Chakiris as Alex Solkin in Medical Center, 1970
|Born||September 16, 1934|
Norwood, Ohio, U.S.
|Other names||George Kerris|
George Chakiris (born September 16, 1934) is a retired American dancer, singer, and actor. He is best known for his appearance in the film version of West Side Story as Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks gang, for which he won both the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture.
Chakiris did one year of college, but he wanted to dance, so he dropped out and moved to Hollywood. He worked in the advertising branch of a department store and began to study dancing at night.
Chakiris made his film debut in 1947, in the chorus of Song of Love.
For several years he appeared in small roles, usually as a dancer or a member of the chorus in various musical films, including The Great Caruso (1951), Stars and Stripes Forever (1952), Call Me Madam (1953), Second Chance (1953) and The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953).
Chakiris appeared as a dancer in White Christmas (1954). A publicity photo of Chakiris with Rosemary Clooney from her "Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me" scene generated fan mail, and Paramount signed him to a movie contract. "I got lucky with the close-up with Rosemary," said Chakiris.
Chakiris had a small non-dancing part in Under Fire (1957).
Frustrated with the progress of his career, Chakiris left Hollywood for New York. West Side Story had been running for a year on Broadway, and Chakiris auditioned for Jerome Robbins. He was cast in the London production as "Riff", leader of the Jets. The musical launched on the West End in late 1958 and Chakiris received excellent reviews, playing it for almost 22 months.
The Mirisch Brothers bought the film rights to West Side Story and tested Chakiris. They ended up feeling his dark complexion made him more ideal for the role of Bernardo, leader of the Sharks, and cast Russ Tamblyn as Riff. Filming took seven months.
The film of West Side Story (1961) was hugely successful and Chakiris won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance. This led him to be contracted by the Mirisch Company to a long-term contract.
The Mirisches announced him for Young Lucifer, with Tuesday Weld and directed by Irvin Kershner, but it was not made. Neither was a film version of Carnival! which Arthur Freed wanted to make with Chakiris, Yvette Mimieux, and Robert Goulet.
Instead the Mirisches reunited Chakiris with Brynner in Kings of the Sun (1963), an epic about the Mayans which was a box office flop. Chakiris went to Italy to make Bebo's Girl (1964) with Claudia Cardinale.
He did 633 Squadron (1964), a popular war movie with Cliff Robertson, the last movie he made for the Mirisches. Chakiris later said he made a mistake with his Hollywood films by looking at the "potential" of them instead of the quality of the roles.
Chakiris played a Greek terrorist in Cyprus in a British filmThe High Bright Sun (1965) with Dirk Bogarde for which he was paid $100,000. He went to Italy for The Mona Lisa Has Been Stolen (1965) and France for Is Paris Burning? (1966).
He acted along with Catherine Deneuve and Gene Kelly in Jacques Demy's French musical Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967). Around this time his manager cancelled his contract with Capitol Records. However he enjoyed his time in Europe saying he had time to "experiment and refine my craft." He also did a nightclub act at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, his first stage work since West Side Story.
The show was successful and led to Chakiris receiving an offer to appear alongside Jose Ferrer in a TV production of Kismet (1967). He did The Day the Hot Line Got Hot (1968) in France and The Big Cube (1969) with Lana Turner in America. He made Sharon vestida de rojo (1970) in Spain.
In 1969 Chakiris did a stage production of The Corn Is Green in Chicago with Eileen Herlie. He enjoyed the experience and it revived his confidence as an actor. He said all the films he made after West Side Story had been "a waste of time... it was difficult to take them seriously... It was my fault and no one else's".
Chakiris worked heavily on TV in the 1970s and 1980s in Britain and America, guest starring on shows like Hawaii Five-O, Police Surgeon, Thriller, Notorious Woman, Wonder Woman, Fantasy Island, CHiPs, Matt Houston, Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Poor Little Rich Girls, Hell Town and Murder, She Wrote.
He appeared in the final episode of The Partridge Family as an old high school boyfriend to Shirley Partridge (Shirley Jones, also a musical theater veteran and the person who just happened to have presented him with his Academy Award). Their kiss goodbye was the final scene in the program's run. He also starred in the film Why Not Stay for Breakfast? (1979).
Chakiris had a recurring role on the TV show Superboy as Professor Peterson during the first two seasons from 1988-1990.
He has given occasional television interviews since then, but is mostly retired. His hobby of making sterling silver jewelry has turned into a new occupation, working as a jewelry designer for his own brand, George Chakiris Collections, consisting of handmade original sterling silver jewelry.
|1947||Song of Love||Choir boy||as George Kerris|
|1951||The Great Caruso||Dancer||Uncredited|
|1952||Stars and Stripes Forever||Ballroom dancer||Uncredited|
|1953||Call Me Madam||Dancer in 'The Ocarina' Number|
|The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T||Dancer||as George Kerris|
|Gentlemen Prefer Blondes||Dancer (Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend")||Uncredited|
|Second Chance||Background Observer in Dance Sequence||Uncredited|
|Give a Girl a Break||Dancer||Uncredited|
|White Christmas||Dancer in 'Mandy' and 'Love' numbers||Uncredited|
|The Country Girl||Dancer with pick||Uncredited|
|There's No Business Like Show Business||Dancer||Uncredited|
|1955||The Girl Rush||Chorus boy, 'Hillbilly Heart' number||Uncredited|
|1956||Meet Me in Las Vegas||Young groom||as George Kerris|
|1957||Under Fire||Pvt. Steiner||Uncredited|
|1961||West Side Story||Bernardo Nuñez||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor|
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
|1962||Two and Two Make Six||Larry Curado|
|Diamond Head||Dr. Dean Kahanna|
|1963||Kings of the Sun||Balam|
|1964||La ragazza di Bube||Bebo|
|Flight from Ashiya||2nd Lt. John Gregg|
|633 Squadron||Lt. Erik Bergman|
|1965||The High Bright Sun||Haghios|
|1966||On a volé la Joconde||Vincent|
|Is Paris Burning?||GI in tank|
|1967||Les Demoiselles de Rochefort||Étienne|
|1968||Le Rouble à deux faces||Eric Ericson|
|1969||The Big Cube||Johnny Allen|
|Sharon vestida de rojo||Robert Bowman|
|1979||Why Not Stay for Breakfast?||George Clark|
|1982||Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again||Himself|
|1990||Pale Blood||Michael Fury|
|1956||Ford Star Jubilee||Episode: "You're the Top"|
|1968||The Carol Burnett Show||Episode 20 (Jan. 22, 1968)|
|1969||The Jackie Gleason Show||Episode: "Mousey the Dip"|
|1970-1975||Medical Center||Alex Solkin||3 episodes|
|1972||Hawaii Five-O||Chris Lahani||1 episode|
|1974||The Partridge Family||Capt. Chuck "Cuddles" Corwin||Episode: ". . . - - - . . . (S.O.S.)"|
|Thriller||Robert Stone||Episode: "Kiss Me and Die"|
|Notorious Woman||Frédéric Chopin||Miniseries|
|1978||Wonder Woman||Carlo Indrezzano||Episode: "Death in Disguise"|
|Return to Fantasy Island||Pierre|
|1982||Fantasy Island||Captain Claude Dumont||Episode: "The Magic Camera/Mata Hari/Valerie"|
|1983||CHiPs||Bernard DeJardine Fox Trap||1 episode|
|Matt Houston||Brett Cole||Episode: "The Showgirl Murders"|
|1984||Matt Houston||Clark Sawyer||Episode: "Waltz of Death"|
|One Life to Live||Unknown episodes|
|Poor Little Rich Girls||Prince Rudolph||Episode: "The Gentleman Caller"|
|Nihon no omokage||Lafcadio Hearn||Miniseries|
|Scarecrow and Mrs. King||Angelo Spinelli||Episode: "Lost and Found"|
|1985||Hell Town||Ric Montenez||Episode: "Let My Jennie Go"|
|1988||Santa Barbara||Daniel Espinoza|
|1989||Murder, She Wrote||Eric Bowman||Episode: "Weave a Tangled Web"|
|1989-1990||Superboy||Professor Peterson||9 episodes|
|1992||Human Target||Robillard||Episode: "Chances Are"|
|1995||Les Filles du Lido||Saskia||Miniseries|
|1996||Last of the Summer Wine||Max Bernard||Episode: "Extra! Extra!"|