The actor who originated the role of Captain von Trapp in “The Sound of Music” on Broadway has died. Variety reports that Theodore Bikel, the Oscar- and Tony-nominated character actor and folk singer, died this morning in Los Angeles at 91.
Bikel starred onstage in thousands of performances of “Fiddler on the Roof.” He was nominated for a Tony Award for his portrayal of von Trapp.
The Variety obituary notes: “To some, he is best known for his 1990 appearance on ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ as the Russian adopted father of the Klingon Worf.”
Variety adds: “He often played Germans or Russians — in his autobiography, Bikel said that his facility with accents resulted in his typecasting ‘as the poor man’s Peter Ustinov.’ But in Stanley Kramer’s 1958 film ‘The Defiant Ones,’ starring Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis, he portrayed a Southern sheriff pursuing a pair of fugitives — and was Oscar nominated for the role.”
Notes the Chicago Tribune, “A prolific recording artist, Bikel also helped found the Newport Folk Festival in 1959, an event that has drawn hundreds of thousands of fans to Rhode Island over the decades and launched the careers of many notable musicians.”
Says The Hollywood Reporter, “On television, Bikel made hundreds of appearances, co-starring as Henry Kissinger in the 1989 ABC miniseries ‘The Final Days’ and guesting on shows as diverse as ‘The Twilight Zone,’ ‘Gunsmoke,’ ‘All in the Family,’ ‘Law & Order,’ ‘JAG,’ ‘Columbo’ and ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation.’ He had recurring roles on the primetime soaps ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Falcon Crest.’
“Bikel did a weekly radio program, ‘At Home With Theodore Bikel,’ which was nationally syndicated. He is the author of ‘Folksongs and Footnotes,’ and his autobiography ‘Theo’ was published in 1994.”
The Reporter also notes that Bikel “was president emeritus of Actors Equity, which he served as president from 1973-82.”
Here is Bikel singing a folk song on an undated episode of ABC’s “The Hollywood Palace” in the 1960s: