Richard Bakalyan: An Iconic American Actor

Richard Bakalyan and Peter Brown in "Lawman" (1961) Richard Bakalyan (January 29, 1931 - February 27, 2015) was a remarkable American actor whose career began with juvenile delinquent roles in his early films. Born in...

Richard Bakalyan Richard Bakalyan and Peter Brown in "Lawman" (1961)

Richard Bakalyan (January 29, 1931 - February 27, 2015) was a remarkable American actor whose career began with juvenile delinquent roles in his early films. Born in Watertown, Massachusetts, Bakalyan grew up in a tough neighborhood where he learned to box to defend himself in street fights. His rough upbringing shaped his resilience and determination, qualities that would later contribute to his success in the entertainment industry.

Early Life and Military Service

Richard Bakalyan was born to Armenian-born William Nishan Bakalyan and Canadian-born Elsie Florence Bakalyan. Unfortunately, his father passed away when Bakalyan was just 8 years old. Growing up, he faced several challenges, including serving a year's probation at the age of 15 for unknown crimes. However, Bakalyan was determined to turn his life around.

In his early adulthood, Bakalyan served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War, where he honed his discipline and gained valuable life experiences. After four years of service, he was honorably discharged with the rank of staff sergeant.

A Diverse Film Career

Bakalyan's film career started off with roles as thugs, outlaws, and military personnel in action films. Movies such as "The Delinquents" (1957), "The Bonnie Parker Story" (1958), and "Up Periscope" (1959) showcased his talent for portraying tough characters.

However, as Bakalyan matured as an actor, he ventured into more comedic and family-friendly roles. He became known for his appearances in several Disney projects, including "Never a Dull Moment" (1968), "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" (1969), and "The Strongest Man in the World" (1975). Additionally, he lent his voice to animated films such as "The Fox and the Hound" (1981) as the character 'Dinky' the finch bird.

Bakalyan shared the screen with renowned actor Frank Sinatra in several films during the 1960s. Their friendship extended beyond the set, becoming lifelong friends with the Sinatra family. He also formed a close bond with co-star Bobby Darin while filming "Pressure Point" in 1962, remaining one of Darin's closest friends until his untimely death in 1973.

One of Bakalyan's notable appearances was in Roman Polanski's 1974 film "Chinatown," where he portrayed Detective Loach alongside Jack Nicholson and Faye Dunaway.

Television Success

In addition to his film work, Bakalyan had a successful career in television. He appeared in numerous shows from the 1950s to the 2000s, showcasing his versatility as an actor. Some of his early television performances included appearances in "Panic!," "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp," and "The Untouchables."

Bakalyan's television credits expanded over the years, with notable guest roles in popular shows such as "Batman," "Mannix," "Charlie's Angels," and "Hill Street Blues." He was a regular on "Dean Martin Presents: The Bobby Darin Amusement Company" (1972) and "The Bobby Darin Show" (1973) alongside his dear friend Bobby Darin.

His last screen effort was in the NBC comedy series "My Name Is Earl" in October 2008, showcasing his enduring passion for acting.

Personal and Later Life

Richard Bakalyan's personal life revolved around his dedication to his craft. He was married to Elizabeth Baumann from 1952 until her death in 1967. Known for his talent and professionalism, Bakalyan was featured in the book "Names You Never Remember, With Faces You Never Forget" by Justin Humphreys, highlighting his contributions as a prolific character actor.

Tragically, Bakalyan passed away suddenly from a stroke on February 27, 2015, at the age of 84 at the Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, New York. His legacy lives on through his memorable performances and the impact he made in the entertainment industry.

Richard Bakalyan's extensive filmography and television appearances are a testament to his undeniable talent and dedication as an actor. His ability to portray diverse characters with authenticity and passion left a lasting impression on audiences worldwide.

References and Further Reading:

  • Humphreys, Justin (2006). "Richard Bakalyan". Names You Never Remember, With Faces You Never Forget: Interviews with the Movies' Character Actors (softcover) (First ed.). Albany, GA: BearManor Media. pp. 44-67. ISBN 978-1-62933-094-5.

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