S.Z. Sakall

Active - 1932 - 1954  |   Born - Feb 2, 1883   |   Died - Feb 12, 1955   |   Genres - Musical, Comedy, Romance, Drama

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Biography by Hal Erickson

Chubby-jowled Hungarian character actor S.Z. Sakall began as a sketch writer for Budapest vaudeville shows, then turned to acting at age 18. Initially billed as Szoeko Szakall (the name translated to "blonde beard," in honor of the hirsute adornment he'd grown to appear older), the actor became a star of the Hungarian stage and screen in the 1910s and 1920s. Among his German-language films of the early-talkie era were 1929's Ihre Majestaet die Liebe (remade in the U.S. as Her Majesty Love, with W.C. Fields in Sakall's role) and the box-office hit Two Hearts in Waltz Time (1930); he also briefly ran his own production company during this period. Fleeing Hitler in the late '30s, Sakall settled in Hollywood, where from 1939 through 1955 he played an endless succession of excitable theatrical impresarios, lovable European uncles, and befuddled shopkeepers. His rotund cuteness earned Sakall the nickname "Cuddles," and he was often billed as S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall in his later films. Nearly always featured in the supporting cast (notably as Karl the waiter in 1942's Casablanca), S.Z. Sakall was given the principal role of songwriter Fred Fisher in 1949's Oh, You Beautiful Doll, though top billing went to June Haver. S.Z. Sakall's final performances were seen in the 1954 film The Student Prince and the like-vintage TV series Ford Theatre.

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