Movies and tv: ethnic versatility (Savalas)

(Minimal linguistic content)

Actors take on roles of all sorts, often adopting another ethnicity as well as another personality. Actors of Mediterranean ancestry, in particularly, are (within limits) often cast in roles of other Mediterranean ancestries (or, by an extension from this practice, in Mexican roles). Here’s the case of Greek-American Telly Savalas, son of two Greek-Americans (who grew up on Long Island, though Greek was his first language).

From Wikipedia:

Aristotelis “Telly” Savalas (… January 21, 1922 – January 22, 1994) was an American film and television actor and singer, whose career spanned four decades. Perhaps best known for playing the title role in the 1970s crime drama Kojak, Savalas was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Birdman of Alcatraz (1962).

The character Kojak was himself Greek-American, so there was no ethnic stretch here.

Here’s the character with his trademark lollipop:


And a bonus, Savalas posing shirtless:


But in other roles, he’s taken on other ethnicities: as a Jew, Hymie Kaplan, in Cannonball Run II; and even as a Mexican, Pancho Villa:


A much bigger stretch was his stint as the hyperbolic supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld (German/Polish) in the James Bond films.

(I don’t know if he’s taken on a role as a Turk; Mediterranean ethnics sometimes refuse roles that would take them over the lines defining politically sensitive ethnic differences.)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: