Martin Balsam
Balsam in the 1960s
Martin Henry Balsam

(1919-11-04)November 4, 1919
New York City, U.S.
DiedFebruary 13, 1996(1996-02-13) (aged 76)
Rome, Italy
Resting placeCedar Park Cemetery, New Jersey, U.S.
Alma materThe New School
Years active1947–1995
Notable workSee list
  • Pearl Somner
    (m. 1951; div. 1954)
  • (m. 1957; div. 1962)
  • Irene Miller
    (m. 1963; div. 1987)
Children3, including Talia
AwardsSee list

Martin Henry Balsam (November 4, 1919 – February 13, 1996)[1] was an American actor. He had a prolific career in character roles in film, in theatre, and on television.[2][3] An early member of the Actors Studio, he began his career on the New York stage, winning a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for Robert Anderson's You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running (1968). He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in A Thousand Clowns (1965).

His other notable film roles include Juror #1 in 12 Angry Men (1957), private detective Milton Arbogast in Psycho (1960), Hollywood agent O.J. Berman in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961), Bernard B. Norman in The Carpetbaggers (1964), Lt. Commander Chester Potter, the ship doctor, in The Bedford Incident, Colonel Cathcart in Catch-22 (1970), Admiral Husband E. Kimmel in Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), Mr. Green in The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974), Signor Bianchi in Murder on the Orient Express (1974), and Howard Simons in All the President's Men (1976). He had a recurring role as Dr. Milton Orloff on the television drama Dr. Kildare (1963–66), and Murray Klein on the sitcom Archie Bunker's Place (1979–83).

In addition to his Oscar and Tony Awards, Balsam was also a BAFTA Award, Golden Globe Award, and Emmy Award nominee. With Joyce Van Patten, he was the father of actress Talia Balsam.

Early life and education

Martin Henry Balsam was born November 4, 1919, 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 from 1941 to 1945 during World War II, achieving the rank of Sergeant.[6] He served as a sergeant radio operator in a B-24 in the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations.[4]


Martin Balsam (r) on the set of Unknown Soldier, 1995


Balsam made his professional debut in August 1941 in a production of The Play's the Thing in Locust Valley.[7] After World War II, he resumed his acting career in New York.

In 1947–1949, Balsam was a resident member of the summer stock company Town Hall Players[8][9] in West Newbury, Massachusetts, a community-sponsored summer theatre.[10] In early 1948, he was selected by Elia Kazan to be a member in the recently formed Actors Studio.[11] He appeared consistently in Broadway and off-Broadway plays, something he would continue to do well into his screen acting career. Columnist Earl Wilson dubbed him "The Bronx Barrymore".[12]

In 1968, he won a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his performance in the 1967 Broadway production of You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running.[citation needed]


Balsam performed 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".

He 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), starring Frank Sinatra. He also appeared on an episode of Quincy, M.E.. 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.


Balsam made his film debut with an uncredited role in On the Waterfront (1954), directed by his Actors Studio colleague Elia Kazan. Balsam played an official of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey investigating mob involvement in the city's waterfront unions. His breakthrough role came a few years later, when he played Juror #1 in 12 Angry Men (1957). He would collaborate with the film's director, Sidney Lumet, twice more with The Anderson Tapes (1971) and Murder on the Orient Express (1974).

In 1960, he appeared in one of his best-remembered roles as private investigator Arbogast in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, culminating in a scene in which Mrs. Bates chases him down a flight of stairs to stab him to death. 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). Balsam also performed the original voice of the HAL 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. He told a journalist in August 1966, "I'm not actually seen in the picture at any time, but I sure create a lot of excitement projecting my voice through that machine. And I'm getting an Academy Award winner price for doing it, too."[13] 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.[14]

Balsam also appeared in such notable films as Time Limit with Richard Widmark, Breakfast at Tiffany's with Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard, The Carpetbaggers with George Peppard and Alan Ladd, Seven Days in May with Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, The Bedford Incident with Richard Widmark and Sidney Portier, Hombre with Paul Newman and Fredric March, Catch-22 with Alan Arkin and Jon Voight, Tora! Tora! Tora! (as Admiral Husband E. Kimmel), Little Big Man with Dustin Hoffman, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three with Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw, All the President's Men with Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford, The Delta Force with Lee Marvin, and The Goodbye People. One of his final acting appearances was in the 1994 horror parody The Silence of the Hams, which paid homage to his iconic role in Psycho.

Beyond Hollywood, Balsam was also a popular character actor in Italian films, beginning in 1960 when he starred in the Luigi Comencini film Everybody Go Home. He would star in several poliziottesco films throughout the 1970s, directed by the likes of Fernando Di Leo and Enzo G. Castellari. Balsam's roles in these films would be re-dubbed into Italian, but he would loop his own lines in the English-language export versions. Balsam maintained close ties to Italy even after the end of the poliziottesco trend, traveling there for both professional and personal reasons, and starring in the Italian-produced television series Ocean and La piovra.

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) with 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 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.[15]


Year Title Role Notes
1949 Suspense Abramson
1949–1950 Actors Studio Soldier 4 episodes
1950 Danger 2 episodes
1951 The Living Christ Series Innkeeper Miniseries
The Big Story Bill Pinney
Frontiers of Faith
1952 The Living Bible Nobleman
1953 Man Against Crime Tony / Jean Pinay
Valiant Lady Joey Gordon
1954 On the Waterfront Gillette, Secondary Investigator for Crime Commission Uncredited
The Greatest Gift Harold Matthews #2
Inner Sanctum Mystery Wesley / Hanson / Larkin 3 episodes
1954–1955 Philco Television Playhouse Charlie Malick / Mike Galloway 3 episodes
1954–1956 Goodyear Television Playhouse Perkins / Walter Gregg 3 episodes
1955 The United States Steel Hour Petty Officer
1957 12 Angry Men Juror #1
Time Limit Sergeant Baker
1957–1958 Studio One Francis Toohey / Ed Coyne 3 episodes
1958 Kraft Television Theatre Dino
Marjorie Morningstar Dr. David Harris
Father Knows Best Teacher
Pursuit Holden
Decoy Nick Santos
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Eldon Marsh Season 3 Episode 19: "The Equalizer"
1958–59 Playhouse 90 Sam Gordon / Captain Mantell 3 episodes
Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse Gambetta / Dr. Gillespie 2 episodes
1958–1960 Have Gun – Will Travel Marshall Jim Brock / Charles Dawes 2 episodes
1959 Rawhide Father Fabian
Al Capone Mac Keeley
The Further Adventures of Ellery Queen 2 episodes
Middle of the Night Jack
Brenner Arnold Joplin
The DuPont Show of the Month Charlie Davis
Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre Sam Butler
Winterset Garth
The Twilight Zone Danny Weiss Episode: "The Sixteen Millimeter Shrine"
1959–1962 Naked City Captain Russell Barris / Joseph Creeley / Caldwell Wyatt / Arnold Fleischman 4 episodes
1960 Five Fingers Monteverdi
Goodyear Theater Joe Lane
The Robert Herridge Theater
Sacco-Vanzetti Story Nicola Sacco NBC Sunday Showcase (1960), nominated for Primetime Emmy Awards as "program of the year"
Psycho Detective Milton Arbogast
Tutti a casa Sergeant Quintino Fornaciari
1961 Way Out Bill Clayton
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Leonard Thompson Season 6 Episode 36: "Final Arrangements"
Ada Steve Jackson
Breakfast at Tiffany's O.J. Berman
The New Breed Frank Eberhardt
The Untouchables Barry Leimer
Route 66 Corelli
1961–1964 The Defenders District Attorney / Bernard Maxwell / Floyd Harker 4 episodes
1962 Cain's Hundred Jack Garsell
The Untouchables Arnold Justin
Cape Fear Police Chief Mark Dutton
Target: The Corruptors Jeffrey Marvin
La città prigioniera Joseph Feinberg
1962–1966 Dr. Kildare Dr. Milton Orliff / Benny Orloff / Ned Lacey 7 episodes
1963 Route 66 Mike
The Eleventh Hour Frank Dunlear
The Twilight Zone Martin Lombard Senescu Episode: "The New Exhibit"
Breaking Point Rabbi Eli Oringer
Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? Sanford Kaufman
1964 Arrest and Trial Leo Valera
Espionage Richard Carey
Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre Dave Breslaw
Seven Days in May Presidential aide Paul Girard
Wagon Train Marcey Jones
Suspense Detective Jack Gross
The Carpetbaggers Bernard B. Norman
Youngblood Hawke Cameo Appearance Uncredited
Mr. Broadway Nate Bannerman
1965 ITV Play of the Week Doc Delaney
The Man from U.N.C.L.E Albert Sully Episode: "The Odd Man Affair"
Harlow Everett Redman
The Bedford Incident Lieutenant Commander Chester Potter, USNR, MD
A Thousand Clowns Arnold Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
12 O'Clock High Army Doctor Uncredited
1966 Caccia alla volpe Harry Granoff
"Anyone Around My Base Is It" Narrator Short Documentary
1967 The Fugitive Andrew Newmark
Hombre Mendez
Among the Paths to Eden Ivor Belli
1968 The Name of the Game Angie
Around the World of Mike Todd Michael Todd TV movie / Documentary; Voice
1969 Me, Natalie Harold Miller
The Good Guys and the Bad Guys Mayor Wilker
Trilogy Ivor Belli (segment: "Among the Paths to Eden")
1970 CBS Playhouse Jesse
Hunters Are for Killing Wade Hamilton TV movie
Catch-22 Colonel Cathcart Group Commander, 256th Bomb Group
Tora! Tora! Tora! Admiral Husband E. Kimmel
The Old Man Who Cried Wolf Stanley Pulska
The Name of the Game Herb Witmer
Little Big Man Mr. Merriweather
1971 Confessions of a Police Captain Inspector Bonavia
The Anderson Tapes Tommy Haskins
1972 Chronicle of a Homicide Judge Aldo Sola
The Hassled Hooker District Attorney Turrisi
The Man Jim Talley
Night of Terror Captain Caleb Sark TV movie
The Infamous Column
1973 A Brand New Life Jim Douglas TV movie
The Six Million Dollar Man Dr. Rudy Wells TV movie: "The Moon and the Desert"
The Stone Killer Al Vescari
Counselor at Crime Don Antonio Macaluso
Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams Harry Walden
Money to Burn TV movie
Police Story Detective Al Koster
1974 The Taking of Pelham One Two Three Harold "Green" Longman
Trapped Beneath the Sea T.C. Hollister TV movie
Kojak Ray Kaufman
Murder on the Orient Express Bianchi
1975 Miles to Go Before I Sleep Ben Montgomery TV movie
Smiling Maniacs Carlo Goja
Death Among Friends Ham Russell Buckner TV movie
Cry, Onion! Petrus Lamb
Mitchell James Arthur Cummings
Season for Assassins Commissioner Katroni
1976 The Lindbergh Kidnapping Case Edward J. Reilly TV movie
All the President's Men Howard Simons
Maude Chester
Meet Him and Die Giulianelli
Death Rage Commissario
Two-Minute Warning Sam McKeever
Raid on Entebbe Daniel Cooper TV movie
1977 The Sentinel Professor Ruzinsky
Silver Bears Joe Fiore
Contract on Cherry Street Captain Ernie Weinberg
The Storyteller Ira Davidoff TV movie
Blood and Diamonds Rizzo
1978 Eyes Behind the Stars Inspector Jim Grant
Siege Henry Fancher TV movie
Rainbow Louis B. Mayer TV movie
The Millionaire Arthur Haines TV movie
The Joe Franklin Show Himself Television interview
A Salute to American Imagination Himself TV movie / Documentary
1979 The Seeding of Sarah Burns Dr. Samuel Melman TV movie
Gardenia Salluzzo
The House on Garibaldi Street Isser Harel TV movie
Aunt Mary Harry Strasburg TV movie
Cuba General Bello
1979–1983 Archie Bunker's Place Murray Klein series regular / guest star; 46 episodes
1980 The Love Tapes David Franklin
There Goes the Bride Elmer Babcock
The Warning Questore Martorana
1981 The Salamander Captain Steffanelli
The People vs. Jean Harris Joel Aurnou TV movie
1982 Quincy, M.E. Hyam Sigerski
Little Gloria... Happy at Last Nathan Burkan TV movie
Night of 100 Stars Himself TV special
1983 I Want to Live! Jack Brady TV movie
Cold Storage Parmigian TV movie
1984 The Goodbye People Max Silverman
Innocent Prey Sheriff Virgil Baker
1985 Space Senator Glancey Miniseries
St. Elmo's Fire Mr. Beamish
Murder in Space Alexander Rostov TV movie
Death Wish 3 Bennett
Great Performances Jack
Glitter Bo
1986 La piovra, season 2 [it] Frank Carrisi Miniseries; 5 episodes
The Delta Force Ben Kaplan
Whatever It Takes Hap Perchicksky
Second Serve Dr. Beck TV movie
Murder, She Wrote Edgar Carmody Episodes: "Death Stalks The Big Top" Parts 1 & 2
The Twilight Zone Rockne O'Bannon Segment: "Personal Demons"
1987 Hotel Dr. Gilbert Holt
Queenie Marty TV miniseries
P.I. Private Investigations Cliff Dowling
The Twilight Zone Professor Donald Knowles Segment: "Voices in the Earth"
Brothers in Blood Major Briggs
Kids Like These Grandpa TV movie
Once Again TV movie
1988 The Child Saver Sidney Rosenberg TV movie
The Brother from Space Father Howard
1989 Ocean Don Matias Quintero TV miniseries
1990 Two Evil Eyes Mr. Pym (segment "The Black Cat")
Midnight Caller Gil Solarski
La piovra, season 5 [it] Don Calogero Barretta
1991 Ľultima meta Lawyer
Cape Fear Judge
1992 The Sands of Time TV movie
1993 "The Black Cat" Movie Short
1994 The Silence of the Hams Detective Martin Balsam
1995 Soldato ignoto English meaning: Unknown Soldier
1997 Legend of the Spirit Dog Gramps Released posthumously on August 19, 1997, 9 months after his death (final film role)

Awards and nominations

Academy Awards
1 N/A
Tony Awards
1 N/A
BAFTA Film Awards
N/A 2
Golden Globe Awards
N/A 1
Primetime Emmy Awards
N/A 1

Academy Awards

Year Category Work Result
1966 Best Supporting Actor A Thousand Clowns Won

Tony Awards

Year Category Work Result
1968 Best Actor in a Play You Know I Can't Hear You When the Water's Running Won

BAFTA Awards

Year Category Work Result
1976 Best Actor in a Supporting Role The Taking of Pelham One Two Three Nominated
1977 All the President's Men Nominated

Golden Globe Awards

Year Category Work Result
1974 Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams Nominated

Primetime Emmy Awards

Year Category Work Result
1977 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Minieries or Movie Raid on Entebbe Nominated

National Board of Review Awards

Year Category Work Result
1964 Best Supporting Actor The Carpetbaggers Won

Drama Desk Awards

Year Category Work Result
1977 Outstanding Actor in a Play Cold Storage Nominated

Obie Award

Year Category Work Result
1977 Distinguished Performance by an Actor Cold Storage Won

Outer Critics Circle Awards

Year Category Work Result
1967 Outstanding Actor in a Play Cold Storage Won
1978 The Shock of Recognition Won


  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 (February 14, 1996). "Martin Balsam; Veteran Character Actor" – via LA Times.
  3. ^ Gelder, Lawrence Van (February 14, 1996). "Martin Balsam Is Dead at 76; Ubiquitous Character Actor". The New York Times.
  4. ^ a b c d Van Gelder, Lawrence (February 14, 1996). "Martin Balsam Is Dead at 76; Ubiquitous Character Actor". The New York Times. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  5. ^ "Great Character Actors". Archived from the original on November 15, 2008. Retrieved July 29, 2007.
  6. ^ Martin Balsam, Service Record. Together We Served. Retrieved February 19, 2020.
  7. ^ Herbert, Ian, ed. (June 1, 1981). "BALSAM, Martin". Who's Who in the Theatre. Vol. 1. Gale Research Company. pp. 39–40. ISBN 978-0-8103-0235-8.
  8. ^ Coit, Margaret (September 9, 1947). "Intense Emotional Experience Provided by Steinbeck Drama". The Newburyport Daily News and Newburyport Herald. p. 1. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  9. ^ "Town Hall Audience Is Responsive: 'My Sister Eileen' Has Laughs Galore". The Newburyport Daily News and Newburyport Herald. July 26, 1949. p. 1. Retrieved February 25, 2023.
  10. ^ "Communities Should Develop and Enrich Cultural Existence". The Newburyport Daily News and Newburyport Herald. June 4, 1947.
  11. ^ Garfield, David (1980). "Birth of The Actors Studio: 1947–50". A Player's Place: The Story of the Actors Studio. New York: MacMillan. p. 52. ISBN 978-0-0254-2650-4. 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.
  12. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. "Actor Martin Balsam Found Dead at Rome Hotel". Associated Press. Retrieved February 8, 2022.
  13. ^ Flahive, Gerry (March 30, 2018). "The Story of a Voice: HAL in '2001' Wasn't Always So Eerily Calm". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Flahive, Gerry (March 30, 2018). "The Story of a Voice: HAL in '2001' Wasn't Always So Eerily Calm". The New York Times.
  15. ^ Strauss, Robert (March 28, 2004). "Sometimes the Grave Is a Fine and Public Place". The New York Times.