Movie Star Actor Telly Savalas Movie Posters & Pictures star of the Dirty Dozen and Kojak

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Aristotelis “Telly” Savalas ( January 21, 1922 – January 22, 1994) was a Greek-American film and television actor and singer, whose career spanned four decades. Best known for playing the title role in the popular 1970s crime drama Kojak, Savalas was nominated for an Oscar for his supporting role in Birdman of Alcatraz (1962). His other movie credits include The Young Savages (1961), The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965), Battle of the Bulge (1965), The Dirty Dozen (1967), The Scalphunters (1968), supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969), Kelly's Heroes (1970) and Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971). He was famous for his shaved head.
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Savalas, the second oldest of five children, was born as Aristotelis Savalas in Garden City, Long Island, New York to Greek American parents Christina (née Kapsalis), a New York City artist who was a native of Sparta, and Nick Savalas, a Greek restaurant owner.[ When he entered Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park, New York, he initially only spoke Greek, yet he learned English and graduated in 1940. After graduation from high school, he worked as a lifeguard, but on one occasion, was unsuccessful at rescuing a man from drowning; this would haunt Savalas for the remainder of his life. When he entered Columbia University School of General Studies, Savalas took a variety of courses such as English, radio and psychology. At that time, he fell in love with radio and television, which led to his interest in acting. He graduated in 1948. Savalas also gained life experience with a three-year stint (1943-1946) in the Army during WWII, working for the U.S. State Department hosting the "Your Voice of America" series and then at ABC News before beginning an acting career in his late 30s. Before he would get to any of that, starting at age 28, Savalas hosted a popular radio show called the coffeehouse in New York City.

Savalas started out as an executive director and then senior director of the news special events at ABC. He then became an executive producer for the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports where he gave Howard Cosell his first job.[citation needed].

Prior to his movie career, Savalas was a character actor on TV shows during the late 1950s and the 1960s. His first acting role was on And Bring Home a Baby, an episode of Armstrong Circle Theater in January 1959. He appeared on two more episodes of this series, in 1959 and 1960. Between 1959 and 1967, he made more than fifty guest appearances in various television programs, including Naked City, The Eleventh Hour, King of Diamonds, The Aquanauts, The Untouchables, Burke's Law, Channing, Combat!, The Fugitive, Breaking Point, Bonanza, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The F.B.I. and the classic The Twilight Zone episode Living Doll. He also had a recurring role as Brother Hendricksen on the popular crime drama series, 77 Sunset Strip.

While playing Lucky Luciano on the TV series The Witness, actor Burt Lancaster "discovered" him. He appeared with Lancaster in three movies - the first of these was the crime drama The Young Savages (1961). After playing a police officer in this movie, he moved on to play a string of heavies. Once again opposite Lancaster, he won acclaim and an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as the sadistic Feto Gomez in Birdman of Alcatraz (1962).

Savalas shaved his head for his role as Pontius Pilate in The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965). After completing work on the movie, he chose to remain completely bald. This signature look, somewhere between the comic and the ominous, stood him in good stead in the years that followed.

Savalas was memorable as heavily religious and very sadistic convict Archer Maggott in The Dirty Dozen (1967), the seminal ensemble action film by director Robert Aldrich. He later returned to play a different character in two of the movie's TV sequels - The Dirty Dozen: The Deadly Mission (1987) and The Dirty Dozen: The Fatal Mission (1988). He co-starred with Burt Lancaster for the third time in The Scalphunters (1968), a comedy western that revealed the absurdity of racism during the Civil Rights movement. Two more appearances in comedies for Savalas were as Herbie Haseler in Crooks and Coronets (1969) and opposite Clint Eastwood in Kelly's Heroes (1970).

His career was transformed with the lead role in the celebrated TV-movie The Marcus Nelson Murders (CBS, 1973) and pop culture icon Theo Kojak was born.


Savalas' most famous role was as the star of the television series Kojak. Lt. Theo Kojak was a bald New York City detective with a fondness for lollipops and whose trademark line was "Who loves ya, baby?" and "Everybody should have a little Greek in them." Reportedly the lollipop gimmick was added in lieu of having the character smoke, although in addition to indulging his sweet tooth he also smoked heavily onscreen - cigarettes, cigarillos and cigars - throughout the first season episodes.

He was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series two years in a row, winning the Emmy in 1974. He was also nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Actor in a TV Drama Series from 1975 to 1978, winning twice, in 1975 and 1976.

His brother George played the regular role of Detective Stavros - a sensitive, wild-haired, quiet, comedic foil to Kojak's street-wise humor in an otherwise dark dramatic TV series.

Kevin Dobson played the role of Kojak's trusted young partner, Det. Bobby Crocker. The on-screen chemistry of Savalas & Dobson was a success story of 1970s television. After the show's cancellation, Dobson kept in touch with Savalas and they maintained a close, personal friendship until Savalas's death. The death of Savalas' mother Christina in 1989 drew Savalas & Dobson closer.

Dobson went on to gain greater fame in the popular prime-time 1980s soap opera, Knots Landing. As a result, he did not appear in the majority of the Kojak TV movies. However, Savalas and Dobson were reunited on-screen for one last time when they appeared together in the 1990 TV movie Kojak: It's Always Something, where Kevin's character was a lawyer - similar to his role on Knots Landing - instead of a police officer.

While working on Knots Landing with Savalas' stepdaughter Nicollette Sheridan, Dobson said of his first meeting with Savalas: "The moment I met Telly Savalas, we shook hands and our eyes met and locked and the chemistry was there. It was just there and it proved, once we got him filmed."

On filming Savalas' lollipops, Kevin said: "The lollipops scene took place in the fifth show, when we're in the office and we're about to do the scene, he said, 'I need something, you know?' And here's a guy standing over there with the Tootsie Pop sticking out of his shirt. Give me a Tootsie Pop, huh? Telly, they flipped it to him, doing it like this, unwrapped it, stuck it to him and his head, his mouth and became a lollipop cop."

In 1978, after 5 seasons and 118 episodes, CBS cancelled the show due to low ratings. Savalas wasn't very happy about the show's demise, but he got the chance to reprise the Kojak persona in several TV-movies.

Savalas portrayed Kojak in the following shows:

* The Marcus-Nelson Murders (1973) (TV) The pilot for the Kojak TV series.
* Kojak (1973 – 78) TV Series
* Kojak: The Belarus File (1985) (TV)
* Kojak: The Price of Justice (1987) (TV)
* Kojak: Ariana (1989) (TV)
* Kojak: Fatal Flaw (1989) (TV)
* Kojak: None So Blind (1990) (TV)
* Kojak: It's Always Something (1990) (TV)
* Kojak: Flowers for Matty (1990) (TV)


Savalas died on January 22, 1994 of complications of bladder cancer[8] at the Sheraton-Universal Hotel in Universal City, California, at age 72. He was interred at the George Washington section of Forest Lawn - Hollywood Hills Cemetery. The funeral, held in a Greek Orthodox Church, was attended by his third wife Julie and his brother Gus. His first two wives, Katherine and Marilyn, also attended with their own children. Some of the many other mourners present included Angie Dickinson, Nicollette Sheridan, Jennifer Aniston, Sally Adams, Frank Sinatra, Don Rickles, and several of Telly's Kojak co-stars - Kevin Dobson, Dan Frazer and Vince Conti.