He is the latest subject in our series about performers who have won BOTH awards for the same role. It may interest you to know that there are a mere nine actors and actresses who have accomplished this feat including three we have already covered– Jose Ferrer, Anne Bancroft and Shirley Booth.
Can you name the remaining six performers? Hint: all are far more famous than Jack Albertson.
Born in the early part of the last century (1907 to be exact), he was old enough at his death in Los Angeles in 1981 of colon cancer to have successively traversed vaudeville and burlesque, the Broadway stage (of course), television in its early and most creative “golden” phase, movies and then back to prime time tv.
Albertson is probably best remembered today for the popular NBC mid-Seventies series, Chico and the Man costarring the late Freddie Prinze as the upbeat Hispanic maintenance man who insinuates himself into the life of a hard-drinking Anglo widower (Albertson) operating a tattered garage in a East Los Angeles barrio.
The show with Albertson and Prinze in the leads was a big success, running from 1974 until early 1977 when the 22-year-old Prinze, combating drug abuse and depression, ended his life with a gunshot.
Frank Gilroy’s Pulitzer-prize-winning play, The Subject Was Roses, opened on Broadway in 1964, with Albertson cast as one-half of an Bronx, Irish-American couple whose son returns home from World War II military service. (The son was played by a young Martin Sheen, then in his mid-Twenties.) The son’s reappearance unearths long-standing family tensions only tentatively resolved by his final departure from the household.
The play won two Tony Awards, for best play and best featured actor (Albertson).
The movie version came out in 1968 with Patricia Neal cast as Albertson’s wife and Sheen repeating his role as the returning son. Neal was nominated for a best actress Oscar for her performance, but lost out in an anomalous Academy citation that year splitting the award between Katharine Hepburn (for The Lion in Winter) and Barbra Streisand (Funny Girl).
Albertson’s dual victory sparked a robust television career but not much on the feature film front. He was slotted as strictly a character actor for the most part. Among his best known films are 1972’s The Poseidon Adventure, 1970’s Rabbit, Run and as Grandpa Joe in 1971’s Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.
Final note: In 1976, Albertson joined another elite circle — triple crown winners. For his role on Chico and the Man, he added an Emmy Award to his Oscar and Tony for The Subject Was Roses.