Alan Arkin

With Jayant, Wallace Shawn, William Finley, and Austin Pendleton in “Simon.”

With Blythe Danner in “Hearts of the West.”

With Carl Reiner in “Fire Sale.”

Caricature by Al Hirschfeld for “The In-Laws.”

Alan Arkin


  1. Arkin is one of my favorite actors, hands down. I wish I had known about that Hirschfeld drawing when I did the write-up on the 30th anniversary of The In-Laws for Ed Copeland last year.

  2. A tremendous, underrated actor. If I had to pick a favorite it would be his role in Glangarry Glen Ross. Although that material is decidedly uncheery, he is perfect in his role. My heart broke for the guy.

    For something a little sunnier, I would have to go with his part in Sunshine Cleaning. What a guy.

    Apart from that I certainly haven’t seen all of the man’s many films.

  3. I can still remember going to see “The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming!” when it came out, and he was easily the best thing in it. Always a great actor, and it’s always a joy to see him in a film – Peevy from “The Rocketeer”, the shrink in “Grosse Point Blank”, and of course, Yossarian, one of the great black comedy roles ever. It’s scary how many films I’ve seen with him in them.

  4. Ivan, I finally got around to watching “The In-Laws” several months ago because of your write-up. The scene in the lunchroom is one of the funniest things I’ve ever watched.

    SFF, I also haven’t seen enough of his films. Some of them are really hard to get copies of, like “Simon”, which is only available on icky pan ‘n’ scan VHS.

    I’m glad you also liked “Catch 22”, Van. It is an underrated movie, with Arkin’s performance being alternately subtle and bold. The look on Orson’s face when he sees a naked Yossarian waiting for the medal is absolute gold.

    Ed, tune in tomorrow.

  5. Ivan, I finally got around to watching “The In-Laws” several months ago because of your write-up. The scene in the lunchroom is one of the funniest things I’ve ever watched.

    My sister Kat, who reacts to classic films in the same manner as Superman does to Kryptonite, mevertheless loves The In-Laws. I once made her nearly lose control of her car by yelling: “Oh, Jesus…PIGS!” when she wasn’t expecting it–she had to pull over and wait while her laughter subsided.

    In-Laws is my favorite Arkin performance, but I also like (as Vanwall pointed out) his shrink in Grosse Pointe Blank and the sympathetic police captain in So I Married an Axe Murderer {“Someone needs a hug…”). And for my money, he was the best thing in that otherwise wretched movie version of Get Smart that came out two years ago.

  6. Arkin’s performance in SIMAAM was the first big name performance that was uncredited that I ever ran into. I remember re-running the credits searching for him, then coming to the IMDb (which I was helping to edit at the time, pre-Amazon) only to find a note saying he was uncredited. I can’t remember a movie I didn’t like him in, but I do confess his Oscar turn in “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” is my least favorite role of his.

  7. Yeah, THE IN-LAWS is probably my fave Arkin performance with WAIT UNTIL DARK being a close second. He was quite chilling in that one and it seemed like a fascinating casting against type. He was also really good playing against James Caan in FREEBIE AND THE BEAN.

  8. Hearts of the West is one of my favorite movies of all time. I just watched it recently on TCM and adored it all over again – and Alan Arkin is one of my favorite actors of all time.


  9. Stacia, have you read the novel “The Ledge” (2003), by Irish writer Blánaid McKinney?

    It starts with a film critic on a window ledge, about to jump, then goes back and tells his story.
    The critic has a cult (low-traffic) cable TV show in the middle of the night, in which he talks about things such as:

    “Good actors in bad movies. And bad actors in good movies…. Or bad performances where you least expect them. Or bad actors turning in unexpected pieces of brilliance in truly awful movies…
    “The week Episode One: The Phantom Menace was released, he didn’t even review it.”

    I’ve just met “She Blogged by Night”, but I thought of you. It’s a good read.

    Oh, yeah, and the connection is, the guy liked Alan Arkin.
    And so do I, probably primed by watching (and loving) “The Russians Are Coming x2” on TV when I was a kid.

  10. Cristiane, thanks for reminding me to look up Alan’s movies on TCM. I have not done that and I’ve probably missed a lot of them as a result.

    Fresca, that is a lovely compliment, thank you. I have not read that book but I have added it to my reading list, as it sounds fascinating.

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