Los Angeles: Oscar and Tony-nominated character actor and folk singer Theodore Bikel, who played Captain von Trapp in "The Sound of Music" on Broadway and starred in "Fiddler on the Roof" onstage, has died. He was 91.
Bikel died of natural causes on Tuesday morning at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, publicist Harlan Boll announced, reported Variety.
Internationally renowned and respected as one of the most versatile actors of his generation, Bikel received an Academy Award nomination as best supporting actor for "The Defiant Ones" (1958), where he played a Southern sheriff.
The multilingual actor played a Dutch doctor in "The Little Kidnappers"; a Germany submarine officer in "The Enemy Below"; a French general in "The Pride and the Passion"; Russian military men in "Fraulein" and "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming"; and a Hungarian phonetics expert in "My Fair Lady". Other memorable feature credits include "The African Queen", "I Want to Live!", "See You in the Morning", "Crisis in the Kremlin" and "Shadow Conspiracy".
In "The Sound of Music," which opened on Broadway in 1959 and ran until 1963, Bikel earned a Tony Award nomination for his work.
On TV, 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," "Colombo" 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.
Late into his life, Bikel wrote and starred in numerous performances of the play and musical "Sholom Aleichem: Laughter Through Tears," which had its world premiere in Washington in 2008. More recent film credits include "Dark Tower" (1989), "Second Chances" (1998) and "Crime and Punishment" (2002).
Bikel was a noteworthy recording artist who enjoyed international popularity as a folk singer. He appeared at Carnegie Hall and sang for Queen Elizabeth, and in 1961, he founded the Newport Folk Festival.
He recorded 37 albums, more than 20 for Electra. "Folksong of Israel," "A Young Man and a Maid" and "An Actor's Holiday" featured songs in 12 languages, including Ukrainian and Zulu. He collected exotic folk instruments, sang with Pete Seeger and once owned a bistro in Hollywood.
A civil rights activist who became a naturalised American citizen in 1961, he was appointed by President Carter in 1977 to serve a five-year term on the National Council for the Arts.
Bikel was born in Vienna on May 2, 1924. He was educated in Austria until the Nazis arrived when he was 13. Bikel spent his teens living on a kibbutz and got his first acting job as a Czarist constable in a Hebrew production of the Tevye stories.
In 1946, he went to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatics Arts. He followed with work on the London stage, winning acclaim for his performance in Laurence Olivier's production of "A Streetcar Named Desire." Bikel also was noteworthy in Peter Ustinov's "The Love of Four Colonels."
Bikel came to the US in 1954 to appear with Louis Jourdan in "Tonight in Samarkand" on Broadway. Strong critical notices helped him land the main supporting role opposite Julie Harris in "The Lark."
He is survived by his wife Aimee, sons Rob and Danny, stepsons Zeev and Noam and three grandchildren.