June 30, 2023
Alan Arkin, the esteemed actor of stage and screen who won the Oscar for Little Miss Sunshine, died June 29 at 89, his family confirms.
His three sons told People magazine:
"Our father was a uniquely talented force of nature, both as an artist and a man. A loving husband, father, grand and great grandfather, he was adored and will be deeply missed."
Arkin was born March 26, 1934, in Brooklyn, to painter and Blacklisted songwriter David I. Arkin (1906-1980).
He studied acting in earnest from childhood, later becoming a Second City comedy member.
He made an uncredited film debut in Calypso Heat Wave, but worked on the stage and TV a bit before beginning his film career in earnest.
Arkin's TV debut was on the series East Side/West Side (1964), a year after he had made his Tony-winning Broadway debut in the hit play Enter Laughing (1963).
His career exploded with his Oscar-nominated turn as Lt. Rozanov in Norman Jewison's (b. 1926) The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming (1967).
He also acted in Wait Until Dark (1967), Woman Times Seven (1967), Inspector Clouseau (1968), The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter (1968; second Oscar nomination), Popi (1969) and Catch-22 (1970).
His directing debut, the short People Soup (1969), starring his sons Adam (b. 1956) and Matthew Arkin (b. 1960), led to an Oscar nomination.
He went on to direct Little Murders (1971) and Fire Sale (1977), as well as The Sunshine Boys (1975) on Broadway, for which he was Tony-nominated.
Arkin's mid-career films were diverse, among them Last of the Red Hot Lovers (1972), Freebie and the Bean (1974), The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976), The In-Laws (1979) and Chu Chu and the Philly Flash (1981).
Mostly concentrating on films until just before the end of his career, he worked steadily in major productions like Edward Scissorhands (1990), Havana (1990), The Rocketeer (1991), Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993), Grosse Pointe Blank (1997), Gattaca (1997), Slums of Beverly Hills (1998), America's Sweethearts (2001) and Little Miss Sunshine (2006), for which he won the Oscar.
Later films include The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006), Sunshine Cleaning (2008), Get Smart (2008), Marley & Me (2008), Argo (2012; Oscar nomination), Going in Style (2017), Dumbo (2019), Spenser Confidential (2020), and his final film, Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022), which was a voice role as Wild Knuckles.
Arkin's TV work, while less prolific, was often acclaimed. He was Emmy-nominated for his work on ABC Stage 67 (1967), in Escape from Sobibor (1987), for an episode of Chicago Hope (1997), and for his work in The Pentagon Papers (2003). He also appeared with then-wife Barbara Dana on several episodes on Sesame Street (1970-1971), acted in a memorable three-episode arc on St. Elsewhere (1983), appeared on Shelley Duvall's Faerie Tale Theatre (1985), and was the star of two short-lived series — Harry (1987) and 100 Centre Street (2001-2002).
In 2005, Arkin played the father of Debra Messing's (b. 1968) character on an episode of Will & Grace, with later appearances of the character played by Robert Klein (b. 1942).
Arkin closed his career with a TV winner, playing Norman Newlander on the hit Michael Douglas (b. 1944) dramedy The Kominsky Method (2018-2021), for which he was twice Emmy-nominated. He retired from acting and did not appear in the last episodes.
Married three times, Arkin is survived by his wife of more than 25 years, Suzanne, and by his three sons.