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Sam Jaffe
Born Shalom Jaffe
March 10, 1891(1891-03-10)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Died March 24, 1984 (aged 93)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Other name(s) Sam C. Jaffe
Occupation Actor, teacher, engineer
Years active 1934–1984
Spouse(s) Lillian Taiz
(1926-1941) (her death)
Bettye Ackerman
(1956-1984) (his death)

Sam Jaffe (March 10, 1891 – March 24, 1984) was an American actor, teacher and engineer. In 1951, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and appeared in other classic films such as Ben-Hur (1959) and The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951). He may be best remembered for playing the title role in Gunga Din (1939), and the High Lama in Lost Horizon (1937).

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Biography

He was born as Shalom Jaffe to Heida (Ada) and Barnet Jaffe, a Russian Jewish family in New York City, New York. His mother, Ada Jaffe, was a Yiddish actress in Odessa, Russia prior to moving to the United States. He was the youngest of four children, and his siblings were Abraham, Sophie and Annie. As a child, he appeared in Yiddish theater productions with his mother, who was a prominent actress and vaudeville star. He studied engineering at Columbia University and then worked for several years as a math teacher before turning to acting as a career. As a young man he lived in the Village in the same apartment building with a young John Houston. The two became good friends and remained friends for life. He was also good friends with Zero Mostel, Ray Bradbury and Igor Stravinsky. He began to work in film in 1934, rising to prominence with his very first role as the mad Czar Peter III in The Scarlet Empress.

Jaffe was blacklisted by the Hollywood movie studio bosses during the 1950s, supposedly for being a Communist sympathizer. Despite this, he was hired by director William Wyler for his role in the 1959 Academy Award winning version of Ben-Hur.

Jaffe co-starred in the American TV series Ben Casey as Dr. David Zorba from 1961 to 1965 and had many guest starring roles on other series, including the western Alias Smith and Jones starring Pete Duel and Ben Murphy. In 1975, he co-starred as a retired doctor, who is murdered by Janet Leigh in the Columbo episode Forgotten Lady.

Jaffe was married to American operatic soprano and musical comedy star Lillian Taiz from 1926 until her death from cancer in 1941. In 1956, he married actress Bettye Ackerman, who later also starred with him in Ben Casey. She died on November 20, 2006, he had no children from either marriage.

Sam Jaffe died in 1984 of cancer in Beverly Hills, California and was interred in Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

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