Harvey Lembeck

Active - 1951 - 1980  |   Born - Apr 15, 1923   |   Died - Jan 5, 1982   |   Genres - Comedy, Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Brooklyn-born Harvey Lembeck was a nightclub and Broadway comedian at the time of his 1951 film bow in You're in the Navy Now. The roly-poly, nasal-voiced Lembeck was most often cast as the wise-guy comedy relief in war films, most notably Stalag 17 (1953), in which Lembeck and bearlike Robert Strauss repeated their stage roles as "court jesters" in a dismal POW camp (the two actors would later be reteamed in the 1961 Jack Webb picture The Last Time I Saw Archie, not to mention a series of TV commercials in the mid-1960s). Harvey remained in uniform for a four-year hitch as Corporal Barbella on the popular 1950s Phil Silvers sitcom You'll Never Get Rich. In 1963's Beach Party, Lembeck made the first of several sidesplitting appearances as leather-jacketed Brando wannabe Eric von Zipper, whose attempts to prove his toughness to his fellow bikers always came a-cropper; in Beach Blanket Bingo, for example, he was cut in twain by a buzzsaw, moaning "Why Me?" even as his two halves fell bloodlessly to the floor. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Harvey Lembeck directed several TV sitcom episodes, and also operated a training school for aspiring comedians; carrying on the "family business" after Harvey's death was his son, actor/director Michael Lembeck.

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