Luther Adler (May 4, 1903 - December 8, 1984) was an American actor best known for his work in theatre, but who also worked in film and television. He also directed plays on Broadway.
Early life and career
Adler was born Lutha Adler on May 4, 1903 in New York City. He was one of six children born to Russian Jewish actors Sara and Jacob P. Adler. His father was considered to be one of the founders of the Yiddish theatre in America. His siblings also worked in theatre; his sister Stella Adler achieved fame as an actress and drama teacher. His brother Jay also achieved some fame as an actor.
Adler's father gave him his first acting job in the Yiddish play, Schmendrick, at the Thalia Theatre in Manhattan in 1908; Adler was then 5 years old. His first Broadway plays were The Hand of the Potter in 1921; Humoresque in 1923; Monkey Talks in 1925; Money Business and We Americans in 1926; John in 1927; Red Rust (or Rust) and Street Scene in 1929.
Years in the Group Theatre
Luther Adler (back row, second from left) with members of the Group Theatre
Luther Adler and his sister Stella in a 1936 publicity photo for their appearance in the Group Theater production of Awake and Sing!
In 1931 Adler became one of the original members of the Group Theatre (New York), a New York City theatre collective formed by Cheryl Crawford, Harold Clurman, and Lee Strasberg. The founders, as well as the actors in the group, "tended to hold left-wing political views and wanted to produce plays that dealt with important social issues." The collective lasted for ten years, had twenty productions, and served as an inspiration for many actors, directors, and playwrights who came after it. During those years, the Group's members included Luther, Luther's sister and brother, Stella Adler and Jay Adler, Elia Kazan, John Garfield, Paul Green (playwright), Howard Da Silva, Harry Morgan (billed as Harry Bratsburg), Franchot Tone, John Randolph, Joseph Bromberg, Michael Gordon, Will Geer, Clifford Odets and Lee J. Cobb.Elia Kazan considered Adler to be the best actor working in the company.
In 1932 Adler starred in John Howard Lawson's, Success Story and garnered rave reviews for his performance. In 1933 Adler briefly joined the Katherine Cornell Company, playing opposite Cornell in Alien Corn, but in 1934 he returned to the Group and played alongside his sister Stella in the Gold Eagle Guy. Unfortunately Gold Eagle Guy was not popular with audiences and had a short run. Adler had suspected the play would not succeed, remarking, shortly before it opened, "Boys, I think we're working on a stiff." Adler went on to appear in Group Theatre (New York) productions: Awake and Sing! and Paradise Lost (both 1935), and he performed with Frances Farmer in Golden Boy (1937). He also appeared in Kurt Weill's anti-war musical Johnny Johnson (1936) and originated the role of Captain Joshua in the 1939 Group Theater production of Thunder Rock. "By the late 1930s... the cohesiveness of the group began to crumble. The chronic financial problems and long-simmering disputes about 'the method' began to chip away at their solidarity... and in 1941 the group dissolved."
After the Group Theatre
By the early 1940s Adler began to direct, but his first production They Should Have Stood in Bed closed after only eleven performances in 1942. His next directorial venture, A Flag is Born, ran for 120 performances in 1946 and featured newcomer Marlon Brando in one of the major roles. In 1965, when Zero Mostel left the Broadway cast of Fiddler on the Roof during a contract dispute, Adler took over the role of Tevye.
Film and television career
In 1937 Adler began to appear in films, although they were never his highest priority. His credits included Wake of the Red Witch (1948), House of Strangers (1949), D.O.A. (1950), The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951) (appearing as Hitler) , M (1951), Voyage of the Damned (1976) and Absence of Malice (1981).
He also acted frequently on television in such programs as the anthology series, Crossroads, General Electric Theater, Kraft Television Theater and Robert Montgomery Presents. He guest-starred in 1960 in the science fiction fantasy series, The Twilight Zone as the poor pawnbroker Arthur Castle, with Vivi Janiss as his wife Edna, in the episode entitled "The Man in the Bottle." in the story line, a genie offers the couple four wishes which do not lead to happiness. He was also cast in episodes of The Untouchables, Ben Casey, 77 Sunset Strip, Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, most notably in the series' only three-part episode "'V' for Vashon", The Streets of San Francisco, Naked City and Route 66.
Adler was married to actress Sylvia Sidney from 1938 until 1946 and was the father of Sidney's only child, her son Jacob, who predeceased her.
He died in Kutztown, Pennsylvania and was buried in Mount Carmel Cemetery, Glendale, New York, next to several of his relatives, including his older sister Stella.
As an actor
- Lancer Spy (1937) ... Schratt
- Cornered (1945) ... Marcel Jarnac
- Saigon (1948) ... Lt. Keon
- The Loves of Carmen (1948) ... Dancaire
- Wake of the Red Witch (1948) ... Mayrant Ruysdaal Sidneye
- House of Strangers (1949) ... Joe Monetti
- Under My Skin (1950) ... Louis Bork
- D.O.A. (1950) ... Majak
- Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye (1950) ... Keith 'Cherokee' Mandon
- South Sea Sinner (1950) ... Cognac
- Somerset Maugham TV Theatre (1951) (TV Series)
- M (1951) ... Dan Langley
- Faith Baldwin Romance Theatre (1951) (TV Series)
- The Magic Face (1951) ... Rudi Janus/Adolf Hitler
- The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel (1951) ... Adolf Hitler
- Hoodlum Empire (1952) ... Nick Mansani
- The Tall Texan (1953) ... John Tinnen
- The Mask (1954) (TV Series)
- The Motorola Television Hour (1954) (TV Series) ... General Fox
- The Miami Story (1954) ... Tony Brill
- Center Stage (1954) (TV Series) ... Jubal Banks
- The United States Steel Hour (1954) (TV Series) (1954, 1956) ... Judge Brock (1954), Sidney West (1956)
- Studio One (1954) (TV Series) (1954, 1956) ... Joe Rundle
- General Electric Theater (1954) (TV Series) (1954-1955) ... Warner Johnson
- Kraft Television Theatre (1955) (TV Series)
- Crashout (1955) ... Pete Mendoza
- Robert Montgomery Presents (1955) (TV Series)
- The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing (1955) ... Delphin Delmas
- Crossroads (1955) (TV Series) ... Rabbi Rosenblum
- Hot Blood (1956) ... Marco Torino
- Playhouse 90 (1958) (TV Series) (1958-1959) ... Garvin (1958), Molotov (1958), Irving Werner (1959)
- The Last Angry Man (1959) ... Dr. Max Vogel
- A Month in the Country (1959) (TV) ... Ignaty Illyich Shpichelsky
- Play of the Week (1959) (TV Series) ... Ignaty Illyich
- Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse (1960) (TV Series) ... Sal Raimondi
- The Twilight Zone (1960) (TV Series) ... Arthur Castle (episode "The Man in the Bottle")
- The Untouchables (1960) (TV Series) (1960-1962) ... Gus Marco (1960), Emile Bouchard (1961), Charlie Zenko (1962)
- Naked City (1960) (TV Series) (1960-1962) ... Sean Wicklow (1960), Willard Manson (1961), Henri Tourelle (1961), Mr. Kovar (1962)
- The Islanders (1961) (TV Series) ... Frank Fellino
- The DuPont Show of the Month (1961) (TV Series)
- Straightaway (1961) (TV Series)
- Target: The Corruptors (1961) (TV Series) (1961-1962) ... Victor Cobalt (1961), Jonathan (1962)
- Ben Casey (1961) (TV Series) (1961, 1963) ... Dr. Michael Waldman ... episode ... The Insolent Heart (1961), Dr. Bowersox ... episode ... The White Ones Are Dolphins (1963)
- Route 66 (1962) (TV Series) ... Harry Wender
- 77 Sunset Strip (1963) (TV Series) ... Thomas Allen
- Cast a Giant Shadow (1966) ... Jacob Zion
- The Three Sisters (1966) ... Chebutykin
- The Sunshine Patriot (1968) (TV) ... Imre Hyneck
- The Brotherhood (1968) ... Dominick Bertolo
- Mission: Impossible (1970) (TV Series) ... Leo Vorka ... episode ... Phantoms
- The Name of the Game (1970) (TV Series) ... Marc Osborne
- The Psychiatrist: God Bless the Children (1970) (TV) ... Dr. Bernard Altman
- The Psychiatrist (1971) (TV Series) ... Dr. Bernard Altman
- Hawaii Five-O (1972) (TV Series) (1972, 1974) ... Dominick Vashon ... episodes ... 'V' for Vashon: The Son, 'V' for Vashon: The Father, & 'V' for Vashon: The Patriarch (1972), Charles Ogden ... episode ... How to Steal a Masterpiece (1974)
- Search (1973) (TV Series) ... Vollmar
- Chelsea D.H.O. (1973) (TV) ... Dr. Levine, M.E.
- Hec Ramsey (1973) (TV Series) ... Victor Bordon ... episode ... The Detroit Connection
- Crazy Joe (1974) ... Falco
- Hawaii Five-O (1975) (TV Series) ... Archive Footage ... Dominick Vashon ... episode ... The Case Against McGarrett
- The Streets of San Francisco (1974) (TV Series) ... Victor ... episode ... Mister Nobody
- The Man in the Glass Booth (1975) ... Presiding Judge
- Live A Little, Steal A Lot (1975) ... Max 'The Eye'
- Mean Johnny Barrows (1976) ... Don Racconi
- Voyage of the Damned (1976) ... Prof. Weiler
- Absence of Malice (1981) ... Malderone (Last appearance)
- The Making of 'Absence of Malice (1982) (TV)
- "About the Group Theatre - American Masters". pbs.org. Public Broadcasting System. 29 December 1997. Retrieved 2014.
- Clurman, Harold (1967). The Fervent Years: The Story of the Group Theatre and the Thirties. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press. ISBN 9780786747214. Retrieved 2014.
- Hischak, Thomas S. (1 January 2003). Enter the Players: New York Stage Actors in the Twentieth Century. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 4. ISBN 9780810847613. Retrieved 2016.
- Hischak, Thomas S. (2 June 2008). The Oxford Companion to the American Musical: Theatre, Film, and Television. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. p. 379. ISBN 9780195335330. Retrieved 2014.
- Kazan, Elia (2010). Kazan on Directing. New York, NY: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 9780307277046. Retrieved 2014.
- "Inside the Playbill: Golden Boy - Feb 1938 at Belasco Theatre". playbillvault.com. Playbill. Retrieved 2014.
- "Luther Adler Director, Performer". playbillvault.com. Playbill. Retrieved 2014.
- Saxon, Wolfgang (9 December 1984). "Luther Adler, Actor, Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved 2014.
- Simkin, John (September 1997). "Luther Adler". spartacus-educational.com. Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 2014.