Simon Oakland

Simon Oakland (August 28, 1915 – August 29, 1983) was an American actor of stage, screen, and television.[1] During his career, Oakland performed primarily on television, appearing in over 130 series and made-for-television movies between 1951 and 1983.[2] His most notable big-screen roles were in Psycho (1960), West Side Story (1961), The Sand Pebbles (1966), Bullitt (1969), The Hunting Party (1971) and Chato's Land (1972).

Simon Oakland
Oakland (left) as Inspector Spooner and Tony Musante as Toma from Toma (1973)
Born(1915-08-28)August 28, 1915
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedAugust 29, 1983(1983-08-29) (aged 68)
Years active1951–1983
Spouse(s)Lois Porta (c. 1943–1983, his death; one child)

Early life and career

Oakland was born in the Brooklyn borough of New York City,[3] the eldest of the three sons of Jacob Weiss and Ethel Oaklander.[4][5] His father was a plasterer and builder.[6] While he later claimed in media interviews to have been born in 1922[6][7] (a date repeated in his New York Times obituary),[1][8] Social Security and vital records indicate he was born Simon Weiss in 1915; his stage name was likely derived from his mother's maiden name, Oaklander.[9][10][11][Note 1]

He began his performing arts career as a musician (he was a violinist,[13] an avocation he would pursue during his entire career as an actor). Oakland began his acting career in the late 1940s. He enjoyed a series of Broadway hits, including Light Up the Sky, The Shrike and Inherit the Wind, and theater was one of his lasting passions. He was a concert violinist until the 1940s.

Moving to films and television

In 1955 Oakland made his film debut, though uncredited, as an Indiana state trooper in The Desperate Hours. He next appeared in two films released in 1958: as the character Mavrayek in The Brothers Karamazov and then in the role of Edward Montgomery in I Want to Live![14] The character Montgomery was a real-life journalist, who had reported on the California murder trial and 1955 execution of Barbara Graham, played by Susan Hayward in the film. Oakland's portrayal of the journalist as a "tough, but compassionate" personality resulted in the actor's often being typecast in his subsequent roles in both films and on television.

Simon Oakland's notable performance in I Want to Live! led to his playing a long series of tough-guy types, usually in positions of authority, most notably in Psycho, in which he plays the psychiatrist who explains Norman Bates's multiple personality disorder. He also appeared in West Side Story, The Sand Pebbles, and Bullitt. He made two guest appearances on CBS's Perry Mason, both times as the murder victim. He also appeared in the syndicated crime drama, Decoy, starring Beverly Garland. Oakland appeared once each on the CBS western, Dundee and the Culhane and in another syndicated crime drama series, Sheriff of Cochise, starring John Bromfield. Oakland played the regular role of General Thomas Moore on NBC's Baa Baa Black Sheep, starring Robert Conrad. He also appeared in two episodes of the original The Twilight Zone TV series and in The Outer Limits as the alien birdman in "Second Chance". In 1974 and 1975, he was a series regular on Kolchak: The Night Stalker, playing newspaper editor Tony Vincenzo. (He'd previously played the same character in the two made-for-television movies that served as the pilot for the series.)

Oakland was the familiar voice-over for the tag line "When It Absolutely, Positively Has To Be There Overnight" heard at the end of each television commercial for the long-running Federal Express advertising campaign, created by the New York advertising agency Ally & Gargano.

He also played the role of a Sony dealer for an ad campaign of ten national radio commercials, written and directed by Peter Hoffman, for the New York office of the global advertising agency McCann-Erickson when they had the Sony account.

Personal life

Oakland was married to Lois Lorraine Porta (1918–2003).[7][15] The couple had one daughter, Barbara.[1]


Simon Oakland continued working up to the year of his death. His last credited acting appearance was in the episode "Living and Presumed Dead" on the CBS television series Tucker's Witch.[16] That episode aired just three months before Oakland died of colon cancer in Cathedral City, California, on August 29, 1983, a day after the actor's 68th birthday.

TV and filmography


  1. Some primary sources suggest his birth name may have been Isidor Weiss.[5][12] One source reported that his "real name" was Si Oaklander,[6] but this is contradicted by the weight of evidence.


  1. "Simon Oakland, 61, Actor who starred in 3 TV series, dies". New York Times. 1 September 1983. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  2. "Simon Oakland", Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  3. "Villain on the screen really is a nice guy". The Morning Record. 9 December 1967. p. 3. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  4. "Death Notices: Weiss, Ethel". The Miami News. October 9, 1974 via
  5. "United States Census, 1930". Family Search. Retrieved 3 June 2016. Isidor Weiss in household of Jacob Weiss, Brooklyn (registration required)
  6. Wilson, Earl (14 May 1977). "People Recognise His Face But Not Oakland's Name". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. p. 11A. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  7. Blank, Edward L. (3 January 1972). "Simon Oakland: 'Face is Familiar - What's his name?'". The Pittsburgh Press. p. 39. Retrieved 2 March 2016.
  8. "Michigan Obituaries, 1820-2006". FamilySearch. Retrieved 1 March 2016.
  9. "California Death Index, 1940-1997". Retrieved 28 September 2019. Duplicate entries under surname Weiss and Oakland with same Social Security number.
  10. "California Death Index, 1940-1997". Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  11. "U.S. Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014". Retrieved 28 September 2019.
  12. "New York, New York, Births, 1910-1965". New York City Department of Health. Retrieved 2 February 2018.
  13. Thompson, Ruth (28 October 1968). "More Than 800 Programs for Simon Oakland". The Gettysburg Times (TV Magazine). p. 1. Retrieved 3 March 2016.
  14. "Simon Oakland", IMDb. Retrieved April 27, 2017.
  15. "Funeral Services & Memorials: Lois Lorraine Oakland, 84". Santa Fe New Mexican. New Mexico. 9 April 2003. p. 12 via
  16. "Living and Presumed Dead", Tucker's Witch episode S01E11, originally broadcast May 5, 1983. IMDb. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
  17. "Gentle Ben (TV Series 1967–1969)" via
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