Jack Weston was born August 21, 1924, in Cleveland, Ohio. He started out as a theater actor, and became a regular as a character actor in a variety of 1950s TV shows. He enjoyed constant film work in the 1960s and 1970s. While achieving great success as a film actor, he never abandoned his love for the stage. He died on April 3, 1996, after a six-year struggle with lymphoma.
Actor Jack Weston was born Jack Weinstein on August 21, 1924, in Cleveland, Ohio. Young Weston was a mischief-maker and class clown in school, and appeared destined for trouble until a particularly insightful elementary school teacher suggested to his father that Weston's penchant for comedy and craving for attention might be well suited for the stage. Willing to try anything, Weston's father, a shoemaker, enrolled his 10-year-old son in acting classes at the Cleveland Play House—the storied actors' breeding ground that also nurtured the talent of a young Paul Newman.
As Weston's teacher had predicted, the acting classes allowed the mischievous youngster to expend his considerable comic energy in a creative and productive way. Weston continued on to Glenville High School, where he played the leading role in many school plays before dropping out at the age of 15 to pursue his dreams of becoming a professional actor.
After dropping out of school, Weston returned to the Cleveland Play House and acted in its children's theater for four years until, in 1943, the 19-year-old was drafted into the United States Army for service in World War II. Weston spent two years as a machine gunner in Italy; while deployed in the army, he also acted in a USO tour production of The Milky Way. Upon leaving the military in 1945, Weston performed a brief stint in New Hampshire with a local theater company, the Petersboro Players, before moving to New York City with hopes of hitting it big on Broadway.
Those dreams proved hard to sustain, as the young actor's first years in New York in the late 1940s were full of struggle and hardship. "I keep remembering the days in New York after the war," Weston said later. "I thought if somebody would give me $80 a week for life and just let me act, that's all I ask."
In attempt to boost his fortunes, Weston joined the American Theatre Wing, where he studied alongside future stars such as Lee Marvin and Jack Klugman. Still, Weston could only find paid work as the theater wing's elevator operator (a job he received because he was the first applicant to fit in the operator's suit). Then, in 1950, he finally made his Broadway debut as Stewpot in the long-running musical South Pacific. After that, he quickly became a regular as a character actor in a variety of 1950s television shows such as Out There (1951), Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers (1953-'54) and Perry Mason (1958).
Weston married actress Marge Redman in 1950. They were co-starring in a 1958 Broadway production of Bells are Ringing when they decided, more or less on a whim, to quit the production, hop in their vintage Volkswagen and drive out to Los Angeles. They planned to stay only a few months, but their car broke down shortly after they arrived in L.A. and they wound up staying for 18 years. During his time on the West Coast in the 1960s and 1970s, Weston enjoyed constant film work. He acted in Mirage (1965), the original Thomas Crown Affair (1968) and Wait Until Dark (1967), in which he turned in one of his most acclaimed performances opposite Audrey Hepburn. Weston then starred opposite Burt Reynolds in a pair of 1970s comedies, Fuzz (1972) and Gator (1976).
Another of his most acclaimed comic performances came in the 1975 film The Ritz. Although he enjoyed great success in the city, Weston always maintained that he hated Los Angeles. "Every afternoon at 3:00, something hits this town," he once said. "It's called flash boredom. If you're an actor and not working and you don't play tennis or golf, you can go stark, raving mad. I know. I lived here for 18 years."
While achieving great success as a film actor, Weston never abandoned his love for the stage. During the 1970s, he appeared in touring productions of two Neil Simon plays, The Last of the Red Hot Lovers and California Suite. Then, in 1981, upon returning to New York City, he played the leading role in Woody Allen's Broadway comedy The Floating Light Bulb, earning a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor. After that performance, he acted only sporadically in films such as The Four Seasons (1981) and Dirty Dancing (1987).
Jack Weston died on April 3, 1996, after a six-year struggle with lymphoma. He was 71 years old. He is survived by his second wife, Laurie Gilkes, and his stepdaughter, Amy.
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