George Chakiris Biography

(American Actor Best Known for His Role as ‘Bernardo Nuñez’ in the Film ‘West Side Story’)

Birthday: September 16, 1934 (Virgo)

Born In: Norwood, Ohio, United States

George Chakiris is a former American dancer, actor and singer best known for his Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning performance in the film titled ‘West Side Story’. Born in Ohio, he was raised in Tucson, Arizona and Long Beach. Growing up with Greek immigrant parents, George never aspired to become a performer, however, his taste for performing arts developed during high school, after he joined the drama club of his school. He dropped out of college to start a career in acting and took acting and dancing classes after moving to Los Angeles. Initially, he appeared playing small uncredited roles as a dancer in films such as ‘Call me Madam’ and ‘Second Chance’. It was after the success of 1961 film ‘West Side Story’ that brought George into the limelight. Despite being offered lead roles in films such as ‘Two and Two Make Six’ and ‘Flight from Ashiya’, his film career never quite saw the success that he had imagined. On television, he appeared in series’ such as ‘Poor Little Rich Girls’, ‘Hell Town’, ‘Murder, She Wrote’ and ‘Thriller’ among many others. He retired from acting after 1990; his last film was a vampire film titled ‘Pale Blood’.

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Quick Facts

Also Known As: George Kerris

Age: 88 Years, 88 Year Old Males

Family:

father: Steven Chakiris

mother: Zoe Anastasiadou

Born Country: United States

Actors American Men

Height: 5'11" (180 cm), 5'11" Males

U.S. State: Ohio

Ancestry: Greek American

Childhood & Early Life

George Chakiris was born on September 16, 1934, in Norwood, Ohio, to Steven and Zoe Chakiris, into a middle-class family. His father worked as an insurance agent while his mother was a housewife. George’s parents were Greek immigrants. He was raised as one among seven children in the family and had four sisters and two brothers growing up.

George grew up loving performing arts, but the thought of making a career in the field never crossed his mind. It was in high school that his interests took a major shift. He joined the drama club in school and fell in love with the art of acting. He became a part of many plays in college but even then, he knew that it was not going to be easy to forge a successful career in the showbiz. Hence, after completing his matriculation, he enrolled in a college to pursue a degree.

He found it hard to concentrate on his studies and after completing his first year at college, he dropped out. Looking to forge a career in acting, he moved to Los Angeles in 1952. Initially, without good acting work, he worked at a departmental store as a clerk.

He enrolled into the American School of Dance and received training in various dance forms. He worked during the day and attended dance classes at night. He joined dancing classes in part due to the fact that he was surrounded by industry people there.

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Career

When he was a teenager, he had already made his debut with the 1947 film titled ‘Song of Love’, wherein he played a small role of a choir boy named George Kerris. A few years later, in 1951, he appeared playing a small role as a dancer in the musical film titled ‘The Great Caruso’. In the next year, he further appeared as a ballroom dancer in the film titled ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’.

1953 turned out to be a big year for George as he appeared in five projects back to back, such as ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ and ‘Second Chance’. He was mostly offered small roles as a background dancer; however, dancing did help him find his initial footing into the industry.

It was the 1954 film ‘White Christmas’, which turned out to be his first career milestone of sorts. He appeared in a close-up, in a photo with Hollywood actress Rosemary Clooney, which turned out to be his ticket to fame. The picture generated a lot of fan mails and George became a somewhat known face overnight. This fame also led him to sign a contract with Paramount Pictures.

However, this initial fame was of no use to George as he still found it very difficult to get a good role in a decent Hollywood production. Instead, he was offered more small projects as a background dancer, such as ‘Meet Me in Las Vegas’ and ‘The Country Girl’.

In the 1957 film titled ‘Under Fire’, he somehow managed to play a speaking dramatic role, but the role was too small to get noticed. Miffed at the way Hollywood treated him, George decided to shift his focus to theatrical productions and in the late 1950s, he moved to New York.

The classic musical ‘West Side Story’ had been running for a year in New York City and George auditioned for the character of Jerome Robbins. However, he was selected to play the character of Riff and he prepared hard for his role, to debut on-stage in 1958.

The musical opened to great reviews and George’s performance received widespread praise. The musical was played for the next two years in different venues across the country. The musical was such a big hit that major Hollywood producers took notice of it.

The rights to adapt the musical into a Hollywood film went to producers the Mirisch Brothers. George’s dusky complexion had him getting considered for one of the key roles as Bernardo. The 1961 film was a major critical and commercial success and has earned the status of a cult classic over time.

George’s performance in the film was admired universally and he ended up winning nominations for his supporting role at the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards. George ended up winning both the awards. The success of the film and the praises for George had the latter signing a long-term contract with the brothers.

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Soon after the success of ‘West Side Story’, George earned a lead role in the romantic comedy film titled ‘Two and Two Make Six’. However, despite a lot of buzz around it, the film was a critical and commercial debacle. He followed it with a key role in the romantic drama film titled ‘Diamond Head’, which was a fairly successful film, both critically and commercially.

In the mid-1960s, when George’s career was beginning to take off, he was charging $100,000 per film. In the 1960s, he appeared in three Mirisch Brother films, titled ‘Flight from Ashiya’, ‘Kings of the Sun’ and ‘633 Squadron’. After that, he stopped associating with the Mirisch Brothers.

In 1965, he appeared playing the lead role in the British film titled ‘The High Bright Sun’. He played Haghios in the film, which was a critical and commercial failure.

He had a long stay in Europe toward the late 1960s and worked in many European films such as ‘The Big Cube’ and ‘The Day the Hot Line Got Hot’.

While he had sparsely done television in the 1960s, with small roles in TV series’ such as ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ and ‘Ford Star Jubilee’, in the 1970s, he became more active on television. He appeared in supporting roles in series’ such as ‘Return to Fantasy Island’ and ‘Notorious Woman’.

As far as his film career was concerned, he said that he had made some mistakes on the professional front after the success of ‘West Side Story’. His films were failing and critical response to his performances was not encouraging either.

*In 1969, he played a key role in the stage production of semi-autobiographical play titled ‘The Corn is Green’, which he said brought his confidence on himself back.

For the next two decades, George focused on doing less but quality work. For television, he appeared in series’ such as ‘Matt Houston’, ‘Poor Little Rich Girls’, ‘Thriller’ and ‘Wonder Woman’ among others.

He became so miffed with his bad work and criticism, that he only did two films after the 1970s, 1982’ ‘Jekyll and Hyde... Together Again’ and 1990 ‘Pale Blood’.


In 2021, he is all set to appear in the documentary film titled ‘Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go for It’. He will appear as himself in the documentary film based on the life of Rita Moreno, a dancer and actress.

Since his retirement from acting, George has been working as a jewelry designer, for his brand George Chakiris Collections.

Personal Life

George Chakiris has stayed away from the limelight throughout his career. He is reportedly single and does not have any children.

George has never admitted his sexual preference. However, he is listed on the IMDB list of the 500 Gay Actors and Personalities, providing a voice to strong speculations about him being gay.

George Chakiris Movies

1. West Side Story (1961)

  (Musical, Thriller, Crime, Romance, Drama)

2. White Christmas (1954)

  (Romance, Musical, Comedy)

3. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)

  (Comedy, Musical, Romance, Drama)

4. Stars and Stripes Forever (1952)

  (Biography, Comedy, Music)

5. The Country Girl (1954)

  (Drama, Music)

6. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)

  (Comedy, Romance, Musical)

7. Call Me Madam (1953)

  (Comedy, Musical, Romance)

8. Bebo's Girl (1964)

  (Drama, Crime)

9. Brigadoon (1954)

  (Fantasy, Romance, Musical)

10. The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T. (1953)

  (Family, Music, Fantasy, Romance)

Awards

Academy Awards(Oscars)
1962 Best Actor in a Supporting Role West Side Story (1961)
Golden Globe Awards
1962 Best Supporting Actor West Side Story (1961)

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Article Title
- George Chakiris Biography
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- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
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URL
https://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/george-chakiris-11354.php

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