A veteran of stage and screen for seven decades, Alan Arkin appeared in numerous films, among them “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter,” “Edward Scissorhands,” “Argo,” and “Little Miss Sunshine,” for which he won an Oscar for best supporting actor. He also won a Tony for his performance in “Enter Laughing” in 1963, just three years after dropping out of college and joining the Second City comedy group in Chicago, a move that reportedly “saved his life” (via BBC).
Arkin grew up in Brooklyn until age 11, when his family moved to Los Angeles in 1945, shortly before the Red Scare tore through the city’s institutions, including the Los Angeles Board of Education, which fired Arkin’s father, David, a schoolteacher, when he refused to state his political thoughts and affiliations (via San Diego Reader). “It was a tough time,” Arkin remembered, “He got stigmatized mightily for it.”
Comedy may have been the actor’s forte, but Arkin displayed an uncommon seriousness on set. “Alan does not meet you halfway as an actor,” said Marshall Brickman, who directed Arkin in “Simon” (1980). “The way he photographs has a kind of austerity that’s a little hard for an audience to take. You either like Alan or you don’t” (via Guardian).
Alan Arkin died on June 29 at the age of 89.