George Chakiris

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George Chakiris (2019)

George Chakiris (born September 16, 1934 in Norwood , Ohio ) is an American actor . He became famous in the early 1960s for the film version of the Broadway musical West Side Story , in which he received an Oscar and the Golden Globe Award for his supporting role as Bernardo .


George Chakiris was born in 1934 in the American Midwest to the Greek immigrant Steven Chakiris and his wife Zoey and grew up with two brothers and four sisters. He made his feature film debut at the age of twelve in Clarence Brown's literary film adaptation of Clara Schumann's Great Love (1947), in which he was able to get hold of a small part as a chorister. After graduating from high school, Chakiris worked the daytime clerk in a Los Angeles department store while taking evening dancing, singing and acting classes. He was one of the protégés of Eugene Loring's Hollywood or American School of Dance , where Mary Tyler Moore also completed her training.

First success came in the early 1950s when he got several engagements as a dancer in films such as Blondes Preferred (1953), White Christmas , Rhythm in Blood , Brigadoon (1954) or Viva Las Vegas (1955), in which he was so well-known stars like Marilyn Monroe in the revue number " Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend " or Rosemary Clooney supported. He received his first small acting role in 1957 in James B. Clark's war drama Under Fire . Chakiris then interrupted his film career and took on the role of Reef in the London musical production of West Side Story , a broadcast of the Shakespearean tragedy Romeo and Juliet in New York in the 1950s. The production was successful with critics and audiences when it premiered on New York's Broadway (1957) and in Robbins 'and Robert Wises' 1961 film adaptation of the same name , Chakiris played the role of Bernardo alongside Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer . This marked the climax of the actor, singer and dancer career and earned him the Oscar and Golden Globe in 1962 .

Like his Oscar-winning film partner Rita Moreno , Chakiris was subsequently unable to build on the success of West Side Story , although he later worked with such renowned directors as Luigi Comencini ( Two Days and Two Nights , 1963) and René in Europe Clément ( Burns Paris?, 1966) or Jacques Demy ( The Girls from Rochefort , 1967) and stars like Claudia Cardinale and Catherine Deneuve were among his screen partners. He turned down most of the feature film offers from the USA because, due to the success of West Side Story , he was supposed to take on mainly Latino roles or choreographer parts.

In 1966 he portrayed the art thief Vincenzo Peruggia in the film The Thief of the Mona Lisa , who stole the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in Paris in 1911 . In addition to his feature film career, he has performed successfully in nightclubs such as Caesars Palace in Las Vegas .

Soon after his appearance in Tito Davison's thriller Dosierter Mord (1969) with Lana Turner , the film offerings diminished, so that from the 1970s onwards he increasingly concentrated on television roles. He has made numerous guest appearances in well-known series and multi-part series, including that of Frédéric Chopin in the award-winning British production Notorious Woman (1974) alongside Rosemary Harris , as well as Fantasy Island (1982), Love, Lies, Passion (1984) and Murder is her hobby . He starred in the series Dallas in 1985 and 1986 in the recurring supporting role of Nicholas. He made his last TV appearance in 1996 in the episode Extra! Extra! the hit British comedy sitom Last of the Summer Wine , his last theater appearance a year later.

The actor, who was neither married nor has children during his life, lives in Los Angeles and is now dedicated to making silver jewelry.

Filmography (selection)



  • 1962 : Best Supporting Actor for West Side Story

Golden Globe

  • 1962: Best Supporting Actor and nominated as Best Newcomer for West Side Story


Laurel Award

  • 1962: 2nd place in the Best Supporting Actor category and nominated as Best Young Actor for West Side Story

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Christoudia, Mel Trifona: Loring, Eugene . In: American National Biography Online Feb. 2000 (accessed March 7, 2008)
  2. a b cf. George Chakiris, Rita Moreno and Marni Nixon discuss the film "West Side Story" - transcript of the Fresh Air interview on National Public Radio , October 25, 2001 (12:00 Noon PM ET; accessed via the LexisNexis Wirtschaft online database )