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Maybe it’s because he hails from my home town. Maybe it’s because he looks like a so called “regular guy” that you’d like to shoot the breeze with over a couple of cold ones. Maybe it’s because underneath that raspy voice and “tough guy” exterior there lies an exceptional talent who seems to go almost unnoticed in the star struck world of Hollywood. I’m willing to wager that Alan Arkin is pretty comfortable in his own skin and that you won’t ever see his name gracing the front page of the tabloids. I’m also willing to wager that over his career, he’s won the respect and admiration of just about everybody he’s ever worked with.

Alan Wolf Arkin was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1934. His parents were both Jewish immigrants from Russia and both became teachers. When Arkin turned eleven, they decided to leave the East Coast and headed out west where they finally found themselves in Los Angeles. His father found work as a set designer but soon afterwards lost his job when a screen workers strike was declared. Both his mom and dad would later be caught up in the Red Scare of the 50’s and Arkin’s dad would soon be blackballed from the industry when he refused to discuss his political affiliations. His name would eventually be cleared but as is often the case, it wouldn’t be done so until long after he died.

”Come mister tallyman,
tally me banana,
daylight come and me wanna go home”

A little musical interlude?

Not really, even though Arkin had taken acting lessons from early on, his first calling was the world of folk music. In 1956] he and two friends formed a group called “The Tarriers” and co-composed a little ditty that goes by the name of “The Banana Boat Song” which climbed all the way up to number four on the Billboard charts. Later that same year, Harry Belafonte would re-work it and for awhile it became his signature song. For the next ten years, Arkin would sing and play guitar with a folk group known as “The Baby Sitters”. With a name like that, it wouldn’t take a leap of faith to assume that they specialized in playing children’s songs.

The Silver Screen

In 1966 Arkin made his movie debut in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming”. It was one of those Cold War comedies about a Russian submarine becoming stuck off the coast of New England. From there, members of the crew stumble upon a small New England village looking for help but their arrival goes on to trumpet a pending invasion. For his efforts, Arkin was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actor. He’s only one of eight other actors to receive the distinction of that nomination in his first film appearance. A couple of years later, he’d receive a second nomination for his role in a film called “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter”.

Although Arkin received critical acclaim for many of his roles including outstanding performances in Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 as John Yossarian and as one of the salesmen in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross it wouldn’t be until 2006 when his star would shine again so brightly. A small indie film by the name of Little Miss Sunshine debuted and in it Arkin was cast as a cantankerous foul-mouthed old grandfather who just happened to be addicted to heroin. Even though his part in the movie was kinda small he received the Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. At the time, he was seventy two and was the sixth oldest actor to accomplish that feat. In a typical show of humility, he had this to say during his acceptance speech.

More than anything, I'm deeply moved by the open-hearted appreciation our small film has received, which in these fragmented times speaks so openly of the possibility of innocence, growth and connection"

Like I said earlier, you’ll never see Arkin’s name at the top of the list when it comes to the limelight or read about any so-called scandals in the gossip column. He prefers to keep his personal life just that and let his acting do the talking.

It’s hard not to like a guy like that…

What follows is a list of all of Arkin’s films to date. Naturally, some are more popular than others but when you consider the whole body of work, you’d have to agree that Mr. Arkin’s is something special.


Get Smart (2008)
Sunshine Cleaning (2008)
Raising Flagg (2007)
Rendition (2007)
Firewall (2006)
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006)
Eros (2005)
Noel (2004)
And Starring Pancho Villa as Himself (2003)
Thirteen Conversations About One Thing (2002)
The Pentagon Papers (2002)
America's Sweethearts (2001)
Varian's War (2001)
Magicians (2000)
Blood Money (1999)
Jakob the Liar (1999)
Four Days in September (1998)
The Slums of Beverly Hills (1998)
Gattaca (1997)
Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)
Mother Night (1996)
Heck's Way Home (1995)
Picture Windows (1995)
Steal Big, Steal Little (1995)
The Jerky Boys (1995)
Doomsday Gun (1994)
North (1994)
Indian Summer (1993)
So I Married An Axe Murderer (1993)
Taking the Heat (1993)
Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
The Rocketeer (1991)
Coupe de Ville (1990)
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
Havana (1990)
Escape From Sobibor (1987)
A Deadly Business (1986)
Bad Medicine (1985)
Big Trouble (1985)
Joshua Then and Now (1985)
A Matter of Principle (1984)
The Return of Captain Invincible (1983)
Deadhead Miles (1982)
The Last Unicorn (1982)
Chu Chu and the Philly Flash (1981)
Full Moon High (1981)
Simon (1980)
Improper Channels (1979)
The In-Laws (1979)
The Magician of Lublin (1979)
Fire Sale (1977)
The Seven Per-Cent Solution (1976)
Hearts of the West (1975)
Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins (1975)
Freebie and the Bean (1974)
Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1972)
Little Murders (1971)
Catch-22 (1970)
Popi (1969)
Inspector Clouseau (1968)
The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968)
Wait Until Dark (1967)
Woman Times Seven (1967)
The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1966)


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