "Hollywood Walk of Fame - Jack Albertson". walkoffame.com. Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
  3. "Wallace Thomson Albertson Obituary". Los Angeles Times. Legacy.com. April 26, 2015.
  4. Jack Albertson's Kinship to Cloris Leachman, genealogymagazine.com; accessed October 19, 2015.
  5. Berkvist, Robert (January 7, 1973). "Jack Spreads A Little Sunshine; Jack Spreads Sunshine". The New York Times. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
  6. "Current Biography 1976". The H.W. Wilson Company. 1976. P#3-4
  7. Jack Albertson at the Internet Broadway Database
  8. Jack Alberston on TCM.com
  9. Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys at the American Film Institute Catalog
  10. Terrace, Vincent. (1998) Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland. p.229 ISBN 9780786445134
  11. ""Listen to the Nightingale", Riverboat". IMDb.com. January 2, 1961. Retrieved February 21, 2013.
  12. Blau, Eleanor (November 28, 1981). "Jack Albertson, Versatile Star of Stage, Film and TV Series". The New York Times.
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