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Sam Wanamaker
Wanamaker in 1961
Born Samuel Wattenmacker
(1919-06-14)June 14, 1919
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died December 18, 1993(1993-12-18) (aged 74)
London, England
Occupation Actor, director
Years active 1948–1993
Spouse(s) Charlotte Holland (m. 1940–93)
Children 3, including Zoë Wanamaker

Samuel Wanamaker, CBE (born Samuel Wattenmacker; June 14, 1919 – December 18, 1993) was an American actor and director who moved to the UK after he feared being blacklisted in Hollywood due to his early pronounced liberal sympathies. He is credited as the person most responsible for the modern recreation of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London, where he is commemorated in the name of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, the site's second theatre.

Early years[]

Wanamaker was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of tailor Maurice Wattenmacker (Manus Watmakher)[1] and Molly (née Bobele). His parents were Ukrainian Jews from Nikolayev. He was the younger of two brothers, the elder being William, long-term cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. He trained at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and began working with summer stock theatre companies in Chicago and northern Wisconsin, where he helped build the stage of the Peninsula Players Theatre in 1937.


Wanamaker began his acting career in traveling shows and later worked on Broadway. In 1942 he starred with Ingrid Bergman in the play, Joan of Lorraine, and directed Two Gentlemen from Athens the following year.[2]

In 1943, Wanamaker was part of the cast of the play Counterattack at the National Theatre, Washington, D.C.. During the play, he became enamored of the ideals of liberal politics. He attended Drake University prior to serving in the U.S. Army between 1943 and 1946, during the Second World War. In 1947, he returned to civilian life as an actor and director.

As Stanley Goldblum in The Billion Dollar Bubble (1976)

In 1951, Wanamaker made a speech welcoming the return of two of the Hollywood Ten. In 1952, at the height of the McCarthy "Red Scare" period, despite his distinguished service in the Army during World War II, Wanamaker, who was then acting in the U.K., learned that his early years as a sympathizer of liberalism could be used to have him blacklisted in Hollywood.[lower-alpha 1] He consequently decided to remain in England, where he reestablished his career as a stage and film actor, along with becoming a director and producer.[4] He explains:

In 1950 I went to England to do a play, and around that time the whole McCarthy witch-hunting era had taken hold in Hollywood—so I just stayed in Britain... I knew that because I had worked with actors who had problems in Hollywood, I might have difficulties.[5]

In 1952 he made his debut as both actor and director in London in Clifford Odets' Winter Journey. The play, which co-starred Michael Redgrave, was considered "sensational" by critics,[4] He later appeared in other plays, including The Big Knife, The Shrike, The Rainmaker, and A Hatful of Rain.[4] In 1956 he directed a play by Bertolt Brecht, The Threepenny Opera.[4]

In 1957, he was appointed director of the neglected New Shakespeare Theatre, in Liverpool. He brought a number of notable productions to the theatre, such as A View From the Bridge, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Rose Tattoo and Bus Stop. It was also transformed into a lively arts centre as a result of including other cultural attractions, such as films, lectures, jazz concerts and art exhibits.[4] As a result of all his various activities, Wanamaker became London's "favourite American actor and director," notes The Guardian.[4] In 1959, he joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre company at Stratford-upon-Avon, playing Iago to Paul Robeson's Othello in Tony Richardson's production that year.[6] In the 1960s and 1970s, he produced or directed several works at venues including the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and directed the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations in 1974.

As a director and actor, he worked in both films and television, with roles in The Spiral Staircase (1974), Private Benjamin (1980), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), and Baby Boom (1987). He also directed stage productions, including the world premiere production of Michael Tippett's opera The Ice Break.[7] In 1980, he directed Giuseppe Verdi's opera "Aida" starring Luciano Pavarotti at San Francisco Opera (now broadcast version released as DVD). He was also featured as the widowed and very ruthless department store owner Simon Berrenger on the short-lived drama Berrenger's in 1985.

Restoring the Globe Theatre[]

He was a hard-headed romantic—and a genuinely courteous man—driven by a passion for Shakespeare. The Globe will be his lasting monument.

The Guardian, London[4]

In 1970 Wanamaker's career took a dramatic turn after he was annoyed by the fact that while a number of Globe Theatres had been replicated in America, the actual site of the original in London was marked by only a plaque on a nearby brewery. He then made it his single-minded goal to restore an exact replica of the Globe to have plays and a museum.[4] It became Wanamaker's "great obsession" to restore Shakespeare's Globe Theatre at its original location. And he secured financial support from philanthropist and fellow lovers of Shakespeare, such as Samuel H. Scripps, to see that it would be created.[4] Wanamaker then founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust, which raised well over ten million dollars.[4]

London's restored Globe in 2014

Though, as in the late 16th and 17th centuries, the 20th century Royal family were more or less supportive, British officialdom was far less so, since they wanted to develop the site for new high-rise housing and commercial use.[4] English Heritage, which controlled the site, refused to give Wanamaker the precise dimensions of the original Globe.[8][9]

According to Karl Meyer of The New York Times:

"The Shakespeare project helped Mr. Wanamaker keep his sanity and dignity intact. On his first visit to London in 1949, he had sought traces of the original theatre and was astonished to find only a blackened plaque on an unused brewery. He found this neglect inexplicable, and in 1970 launched the Shakespeare Globe Trust, later obtaining the building site and necessary permissions despite a hostile local council. He siphoned his earnings as actor and director into the project, undismayed by the scepticism of his British colleagues."[8]

On the south bank of the River Thames in London, near where the modern recreation of Shakespeare's Globe stands today, is a plaque that reads: "In Thanksgiving for Sam Wanamaker, Actor, Director, Producer, 1919–1993, whose vision rebuilt Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on Bankside in this parish".[8] There is a blue plaque on the river-side wall of the theatre,[10] and the site's Jacobean indoor theatre, opened in January 2014, is named the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse after him.[11]

Plaque honoring Wanamaker's restoration

For his work in reconstructing the Globe Theatre, Wanamaker, in July 1993, was made an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).[2] He was also honoured with the Benjamin Franklin Medal by the Royal Society of Arts in recognition of his contribution to theatre.

Also in tribute to Wanamaker's contribution, when multi-Tony Award-winning British actor Mark Rylance accepted his third Tony on stage in New York City during the televised ceremonies on June 8, 2014, he did so with a substantial note of thanks to this American savior of the Globe.

Personal life[]

In 1940, Wanamaker married Canadian actress Charlotte Holland.


Wanamaker died of prostate cancer in London in 1993 at the age of 74,[12] before his dream could be finalized, and prior to the grand opening of the Globe by Queen Elizabeth II on 12 June 1997.[13] He was survived by three daughters, Abby, Zoe and Jessica.



  • My Girl Tisa (1948) as Mark Denek
  • Give Us This Day (1949) as Geremio
  • Mr. Denning Drives North (1952) as Chick Eddowes
  • The Secret (1955) as Nick Delaney
  • The Battle of the Sexes (1959) as Narrator (voice)
  • The Criminal (1960) as Mike Carter
  • Taras Bulba (1962) as Filipenko
  • Man in the Middle (1964) as Maj. Leon Kaufman, a psychiatrist
  • The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (1965) as Peters
  • Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965) as George Gruber
  • Warning Shot (1967) as Frank Sanderman
  • The Day the Fish Came Out (1967) as Elias
  • Danger Route (1968) as Lucinda
  • Arturo UI (1972, TV)
  • The Law (1974, TV) as Jules Benson
  • Mousey (1974, TV) as Inspector
  • The Spiral Staircase (1975) as Lieutenant Fields
  • The Sell Out (1976) as Harry Sickles
  • Voyage of the Damned (1976) as Carl Rosen
  • Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977) as Bailey
  • The Billion Dollar Bubble (1978) as Stanley Goldblum
  • Death on the Nile (1978) as Sterndale Rockford
  • Holocaust (1978, TV mini-series) as Moses Weiss
  • Contro 4 bandiere (1979) as Ray MacDonald
  • Charlie Muffin (1979 TV) as Ruttgers
  • Private Benjamin (1980) as Teddy Benjamin
  • The Competition (1980) as Andrew Erskine

  • Winston Churchill: The Wilderness Years (1981) as Bernard Baruch
  • Our Family Business (1981, TV) as Ralph
  • I Was a Mail Order Bride (1982, TV) as Frank Tosconi
  • Heartsounds (1984, TV) as Moe Silverman
  • Irreconcilable Differences (1984) as David Kessler
  • The Ghost Writer (1984, TV) as E.I. Lonoff
  • Berrenger's (1985, TV series) as Simon Berrenger
  • The Aviator (1985) as Bruno Hansen
  • Embassy (1985, TV) as Ambassador Arthur Ingram
  • Deceptions (1985, TV) as Jim Nolan
  • Raw Deal (1986) as Luigi Patrovita
  • Sadie and Son (1987, TV) as Marty Goldstein
  • Baby Boom (1987) as Fritz Curtis
  • Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987) as David Warfield
  • The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (1987, TV) as District Attorney
  • Baby Boom (1988, TV series based on the 1987 film) as Fritz Curtis
  • Judgment in Berlin (1988) as Bernard Hellring
  • Tajna manastirske rakije (1988) as Ambassador Morley
  • The Shell Seekers (1989, TV) as Richard
  • Always Remember I Love You (1990, TV) as Grandfather Mendham
  • Running Against Time (1990, TV) as Doctor Koopman
  • Guilty by Suspicion (1991) as Felix Graff
  • Pure Luck (1991) as Highsmith
  • City of Joy (1992) (uncredited)
  • Killer Rules (1993, TV) as Gambon
  • Bloodlines: Murder in the Family (1993, TV) as Gerald Woodman
  • Wild Justice (1994, TV mini-series) as Kingston Parker (final film role)


  • Cameo Theatre in "Manhattan Footstep" (episode # 1.4) June 7, 1950
  • Danger Man – as Patrick Laurence in "The Lonely Chair" (episode # 1.8) October 30, 1960
  • The Defenders – as Dr. Ralph Ames in "The Hundred Lives of Harry Simms" (episode # 1.7) October 28, 1961
  • The Defenders – as James Henry David in "A Book for Burning" (episode # 2.27) March 30, 1963
  • Man of the World – as Nicko in "The Bandit" (episode # 2.1) May 11, 1963
  • Espionage – as Sprague in "Festival of Pawns" (episode # 1.10) December 11, 1963
  • The Outer Limits – as Dr. Simon Holm in "A Feasibility Study" (episode # 1.29) April 13, 1964
  • The Defenders – as Edward Banter in "Hollow Triumph" (episode # 3.35) June 20, 1964
  • The Defenders – as United States Attorney Brooker in "A Taste of Ashes" (episode # 4.8) November 12, 1964
  • The Wild Wild West – as Dr. Arcularis in "The Night of the Howling Light" (episode # 1.14) December 17, 1965
  • Gunsmoke – as Asa Longworth in "Parson Comes to Town" (episode # 11.31) April 30, 1966
  • Run for Your Life – as Major Joe Rankin in "The Flight from Tirana: Part 1" (episode # 2.16) January 9, 1967
  • Run for Your Life – as Major Joe Rankin in "A Rage for Justice: Part 2" (episode # 2.17) January 16, 1967
  • The Baron – as Sefton Folkard in "You Can't Win Them All" (episode # 1.19) February 1, 1967
  • Judd for the Defense – as Shelly Gould in "The Gates of Cerberus" (episode # 2.8) November 15, 1968
  • Thirty-Minute Theatre in "A Wen" (episode # 1.233) December 27, 1971
  • Rafferty – as Hollander in "Rafferty" (Pilot) (episode # 1.1) September 5, 1977
  • Return of the Saint – as Domenico in "Dragonseed" (episode # 1.22) February 25, 1979


  • The Defenders (TV series) – episode "Eyewitness" (1965)
  • Court Martial (TV series) – episode "The Bitter Wind" (1966)
  • Hawk (TV series) – episodes "Do Not Mutilate or Spindle", "Game with a Dead End" and "How Close Can You Get?" (1966)
  • Cimarron Strip (TV series) – episode "Broken Wing" (1967)
  • Custer (TV series) – episode "Sabers in the Sun" (1967)
  • Dundee and the Culhane (TV series) – episode "The Jubilee Raid Brief" (1967)
  • Coronet Blue (TV series) – episodes "The Rebels", "Man Running", "Saturday" and "The Presence of Evil" (1967)
  • Lancer (TV series) – episode "The High Riders" (1968)
  • Premiere (TV series) – episode "Lassiter" (1968)
  • The Champions (TV series) – episode "To Trap A Rat" (1968)
  • The File of the Golden Goose (1969)
  • The Executioner (1970)
  • Catlow (1971)
  • Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977)
  • Columbo: The Bye-Bye Sky High IQ Murder Case (1977) (TV)
  • David Cassidy - Man Undercover (TV series) – episode "Cage of Steel" (1978)
  • Hart to Hart (TV series) – episode "Death in the Slow Lane" (1979)
  • Return of the Saint (TV series) – episode "Vicious Circle" (1979)
  • Mrs. Columbo aka Kate Loves a Mystery (TV series) – episodes "A Puzzle for Prophets" and "Falling Star" (1979)
  • The Killing of Randy (1981) (TV)
  • Columbo: Grand Deceptions (1989) (TV)


  1. The British Broadcasting documentary Who Do You Think You Are? broadcast on 24 February 2009, revealed that the FBI had kept a substantial investigation file for him, including incriminating witness statements, and that the House Un-American Activities Committee had intended to subpoena him as a witness. His activities were also reportedly monitored by MI5.[3]


  1. "Who do you think you are - Zoë Wanamaker" BBC/2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Actor Sam Wanamaker, 74; rebuilt Globe Theater", Chicago Tribune, Dec. 19, 1993
  3. Michael Buchanan (31 August 2009). "Sam Wanamaker 'monitored by MI5'". BBC News. 
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 "Hard-headed Romantic", The Guardian, London, 20 December 1993
  5. "The McCarthy Era Kept Him Away", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan 23, 1985
  6. Martin Duberman, Paul Robeson, The New Press, New York, 1989, p. 476.
  7. inlay notes to recording on Virgin Classics VC 7 91448-2.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 , Edward Chaney, "Sam Wanamaker's Global Legacy", Salisbury Review, June 1995, pp. 38–40.
  9. "Sam Wanamaker's Great Obsession," by Karl E. Meyer, The New York Times, 29 December 1996.
  10. Louise Jury (24 February 2012). "Globe theatre appeal … stage two". Retrieved 24 February 2012. 
  11. Moore, Rowan (12 January 2014). "Sam Wanamaker Playhouse – review". Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  12. Obituary for Sam Wanamaker, New York Times, 19 December 1993.
  13. Shakespeare's Globe :: Sam Wanamaker

External links[]

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