Martin Balsam Overview:

Character actor, Martin Balsam, was born Martin Henry Balsam on Nov 4, 1919 in The Bronx, NY. Balsam appeared in over 170 film and television roles. His best known films include A Thousand Clowns, 12 Angry Men, Psycho, Breakfast at Tiffanys, Cape Fear (1962 and 1991), and Tora Tora Tora. Balsam died at the age of 76 on Feb 13, 1996 in Rome, Italy and was laid to rest in Cedar Park Cemetery in Paramus, Bergen County, NJ.


The versatile Martin Balsam was originally of The Method school. Although vividly remembered as the doomed detective in Psycho and in brilliant form opposite Joanne Woodward in Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams, this native New Yorker, switched easily from character roles to leads and back, but never quite realized his full potential in the cinema. But he did win an Oscar in 1965 for A Thousand Clowns.

(Source: available at Amazon Quinlan's Illustrated Dictionary of Film Character Actors).



Martin Balsam was nominated for one Academy Award, winning for Best Supporting Actor for A Thousand Clowns (as Arnold Burns) in 1965.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1965Best Supporting ActorA Thousand Clowns (1965)Arnold BurnsWon

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Martin Balsam Quotes:

[Russell has just fatally shot the Mexican bandit]
Mexican Bandit: I would like at least to know his name.
Henry Mendez: He was called John Russell.

Arnold Burns: Murray, you've got a rotten reputation. Even these guys weren't easy to grab. Why do you have to build your own personal blacklist? Why can't you just get blacklisted as a Communist like everybody else?

Henry Mendez: You can be white, Mexican, or Indian, but I think it pays you to be a white man for a while. Put yourself on the winning side for a change.
John Russell: Is that what you are?
Henry Mendez: Well, a Mexican's closer to it than a White Mountain Apache, I can tell you that!

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Also a Scorpio

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Best Supporting Actor Oscar 1965

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Martin Balsam Facts

He was the first to record the voice of HAL in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), but was passed over in favor of Douglas Rain.

Part of the drama club at DeWitt Clinton High School, he studied dramatics at The New School in New York City and then served in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

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