Telly Savalas - Rotten Tomatoes

Telly Savalas

Highest Rated:   97% Paul Williams Still Alive (2012)
Birthday:  
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

RATING TITLE CREDIT BOX OFFICE YEAR
97% Paul Williams Still Alive
  • Actor
$0.1M 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
87% 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
61% 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
57% Horror Express
  • Capt. Kazan
1974
No Score Yet Massacre at Fort Holman
  • Maj. Ward
1974
58% 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
11% 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
80% Kelly's Heroes
  • MSgt. Big Joe
1970
No Score Yet Città violenta (The Family)
  • Al Weber
1970
82% On Her Majesty's Secret Service
  • Blofeld
1969
No Score Yet Land Raiders
  • Vince Carden
1969
No Score Yet MacKenna's Gold
  • Sergeant Tibbs
1969
No Score Yet Crooks and Coronets
  • Herbie Haseler
1969
67% 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
No Score Yet The Slender Thread
  • Dr. Joe Coburn
1965
67% 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
82% Birdman of Alcatraz
  • Feto Gomez
1962
95% Cape Fear
  • Private Detective Charles Sievers
1962
50% The Young Savages
  • Detective Lt. Gunderson
1961
No Score Yet Mad Dog Coll
  • Lt. Dawson
1961
No Score Yet I familiari delle vittime non saranno avvertiti (Crime Boss)
  • Actor

TV

RATING TITLE CREDIT YEAR
No Score Yet The Twilight Zone
1959-1964
  • Erich Streator
  • 1963

Quotes from Telly Savalas' Characters