SAM WANAMAKER Biography - Actors and Actresses


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Name: Sam Wanamaker                                                                   
Born: 14 June 1919 Chicago, Illinois                                                 
Died: 17 December 1993 London, England                                               
Sam Wanamaker (June 14, 1919 - December 18, 1993) was an American actor and           
director, and the person most responsible for the modern recreation of               
Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London today.                                         
Wanamaker was born Samuel Watenmaker in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Jewish         
immigrants Molly Bobele and Morris Watenmaker. He began his acting career at the     
age of just 17. After training at the Goodman Theatre, Chicago, he began working     
with summer stock theatre companies in Chicago and northern Wisconsin (where he       
helped build the stage of the Peninsula Players Theatre in 1937) and worked on       
Broadway and in travelling shows. In 1940, he married Charlotte Holland, an           
American radio soap star of the 1940s and later an actress. He attended Drake         
University, Iowa prior to serving in the U.S. Army between 1943 and 1946 during       
the Second World War.                                                                 
In 1952 at the height of the McCarthy "Red Scare" period in America, despite his     
distinguished service in the U. S. Army during World War II, Wanamaker learned       
that he had become blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee,         
which he discovered while filming Mr. Denning Drives North in the UK. Wanamaker       
consequently decided not to return to the United States. Instead, he                 
reestablished his career in England, as actor on stage and screen, director and       
In 1957, he was appointed director of the New Shakespeare Theatre, in Liverpool.     
In 1959, he joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre company at Stratford-upon-Avon.   
In the 1960s and 1970s, he produced or directed several works at Covent Garden       
and elsewhere including the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations in 1974. In the         
1970s, Wanamaker began an intimate, long-standing relationship with the then-widowed 
American actress, Jan Sterling.                                                       
He worked both as a director and actor in both films and television, and his         
appearances included such movies as The Spiral Staircase (1974), Private             
Benjamin (1980), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), and Baby Boom (1987).       
He also directed stage productions. In 1980, he directed Giuseppe Verdi's opera       
"Aida" starring Luciano Pavarotti at San Francisco Opera (now broadcast version       
released as DVD).                                                                     
Wanamaker founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust to rebuild the Globe Theatre in         
London, England, and played a central role in realizing this amazing project,         
eventually raising well over ten million dollars. According to the New York           
Times, it became Wanamaker's "Great Obsession" to realize an exact replica of         
William Shakespeare's first Globe Theatre, eventually securing the financial         
support of philanthropist and fellow lover of Shakespeare, Samuel H. Scripps.         
The Shakespeare project helped Mr. Wanamaker keep his sanity and dignity intact.     
On his first visit to London in 1949, he had sought traces of the original           
theater and was astonished to find only a blackened plaque on an unused brewery.     
He found this neglect inexplicable, and in 1970 launched the Shakespeare Globe       
Trust, later obtaining the building site and necessary permissions despite a         
hostile local council. He siphoned his earnings as actor and director into the       
project, undismayed by the skepticism of his British colleagues.                     
On the south bank of the Thames River in London, near where the modern               
recreation of Shakespeare's Globe stands today, is a plaque that reads:               
In Thanksgiving for Sam Wanamaker, Actor, Director, Producer, 1919-1993, whose       
vision rebuilt Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on Bankside in this parish.               
Wanamaker died of prostate cancer in London at the age of 74, before his             
dream could be finalized, and prior to the grand opening by HM the Queen in June     
1997. He is survived by three daughters, Abby, Jessica & English-American             
actress ZoĆ« Wanamaker.