Actor James Karen, whose career in film, television and theatre spanned eight decades, has died aged 94. As his friend, film critic Leonard Maltin, confirmed on his blog today, he was photographed with Marilyn at the Actors Studio in 1955. (James was also a friend of Marilyn’s Misfits co-star, Kevin McCarthy.)
Born Jacob Karnovsky in Pennsylvania, he joined the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York on the recommendation of his cousin, Morris Carnovsky (who would teach Marilyn at the Actors Lab in Los Angeles during the late 1940s.) Karen got his big break in 1947, with a supporting role in Elia Kazan’s original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire. When the play reached L.A. two years later, Louis B. Mayer offered him a contract at MGM, but he declined.
One of America’s most prolific character actors, James Karen later appeared in films including Poltergieist, The China Syndrome, Wall Street, Return of the Living Dead, Mulholland Drive, and The Pursuit of Happyness. His television roles ranged from soap operas All My Children and As the World Turns, to cameo parts in The Golden Girls and Seinfeld.