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:

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!

[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.

Paul Girard: Admiral, I understand you're not much of a betting man.
Vice-Adm. Farley C. Barnswell: It depends on the game.
Paul Girard: Hmm. What is your pleasure... poker... roulette... what?
Vice-Adm. Farley C. Barnswell: No, those are house games. I don't much care for the odds.
Paul Girard: What about horse racing?
Vice-Adm. Farley C. Barnswell: On occasion... it depends on the race... sometimes the weather... and the horse does make the difference.
Paul Girard: Hmm. That's true, that's true. What about the Preakness? Have you got anything good going there?
Vice-Adm. Farley C. Barnswell: [Adm. Barnswell senses that Girard knows about the takeover plot] I only bet on sure things.
Paul Girard: Admiral, you're a very lucky sailor. That's exactly what I've got for you: a sure thing.
Vice-Adm. Farley C. Barnswell: What is the bet, Mr. Girard?
Paul Girard: The bet is that there are members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who are involved in treason. We know who they are, we know the essence of the plan. Now from you, Admiral, I want a signed statement indicating at what moment you first heard of this operation and your complicity in this entire matter.
Vice-Adm. Farley C. Barnswell: Frankly, I wish I had more time.
Paul Girard: [sarcastically] I wish you did too, Admiral.
[tosses him a pen to write the statement]
Paul Girard: Unfortunately, you don't.

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Also a Scorpio

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Best Supporting Actor Oscar 1965

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Martin Balsam Facts
Worked as a waiter and as an usher at Radio City Music Hall in New York during his early years of struggle.

Played a psychiatrist in Rod Sterling's Time Element, which dealt with a patient who kept dreaming that he was back in the time just prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor. In Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), he played Admiral Kimmel the naval commander of Pearl Harbor at the time of the Japanese attack.

Former father-in-law of George Clooney.

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