Theodore Meir Bikel is a character actor, folk singer and musician. He made his film debut in The African Queen and was nominated for an Academy award for his supporting role as Sheriff Max Muller in The Defiant Ones. Bikel was born in Vienna, Austria, the son of Miriam and Josef Bikel from Bukovina. His family fled to Palestine following the Nazi occupation of Austria. In Palestine, Bikel started acting while in his teens. He co-founded the Cameri Theatre there?which has gone on to become one of Israel’s biggest theaters?before moving to London to attend the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1945. In 1948, Michael Redgrave recommended Bikel to his friend Laurence Olivier as understudy for the parts of both Stanley Kowalski and Mitch in the West End premiere of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire. Bikel graduated from understudy to star opposite the director’s wife, Vivien Leigh, who would go on to recreate her role as Blanche DuBois in the film version opposite Marlon Brando.
After several plays and films in Europe, Bikel moved to the United States in 1954, and became a naturalized citizen in 1961. He was the U-boat first officer to Curd Jürgens in The Enemy Below and played the captain of the Russian submarine in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming. He also portrayed the sadistic French general Jouvet in The Pride and the Passion Bikel was screentested for the role of Auric Goldfinger in the James Bond film Goldfinger. The screentest can be seen on the “Ultimate Edition” DVD released in 2006. Bikel also appeared in Frank Zappa’s 1971 film 200 Motels.
On Broadway he originated the role of Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music in 1959, for which he received his second Tony nomination.