THEO by Theodore Bikel


The Autobiography of Theodore Bikel
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 The autobiography of a prominent folksinger/actor/activist of the 1950s and '60s. It's difficult to write the story of a good man, harder still when the good man is writing his own story: Bikel does not entirely avoid the pitfall of a self-congratulatory tone. Still, his is a compelling life, taking him from preWW II Eastern Europe to an acting career in Israel; emigration to England after the war, training at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and initial success in British theater and film; a leap to the Broadway stage and stardom in The Sound of Music; productive years as a Hollywood character actor; a new career as a folksinger in the late '50s; then several decades of activism, as president of Actors' Equity and a prominent figure in the civil rights and antiVietnam War movements. Of late, he has made a career out of playing Tevye in many road productions of Fiddler on the Roof while guest starring in made-for-TV dramas ranging from the classy (``L.A. Law'') to the crass (``Dynasty''). Bikel has rubbed elbows with a fascinating parade of directors and actors (John Huston, Humphrey Bogart, Clark Gable, Mary Martin), singer/songwriters (Pete Seeger, Buffy Sainte- Marie, Phil Ochs, Frank Zappa), activists (Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael), and politicians (presidents Carter and Clinton invited him to the White House frequently; their Republican counterparts were, unsurprisingly, less friendly). As a performer, activist, and actor, he is a natural moderate-liberal. He seems surprised that ``folk purists'' object to his smoothing out the unusual harmonies of traditional music in his slickly commercial performances; similarly, as an early supporter of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), he was upset when the leadership turned increasingly radical, from ``freedom marchers...[to] freedom fighters.'' A model life for those inclined to save the Earth while strumming a guitar. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1994
ISBN: 0-06-019044-2
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1994