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Alan Arkin was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1934, the child of Russian Jewish parents. His parents moved to Los Angeles when he was 11. After college, Arkin, together with two friends, formed the folk music group The Tarriers, and in 1956, they co-wrote the modern version of "The Banana Boat Song", which was a big hit for them, but a bigger hit for Harry Belafonte. Surprisingly, the quirky Arkin initially had little success as an actor. He spent much of 1958 to 1968 supplementing his income by performing with the children's folk group, The Babysitters and also taking odd jobs! His first real movie role was in The Russians Are Coming The Russians Are Coming (nominated for the Best Actor Academy Award for this film). He was really noticed for his supporting role as the creepy psychopath who terrorizes blind Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark in 1967, but he took a big step backwards in 1968 when he played the title role in Inspector Clouseau. He took many quirky roles after that, in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Popi, and in Catch 22, as Yossarian. In 1974, he finally had a major commercial hit, in Freebie and the Bean with James Caan, and of course he hated the movie! He was the co-star (opposite Peter Falk) in Andrew Bergman's 1979 cult classic The In-Laws, which I consider the best screwball comedy ever made ("There's red tape in the bush?" "Enormous red tape, Sheldon.") The 1980s were not a very productive decade for Arkin, but he came back strong in 1990 with a supporting role in Edward Scissorhands, as well as Glengarry Glen Ross in 1992, and I liked him quite a lot in Slums of Beverly Hills in 1998. In the 2000s, he re-surfaced again in Little Miss Sunshine (winner of the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film), and Argo (nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film). Arkin was one of those actors who loved odd quirky movies (and playing odd quirky characters) and he avoided movies that would have wide commercial success. He summed up his reasons for why he followed this path when he said, "Everybody's career has ups and downs. I like to take chances, I don't like to stand still. And I don't give a damn what the market is interested in; I want to try things. Success has nothing to do with box office as far as I'm concerned. Success has to do with achieving your goals, your internal goals, and growing as a person. It would have been nice to have been connected with a couple more box office hits, but in the long run I don't think it makes you happier." He passed away in 2023 at the age of 89.
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