Martin Balsam

Martin Henry Balsam (November 4, 1919 – February 13, 1996)[1] was an American character actor.[2][3] He is best known for a number of renowned film roles, including detective Milton Arbogast in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960), Arnold Burns in A Thousand Clowns (1965) (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), Juror #1 in 12 Angry Men (1957), and Mr. Green in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), as well as for his role as Murray Klein in the television sitcom Archie Bunker's Place (19791983).

Martin Balsam
Balsam in the trailer for The Carpetbaggers (1964)
Martin Henry Balsam

(1919-11-04)November 4, 1919
DiedFebruary 13, 1996(1996-02-13) (aged 76)
Rome, Italy
Resting placeCedar Park Cemetery, Emerson, New Jersey, U.S.
Years active1947–1995
Pearl Somner
(m. 1952; div. 1954)

Joyce Van Patten
(m. 1957; div. 1962)

Irene Miller
(m. 1963; div. 1987)
Children3, including Talia Balsam

Early life

Martin Henry Balsam was born in the Bronx borough of New York City, to Russian-Jewish parents, Lillian (née Weinstein) and Albert Balsam, who was a manufacturer of women's sportswear.[4][5] He attended DeWitt Clinton High School, where he participated in the drama club.[4] He studied at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with the German director Erwin Piscator and then served in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II.


Martin Balsam made his professional debut in August 1941 in a production of The Play's the Thing in Locust Valley.[6] During World War II, he served as a sergeant radio operator in a B-24 in the China-Burma-India theater of operations.[3]

In early 1948, he was selected by Elia Kazan to be a member in the recently formed Actors Studio.[7] Balsam went on to perform in several episodes of the studio's dramatic television anthology series, broadcast between September 1948 and 1950. He appeared in many other television drama series, including Decoy with Beverly Garland, The Twilight Zone (episodes "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine" and "The New Exhibit"), as a psychologist in the pilot episode, Five Fingers, Target: The Corruptors!, The Eleventh Hour, Breaking Point, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Fugitive, and Mr. Broadway, as a retired U.N.C.L.E. agent in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode, "The Odd Man Affair", and guest-starred in the two-part Murder, She Wrote episode, "Death Stalks the Big Top". He also appeared in the Route 66 episode, "Somehow It Gets To Be Tomorrow".

Balsam appeared in such notable films as On the Waterfront, 12 Angry Men (as Juror #1), Time Limit, Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Carpetbaggers, Seven Days in May, The Anderson Tapes, Hombre, Catch-22, Tora! Tora! Tora! (as Admiral Husband E. Kimmel), Little Big Man, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, All the President's Men, Murder on the Orient Express, The Delta Force, and The Goodbye People.

In 1960, he appeared in one of his best-remembered roles as Detective Arbogast in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. Along with Gregory Peck and Robert Mitchum, Balsam appeared in both the original Cape Fear (1962), and the 1991 Martin Scorsese remake. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Arnold Burns in A Thousand Clowns (1965) and, in 1968, won a Tony Award for his appearance in the 1967 Broadway production of You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running. Balsam also performed the original voice of the HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. After his lines were recorded, director Stanley Kubrick decided "Marty just sounded a little bit too colloquially American," and hired Douglas Rain to perform the role for the released film.[8]

Balsam played Dr. Rudy Wells when the Martin Caidin novel Cyborg was adapted as a TV-movie pilot for The Six Million Dollar Man (1973), though he did not reprise the role for the subsequent series. In 1975, he appeared as James Arthur Cummins in the Joe Don Baker police drama Mitchell, a film that was eventually featured in a highly popular episode of the comedy film-riffing series Mystery Science Theater 3000 in 1993. He appeared as a spokesman/hostage in the TV movie Raid on Entebbe (1976) and as a detective in the TVM Contract on Cherry Street (1977). He also appeared on an episode of Quincy ME. Balsam starred as Murray Klein on the All in the Family spin-off Archie Bunker's Place for two seasons (1979–81) and returned for a guest appearance in the show's fourth and final season. He even filled in for Charles Nelson Reilly on Match Game for one question when Reilly was late for a taping.


Year Title Role Notes
1949–1950Actors StudioSoldier4 episodes
1950Danger2 episodes
1951The Living Christ SeriesInnkeeperMiniseries
The Big StoryBill Pinney
Frontiers of Faith
1952The Living BibleNobleman
1953Man Against CrimeTony / Jean Pinay
Valiant LadyJoey Gordon
1954On the WaterfrontGillette, Secondary Investigator for Crime CommissionUncredited
The Greatest GiftHarold Matthews #2
Inner Sanctum MysteryWesley / Hanson / Larkin3 episodes
1954–1955Philco Television PlayhouseCharlie Malick / Mike Galloway3 episodes
1954–1956Goodyear Television PlayhousePerkins / Walter Gregg3 episodes
1955The United States Steel HourPetty Officer
195712 Angry MenJuror #1
Time LimitSargeant Baker
1957–1958Studio OneFrancis Toohey / Ed Coyne3 episodes
1958Kraft Television TheatreDino
Marjorie MorningstarDr. David Harris
Father Knows BestTeacher
DecoyNick Santos
Alfred Hitchcock PresentsLeonard Thompson
1958–59Playhouse 90Sam Gordon / Captain Mantell3 episodes
Westinghouse Desilu PlayhouseGambetta / Dr. Gillespie2 episodes
1958–1960Have Gun – Will TravelMarshall Jim Brock / Charles Dawes2 episodes
1959RawhideFather Fabian
Al CaponeMac Keeley
The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen2 episodes
Middle of the NightJack
BrennerArnold Joplin
The DuPont Show of the MonthCharlie Davis
Dick Powell's Zane Grey TheaterSam Butler
The Twilight ZoneDanny WeissEpisode: "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine"
1959–1962Naked CityCaptain Russell Barris / Joseph Creeley / Caldwell Wyatt / Arnold Fleischman4 episodes
1960Five FingersMonteverdi
Goodyear TheaterJoe Lane
The Robert Herridge Theater
Sunday ShowcaseNicola Sacco
PsychoDetective Milton Arbogast
Tutti a casaSergeant Quintino Fornaciari
1961Way OutBill Clayton
Alfred Hitchcock PresentsElon Marsh
AdaSteve Jackson
Breakfast at Tiffany'sO.J. Berman
The New BreedFrank Eberhardt
The UntouchablesBarry Leimer
Route 66Corelli
1961–1964The DefendersDistrict Attorney / Bernard Maxwell / Floyd Harker4 episodes
1962Cain's HundredJack Garsell
The UntouchablesArnold Justin
Cape FearPolice Chief Mark Dutton
Target: The CorruptorsJeffrey Marvin
La città prigionieraJoseph Feinberg
1962–1966Dr. KildareDr. Milton Orliff / Benny Orloff / Ned Lacey7 episodes
1963Route 66Mike
The Eleventh HourFrank Dunlear
The Twilight ZoneMartin Lombard SenescuEpisode: "The New Exhibit"
Breaking PointRabbi Eli Oringer
Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?Sanford Kaufman
1964Arrest and TrialLeo Valera
EspionageRichard Carey
Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler TheatreDave Breslaw
Seven Days in MayPresidential aide Paul Girard
Wagon TrainMarcey Jones
SuspenseDetective Jack Gross
The CarpetbaggersBernard B. Norman
Youngblood HawkeCameo AppearanceUncredited
Mr. BroadwayNate Bannerman
1965ITV Play of the WeekDoc Delaney
The Man from U.N.C.L.EAlbert SullyEpisode: "The Odd Man Affair"
HarlowEverett Redman
The Bedford IncidentLieutenant Commander Chester Potter, USNR, MD
A Thousand ClownsArnoldAcademy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1966Caccia alla volpeHarry Granoff
"Anyone Around My Base Is It"NarratorShort Documentary
1967The FugitiveAndrew Newmark
Among the Paths to EdenIvor Belli
1968The Name of the GameAngie
Around the World of Mike ToddMichael ToddTV movie / Documentary; Voice
1969Me, NatalieUncle Harold
The Good Guys and the Bad GuysMayor Wilker
TrilogyIvor Belli(segment: "Among the Paths to Eden")
1970CBS PlayhouseJesse
Hunters Are for KillingWade HamiltonTV movie
Catch-22Colonel CathcartGroup Commander, 256th Bomb Group
Tora! Tora! Tora!Admiral Husband E. Kimmel
The Old Man Who Cried WolfStanley Pulska
The Name of the GameHerb Witmer
Little Big ManMr. Merriweather
1971Confessions of a Police CaptainInspector Bonavia
The Anderson TapesTommy Haskins
1972Chronicle of a HomicideJudge Aldo Sola
The Hassled Hooker District Attorney Turrisi
The ManJim Talley
Night of TerrorCaptain Caleb SarkTV movie
The Infamous Column
1973A Brand New LifeJim DouglasTV movie
The Six Million Dollar ManDr. Rudy WellsTV movie: "The Moon and the Desert"
The Stone KillerAl Vescari
Counselor at CrimeDon Antonio Macaluso
Summer Wishes, Winter DreamsHarry Walden
Money to BurnTV movie
Police StoryDetective Al Koster
1974The Taking of Pelham One Two ThreeHarold "Green" Longman
Trapped Beneath the SeaT.C. HollisterTV movie
KojakRay Kaufman
Murder on the Orient ExpressBianchi
1975Miles to Go Before I SleepBen MontgomeryTV movie
Smiling ManiacsCarlo Goja
Death Among FriendsHam Russell BucknerTV movie
Cry, Onion!Petrus Lamb
MitchellJames Arthur Cummings
Season for AssassinsCommissioner Katroni
1976The Lindbergh Kidnapping CaseEdward J. ReillyTV movie
All the President's MenHoward Simons
Meet Him and DieGiulianelli
Death RageCommissario
Two-Minute WarningSam McKeever
Raid on EntebbeDaniel CooperTV movie
1977The SentinelProfessor Ruzinsky
Silver BearsJoe Fiore
Contract on Cherry StreetCaptain Ernie Weinberg
The StorytellerIra DavidoffTV movie
Blood and DiamondsRizzo
1978Eyes Behind the StarsInspector Jim Grant
SiegeHenry FancherTV movie
RainbowLouis B. MayerTV movie
The MillionaireArthur HainesTV movie
The Joe Franklin ShowHimselfTelevision interview
A Salute to American ImaginationHimselfTV movie / Documentary
1979The Seeding of Sarah BurnsDr. Samuel MelmanTV movie
The House on Garibaldi StreetIsser HarelTV movie
Aunt MaryHarry StrasburgTV movie
CubaGeneral Bello
1979–1983Archie Bunker's PlaceMurray Kleinseries regular / guest star; 46 episodes
1980The Love TapesDavid Franklin
There Goes the BrideElmer Babcock
The WarningQuestore Martorana
1981The SalamanderCaptain Steffanelli
The People vs. Jean HarrisJoel AurnouTV movie
1982Quincy, M.E.Hyam Sigerski
Little Gloria... Happy at LastNathan BurkanTV movie
Night of 100 StarsHimselfTV special
1983I Want to Live!Jack BradyTV movie
Cold StorageParmigianTV Movie
1984The Goodbye PeopleMax Silverman
Innocent PreySheriff Virgil Baker
1985SpaceSenator GlanceyMiniseries
St. Elmo's FireMr. Beamish
Murder in SpaceAlexander RostovTV movie
Death Wish 3Bennett
Great PerformancesJack
1986La piovra, season 2Frank CarrisiMiniseries; 5 episodes
The Delta ForceBen Kaplan
Whatever It TakesHap Perchicksky
Second ServeDr. BeckTV movie
Murder, She WroteEdgar CarmodyEpisodes: "Death Stalks The Big Top" Parts 1 & 2
The Twilight ZoneRockne O'BannonSegment: "Personal Demons"
1987HotelDr. Gilbert Holt
QueenieMartyTV miniseries
P.I. Private InvestigationsCliff Dowling
The Twilight ZoneProfessor Donald KnowlesSegment: "Voices in the Earth"
Brothers in Blood Major Briggs
Kids Like TheseGrandpaTV movie
Once AgainTV movie
1988The Child SaverSidney RosenbergTV movie
The Brother from Space Father Howard
1989OceanDon Matias QuinteroTV miniseries
1990Two Evil EyesMr. Pym(segment "The Black Cat")
Midnight CallerGil Solarski
La piovra, season 5Don Calogero Barretta
1991Ľultima metaLawyer
Cape FearJudge
1992The Sands of TimeTV movie
1993"The Black Cat"Movie Short
1994The Silence of the HamsDetective Martin Balsam
1995Soldato ignotoEnglish meaning: Unknown Soldier
1997Legend of the Spirit DogGrampsReleased posthumously on August 19, 1997, 9 months after his death (final film role)

Personal life

In 1951, Balsam married his first wife, actress Pearl Somner. They divorced three years later. His second wife was actress Joyce Van Patten. This marriage lasted for four years (from 1958 until 1962) and produced one daughter, Talia Balsam. He married his third wife, Irene Miller, in 1963. They had two children, Adam and Zoe Balsam, and divorced in 1987.[4]


On February 13, 1996, Balsam died suddenly of a stroke in his hotel room while vacationing in Rome, Italy. He was 76 years old. He is interred at Cedar Park Cemetery, in Emerson, New Jersey.[9]

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards

Year Category Work Result
1966Best Supporting ActorA Thousand ClownsWon

National Board of Review

Tony Awards

Golden Globe Awards

BAFTA Awards

Primetime Emmy Awards

  • (1977) Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie – Raid on Entebbe (Nominated)


  1. "Balsam, Martin Henry". Who Was Who in America : with World Notables, v. XI (1993–96). New Providence, N.J.: Marquis Who's Who. 1996. p. 13. ISBN 0837902258.
  2. OLIVER, MYRNA (14 February 1996). "Martin Balsam; Veteran Character Actor" via LA Times.
  3. Gelder, Lawrence Van (14 February 1996). "Martin Balsam Is Dead at 76; Ubiquitous Character Actor" via
  4. The New York Times, February 14, 1996: "Martin Balsam Is Dead at 76; Ubiquitous Character Actor" Retrieved 2012-06-15
  5. "Great Character Actors".
  6. Ian Herbert, ed. (1981). "BALSAM, Martin". Who's Who in the Theatre. 1. Gale Research Company. pp. 39–40. ISSN 0083-9833.
  7. Garfield, David (1980). "Birth of The Actors Studio: 1947–50". A Player's Place: The Story of the Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc. p. 52. ISBN 0-02-542650-8. Others usually considered founding members in Kazan's group were added in the early months of 1948. They include Martin Balsam, Kim Hunter, and Vivian Nathan.
  8. Flahive, Gerry (30 March 2018). "The Story of a Voice: HAL in '2001' Wasn't Always So Eerily Calm" via
  9. "Sometimes the Grave Is a Fine and Public Place". New York Times. March 28, 2004.
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