Telly Savalas

Highest Rated: 100% Cape Fear (1962)
Birthday: Jan 21, 1924
Birthplace: Garden City, New York, USA
American actor Telly Savalas was born into a transplanted Greek family in Garden City, New York. After dropping out of Columbia University, Savalas served in World War II, from which he was discharged with a Purple Heart disability. Though not a performer himself, Savalas remained active in show business via the Information Services of the State Department, which led to a news director post at the ABC network. Savalas was often called upon to help producers locate foreign-speaking actors for the various live TV dramatic series of the era. In 1959, Savalas attended an audition for the CBS anthology series Armstrong Circle Theatre, intending to prompt an actor friend who was up for a role. Instead, the casting director took Savalas's sinister demeanor (and bald head) into account and cast him in a character part, which led to other TV assignments. The 1960-61 CBS television anthology Witness, though not a ratings success, brought the novice actor a great deal of acclaim for his portrayal of racketeer Lucky Luciano, gaining attention from audiences, producers, and even a few of Luciano's old associates (who liked the show). More TV and movie roles of a slimy-villain nature followed, and then Savalas was cast as Burt Lancaster's fellow Alcatraz inmate in The Birdman of Alcatraz (1962) -- a performance that earned an Oscar nomination. Many in the industry felt that Savalas had what it took to be a leading man; Imogene Coca, with whom Savalas worked on an episode of Coca's TV series "Grindl," announced publicly that the actor was one of the funniest men she'd ever met (this from an actress who once costarred with Sid Caesar). Still, producers continued to use Savalas as a supporting bad guy. Even in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Savalas incurred audience hisses as Pontius Pilate. In 1973 Savalas starred as police lieutenant Theo Kojak in The Marcus-Nelson Murders, a TV movie based on a real-life homicide. The actor's fully rounded interpretation of the sarcastic, incorruptible, lollipop-sucking New York detective earned him a full time TV job as the star of the series Kojak (which ran from 1973-78 on CBS, and, in a brief revival, 1989-90 on ABC). Now a genuine, 14-carat celebrity, Savalas assumed a great deal of creative control on Kojak, which included full script approval, choice of directors, and the insistence upon casting Savalas's brother George (professionally named "Demosthenes") in the role of Detective Stavros. Kojak lasted until 1978, during which time Savalas became a fixture of TV variety shows, where he frequently demonstrated his questionable singing talents. After the series, the actor embarked on a globe-trotting existence involving numerous forgettable European films and a sumptuous bon vivant lifestyle (which included the squiring of several attractive and much-younger ladies). Savalas periodically revived the character of Kojak in a few 1980s TV movies and profited from the (brief) revival of the Kojak series itself, but for the most part he was seen on the tube as spokesman for a high-priced credit card company. In the early 1990s, Savalas developed prostate cancer, ultimately succumbing to the disease at the age of 72.

Highest Rated Movies

Filmography

MOVIES

CREDIT
97% Paul Williams Still Alive Actor $38.1K 2012
No Score Yet Remembering Ellis Island: Everyman's Monument Actor 1995
No Score Yet Backfire! Evil Man 1994
No Score Yet Mind Twister Richard Howland 1993
No Score Yet The Hollywood Detective Actor 1989
No Score Yet Faceless (Los Depredadores de la Noche) (Les Prédateurs de la Nuit) Hallen 1989
No Score Yet Hypnosis Actor 1989
No Score Yet The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission Maj. Wright 1988
No Score Yet Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission Maj. Wright 1987
17% Gobots - Battle of the Rock Lords Magmar 1986
No Score Yet Alice in Wonderland Actor 1985
No Score Yet Kojak: The Belarus File Lt. Theo Kojak 1985
No Score Yet Alice in Wonderland Cheshire Cat 1985
No Score Yet The Cartier Affair Phil Drexler 1984
13% Cannonball Run II Hymie 1984
No Score Yet Nevada Heat Actor 1982
No Score Yet Fake-Out Lt. Thurston 1982
No Score Yet Silent Rebellion Actor 1982
No Score Yet Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story Cretzer 1980
0% Beyond the Poseidon Adventure Capt. Stefan Svevo 1979
No Score Yet The Border Frank Cooper 1979
88% The Muppet Movie El Sleezo Tough 1979
No Score Yet Escape to Athena Zeno 1979
No Score Yet Beyond Reason Dr. Nicholas Mati Director 1978
65% Capricorn One Albain 1978
No Score Yet Crime Boss Actor 1977
No Score Yet Killer Force (The Diamond Mercenaries) Webb 1976
No Score Yet Inside Out (The Golden Heist) (Hitler's Gold) Harry Morgan 1975
No Score Yet Senza ragione, (Redneck) Actor 1975
67% Horror Express Captain Kazan 1974
No Score Yet Massacre at Fort Holman Maj. Ward 1974
62% Lisa And The Devil (Lisa e il diavolo) (The Devil in the House of Exorcism) Actor 1973
No Score Yet A Reason to Live, A Reason to Die (Ragione per vivere e una per morire, Una) Actor 1972
No Score Yet Pancho Villa Pancho Villa 1972
No Score Yet Crime Boss Don Vincenzo 1972
No Score Yet Scenes From a Murder Actor 1972
No Score Yet Redneck Memphis 1972
No Score Yet Clay Pigeon Redford 1971
10% Pretty Maids All in a Row Captain Sam Surcher 1971
No Score Yet A Town Called Hell Don Carlos 1971
No Score Yet Violent City (The Family)(Città violenta) Al Weber 1970
76% Kelly's Heroes MSgt. Big Joe 1970
No Score Yet Città violenta (The Family) Al Weber 1970
81% On Her Majesty's Secret Service Blofeld 1969
No Score Yet Land Raiders Vince Carden 1969
20% MacKenna's Gold Sergeant Tibbs 1969
No Score Yet Crooks and Coronets Herbie Haseler 1969
71% The Assassination Bureau Lord Bostwick 1969
No Score Yet Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell Walter Braddock 1968
70% The Scalphunters Jim Howie 1968
No Score Yet Sol Madrid Emil Dietrich 1968
91% The Dirty Dozen Archer Maggott 1967
No Score Yet The Karate Killers Count de Franzini 1967
80% The Slender Thread Dr. Joe Coburn 1965
57% Battle of the Bulge Guffy 1965
No Score Yet Genghis Khan Shan 1965
No Score Yet John Goldfarb, Please Come Home Harem recruiter 1965
37% The Greatest Story Ever Told Pontius Pilate 1965
No Score Yet Johnny Cool Mr. Santangelo 1963
No Score Yet Love Is a Ball Dr. Gump 1963
No Score Yet The Man from the Diners' Club Foots Pularcios 1963
No Score Yet The Interns Dr. Riccio 1962
84% Birdman of Alcatraz Feto Gomez 1962
100% Cape Fear Private Detective Charles Sievers 1962
50% The Young Savages Detective Lt. Gunderson 1961
No Score Yet Mad Dog Coll Lt. Dawson 1961

TV

CREDIT
No Score Yet The Equalizer
1985-1989
  • 1987
No Score Yet American Playhouse
1982-1996
  • 1982
No Score Yet Kojak
1973-1978
Director Lt. Theo Kojak
  • 1978
  • 1977
  • 1976
  • 1975
  • 1974
  • 1973
100% The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
1964-1968
Count Fanzini
  • 1967
No Score Yet The Fugitive
1963-1967
Polichek Vic Leonetti Keller
  • 1966
  • 1965
  • 1964
No Score Yet Bonanza
1959-1973
Charles Hackett
  • 1965
80% The Twilight Zone
1959-1964
Erich Streator
  • 1963
No Score Yet Tales of the Unexpected
1979-1988
Joe Brisson

QUOTES FROM Telly Savalas CHARACTERS