Austin Pendleton

Active - 1968 - 2020  |   Born - Mar 27, 1940 in Warren, Ohio, United States  |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Comedy Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

An alumnus of the Yale School of drama, American actor Austin Pendleton was lucky enough to latch onto a starmaking stage role relatively early in life. Pendleton was the first performer to play the part of tailor Motel Kamzoil in the evergreen musical Fiddler on the Roof, in which he had one of the play's best non-Tevye songs, "Miracle of Miracles." Hollywood has been less generous to Pendleton in terms of good roles. He was cast in a supporting role in Skidoo (1968), a smash miss frequently cited as the worst film in the careers of most of its participants (Jackie Gleason, Groucho Marx, Carol Channing, Otto Preminger, et al.) He was shown to better advantage in What's Up, Doc? (1972), while in The Front Page (1974) he sparkled as a condemned killer plagued by a bad head cold on the eve of his execution. A first-rate character player, Austin Pendleton has never quite scaled the heights of stardom in films, though his theatre work as both actor and director has always been critically lauded.

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  • As a child, got interested in acting through his mother, who started a community theatre group that rehearsed in their home.
  • Studied acting at New York's HB Studio under Uta Hagen.
  • Made his Broadway debut with the original company of Fiddler on the Roof in September 1964.
  • Won an OBIE Award and a Drama Desk Award for The Last Sweet Days of Isaac in 1970.
  • Started writing plays at age 50. 
  • Joined Chicago's famed Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 1979.