Joel Grey


Actor
Joel Grey

About

Also Known As
Joel David Katz
Birth Place
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
Born
April 11, 1932

Biography

A mercurial, multi-talented fixture of the Broadway stage since the 1950s, Oscar-winning actor Joel Grey rose to fame as the sinister Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret, which earned him both the Tony Award for the 1966 stage production and the Oscar for Bob Fosse's 1972 film adaptation. A consummate singer, dancer and skilled actor, Grey's greatest successes were on Broadway, where he star...

Family & Companions

Jo Wilder
Wife
Singer, actor. Married June 29, 1958; divorced.

Notes

Grey received an honorary doctorate from Cleveland State University.

"Since I was nine I wanted to be on the stage. I didn't to be in competition with my Dad, so I didn't want to be a musician. I found the theater the place for me." --Joel Grey quoted in THE NEW YORK POST, November 12, 1996

Biography

A mercurial, multi-talented fixture of the Broadway stage since the 1950s, Oscar-winning actor Joel Grey rose to fame as the sinister Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret, which earned him both the Tony Award for the 1966 stage production and the Oscar for Bob Fosse's 1972 film adaptation. A consummate singer, dancer and skilled actor, Grey's greatest successes were on Broadway, where he starred in such memorable shows as "Stop The World - I Want To Get Off," "George M!," and "Wicked." His film output was somewhat less substantial, though he was a fixture of episodic television from the early 1970s through the new millennium, earning an Emmy nomination in 1991 for a guest role on "Brooklyn Bridge" (CBS, 1991-93). For many, Grey was first and foremost a Broadway star, and he would return to the Great White Way on numerous occasions, even into his late seventies with a critically praised revival of "Anything Goes" in 2011. Throughout all the facets of his career, from young hopeful to actor on the rise and Oscar winner to his prolific period as a character player in the 1990s and 2000s, Grey remained the symbol of elegance, economy and class both in front of and away from an audience.

Born Joel David Katz in Cleveland, OH on April 11, 1932, Joel Grey was the son of Mickey Katz, a member of the Spike Jones Orchestra who skewered Jewish stereotypes in song parodies, and his wife, Grace. A gifted singer and dancer from an early age, Grey made his stage debut at the age of nine in a production of "On Borrowed Time" at the Cleveland Play House. His childhood would soon be comprised of endless rounds of auditions in both Cleveland and New York City, spurred by his mother's unfulfilled stage ambitions. Acting soon became a refuge for Grey, who could escape the dreariness of his life in a myriad of characters. After graduating from Beverly Hills High School in 1950, he made his debut as Joel Kaye in his father's satirical revue, "Borscht Capades." Grey worked steadily in theater for the next half-decade, balancing his appearances there with guest shots on a host of variety programs and occasional supporting roles in unremarkable feature films, like his screen debut "About Face" (1952) and "Calypso Heat Wave" (1957). Grey found more substantive work in episodic television, playing Billy the Kid in a 1959 episode of "Maverick" (ABC, 1957-1962) and, ironically enough, a comic unable to match the accomplishments of a more famous relative on "Surfside 6" (ABC, 1960-62). But theater remained Grey's most significant showcase.

Grey had earned his first leading role in 1956's "The Littlest Revue," a musical by Ogden Nash and Vernon Duke, but would wait another six years for his breakout turn in "Come Blow Your Horn" (1961), which marked Neil Simon's debut as a playwright. He was soon become a Great White Way favorite thanks to versatile performances in "Stop the World - I Want to Get Off" and the revue "Half a Sixpence" (1965). His defining role would come a year later in the Kander and Ebb musical "Cabaret," where he was cast as the malevolent, asexual Master of Ceremonies at a seedy nightclub in pre-Nazi Germany. Grey received universal praise as well as the Tony Award for his haunting performance, and almost immediately scored a second triumph with "George M!," a musical biography of early show business star and composer George M. Cohan which netted him a Tony nomination in 1968. He would reprise the role for a TV-movie version of "George M!" on NBC in 1970, but was soon back to "Cabaret," this time for a film version directed by famed choreographer Bob Fosse.

Though only loosely based on the original stage production, Fosse's "Cabaret" (1972) was one of the biggest hits of the year, reaping 10 Academy Award nominations and earning eight, including one for Grey as Best Supporting Actor. His reprisal of the Master of Ceremonies also earned him a Golden Globe, BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles, and acting awards from the National Board of Review and National Society of Film Critics. It also placed him in the rare but august company of actors who had won both Tonys and Oscars for the same role, including Yul Brynner, Anne Bancroft, Jose Ferrer and Paul Scofield. What the Oscar win did not do for Grey was establish him as a film star. Possessed of a dancer's build and stature, as well as an intensity that bordered on unsettling, Grey was a challenge to cast in mainstream features and frequently found himself playing offbeat characters - a would-be psychic on a murder case in "Man on a Swing" (1974), the producer of Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show in Robert Altman's "Buffalo Bill and the Indians, Or Sitting Bull's History Lesson" (1976), and a petty criminal who matched wits with Sherlock Holmes (Nicol Williamson) in "The Seven Per Cent Solution" (1976). His mellifluous voice was also tapped for several animated projects, including the Rankin-Bass special "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (ABC, 1974).

By 1975, Grey was back on Broadway in "Goodtime Charlie," a musical based on the life of French king Charles VII and his romantic interest in Joan of Arc. It suffered from numerous production delays, which forced Grey to abandon the project due to his commitments to "Buffalo Bill." Nevertheless, it earned him another Tony nomination, as did Jerry Herman's "The Grand Tour" (1979), with Grey as a Polish-Jewish intellectual who teamed with an anti-Semitic military colonel to escape the Nazis. Neither production was a hit, so he maintained an infrequent schedule of television appearances for the next decade, largely in unremarkable fare. The sole bright spot during this period came in an eccentric bit of casting as a Korean martial arts master in "Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins" (1985), a serio-comic adaptation of the long-running series of pulp action novels by Warren Murphy and Richard Sapir. Though only a modest hit in theaters, it generated a Golden Globe nomination for Grey's amusingly spry performance.

In 1987, Grey reprised his role as the Master of Ceremonies for a 1987 Broadway revival of "Cabaret," the same year his daughter, Jennifer Grey, became an overnight sensation thanks to the film "Dirty Dancing" (1987). Her father would settle into a string of small but showy character turns in features and on television, most notably in the final episode of "Dallas" (CBS, 1978-1991) as a Satanic emissary who gleefully showed Larry Hagman's J.R. Ewing how happy the people in his life would have been had he never been born. He later played Marilyn Monroe's agent, Johnny Hyde, in "Marilyn and Me" (ABC, 1991), one-half of a pair of sly elderly con men in "The Music of Chance" (1993), and a Jewish immigrant on the well-loved series "Brooklyn Bridge" (CBS, 1991-93), which earned him an Emmy nomination in 1991. He maintained some distance from the Broadway stage but kept a hand in musicals, most notably in the little-seen film version of "The Fantasticks" (1993) and as the Wizard in an all-star charity production of "The Wizard of Oz," which aired on TNT.

However, Grey was back on stage the following year in the celebrated revival of Bob Fosse's "Chicago," earning a Drama Desk nomination as Amos Hart, the hapless spouse of chorus girl-turned-accused murderess Roxie Hart. The appearance seemed to give his acting career a long-overdue charge, as Grey was soon more active than at any point in his career, with appearances in Lars von Trier's "Dancer in the Dark" (1991), among numerous other features and recurring roles on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" (The WB, 1997-2003) as a demon in disguise, and as the murderous Lemuel Idzik on "Oz" (HBO, 1997-2003). In 2003, he returned once again to Broadway to play the Wizard of Oz in the acclaimed original theatrical run of "Wicked," which earned him an Outer Critics Circle Award nomination. That same year, he published his first book of photographs, titled Pictures I Had to Take. A second volume, entitled Looking Hard at Unexpected Things, was released in 2006.

Grey remained exceptionally busy on television in the following years, drawing critical acclaim for appearances on "Alias" (ABC, 2001-06), "Brothers and Sisters" (ABC, 2006-2011) and "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ). In 2009, he released a third book of photography, 1.3 - Images from My Phone, which collected pictures taken with his camera phone. Two years later, he was back on the New York stage, both as actor and director; in the former capacity, he played gangster Moonface Martin in the acclaimed 2011 revival of Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" while directing Larry Kramer's "The Normal Heart," about the early days of the AIDS epidemic. That same year, his photography was also the subject of a show at the Museum of New York titled "Joel Grey/A New York Life," which also included memorabilia from his lengthy career in theater and film. In January 2015, the 82-year-old Grey officially announced that he was gay, citing Neil Patrick Harris as his personal inspiration for changing how gay men were perceived in celebrity culture.

By Paul Gaita

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Choke (2008)
On the Edge (2001)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2001)
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
The Fantasticks (2000)
Bellamy
A Christmas Carol (1999)
Venus Rising (1996)
My Friend Joe (1996)
The Empty Mirror (1996)
The Wizard of Oz in Concert (1995)
Narrator
The Dangerous (1995)
The Music of Chance (1993)
The Player (1992)
Himself
Marilyn and Me (1991)
Kafka (1991)
Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1976)
Man on a Swing (1974)
Franklin Wills
Cabaret (1972)
Master of ceremonies
Man on a String (1972)
Come September (1961)
Beagle
Calypso Heat Wave (1957)
Alex Nash
About Face (1952)
Bender

Music (Feature Film)

Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Song Performer
The Wizard of Oz in Concert (1995)
Song Performer

Misc. Crew (Feature Film)

The Player (1992)
Other

Cast (Special)

Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Yankee Doodle Dandy (2003)
Himself
Burt Bacharach (2001)
Interviewee
Julie Newmar: The Cat's Meow (2000)
The 70th Annual Academy Awards (1998)
Performer
The Kennedy Center Honors (1998)
Performer
NYTV: By the People Who Made It (1998)
53rd Presidential Inaugural Gala (1997)
The Music of Kander and Ebb: Razzle Dazzle (1997)
Broadway '97: Launching the Tonys (1997)
Presenter
A CAPITOL FOURTH (1994)
In a New Light (1992)
Danny Kaye's International Children's Awards For UNICEF (1992)
Performer
Street Scenes: New York on Film (1992)
Just Deserts (1992)
The 45th Annual Tony Awards (1991)
Performer
A CAPITOL FOURTH -- 1991 (1991)
Night of 100 Stars III (1990)
1990 King Orange Jamboree Parade (1990)
The 42nd Annual Tony Awards (1988)
Performer
Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (1987)
Christmas at Radio City Music Hall (1986)
Host
Liberty Weekend (1986)
The All-Star Salute to Ford's Theatre (1986)
Merry Christmas... With Love, Julie (1979)
Jubilee (1976)
Don't Call Me Mama Anymore (1973)
The Magical Music of Burt Bacharach (1972)
George M! (1970)
George M Cohan
Jack and the Beanstalk (1956)
Jack

Music (Special)

The Kennedy Center Honors (1998)
Song Performer
A CAPITOL FOURTH (1994)
Song Performer
In a New Light (1992)
Song Performer
1990 King Orange Jamboree Parade (1990)
Song Performer
The All-Star Salute to Ford's Theatre (1986)
Song Performer

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Armistead Maupin's Further Tales of the City (2001)
Queenie (1987)
'Twas the Night Before Christmas (1974)
Narrator

Life Events

1941

Made his stage debut in "On Borrowed Time" at the Cleveland Playhouse

1948

Was performing in his father's revue "Borscht Capades," when he was discovered by Eddie Cantor

1950

Made TV debut in "Colgate Comedy Hour" (NBC)

1952

First feature film, "About Face"

1956

Broadway debut, "The Littlest Revue"

1958

Played Theodore in the television adaptation of "Little Women" (CBS)

1961

Last film for over a decade, "Come September"

1963

Toured in "Stop the World - I Want to Get Off"

1966

Won a Tony Award playing the Master of Ceremonies in the Broadway musical "Cabaret"

1968

Played the title role in the Broadway musical "George M!"; earned a Tony nomination

1970

Reprised his role for the NBC production of "George M!"

1972

Made his TV-movie debut in "Man on a String" (ABC)

1972

Reprised role of the Master of Ceremonies in Bob Fosse's feature adaptation of "Cabaret"

1975

Earned third Tony Award playing the title role in the short-lived musical "Goodtime Charley"

1976

Last film appearance for close to a decade, Robert Altman's "Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson"

1977

Returned to the stage in the ensemble cast of John Guare's "Marco Polo Sings a Solo"

1979

Earned fourth Tony nomination for the short-lived musical "The Grand Tour"

1985

Portrayed Ned Weeks in the New York Shakespeare Festival production of "The Normal Heart"

1985

Received star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

1985

Returned to features as Master of Sinanju Chiun, Remo's elderly Korean martial arts master in "Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins"

1987

Co-starred in the CBS miniseries "Queenie"

1987

Reprised role of the Master of Ceremonies in tour and Broadway revival of "Cabaret"

1991

Portrayed Johnny Hyde in "Marilyn and Me" (ABC)

1992

Received an Emmy nomination for portraying a Holocaust survivor on the CBS sitcom "Brooklyn Bridge"

1995

Narrated "The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True" (TNT), also played title role

1996

Returned to Broadway, playing Amos Hart in a revival of "Chicago"

1998

Made London stage debut reprising his Broadway role as Amos Hart in "Chicago"

1999

Played the Ghost of Christmas Past in the NBC adaptation of "A Christmas Carol"

2000

Had memorable cameo in Lars von Trier's "Dancer in the Dark"

2000

Toured in one-man stage show

2001

Had a recurring role on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as Doc, a reptilian demon

2003

Originated the Wizard of Oz role for the Broadway musical "Wicked"

2003

Had a recurring role on the HBO prison drama "Oz" as Lemuel Idzik

2005

Had a recurring role on "Alias" as Another Mr. Sloane

2008

Featured in the black comedy "Choke," starring Sam Rockwell and Anjelica Huston

2011

Co-starred in the revival of the Cole Porter musical "Anything Goes"

2011

Co-directed with George C. Wolfe, the Broadway presentation of Larry Kramer's "The Normal Heart"; earned a Tony nomination for Best Direction of a Play

2011

Had photography show at The Museum of New York called "Joel Grey/A New York Life"

Photo Collections

Cabaret - Movie Posters
Here are three different one-sheet movie poster designs for Cabaret (1972), starring Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey, and directed by Bob Fosse. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Buffalo Bill And The Indians (1976) - Everything Historical Is Yours Amid the continuous rehearsal, first appearance by Burt Lancaster as Ned Buntline, Joel Grey as producer Salisbury, Geraldine Chaplin as Annie Oakley, John Considine her husband and manager, Harvey Keitel the nephew of the title character, Kevin McCarthy as Major Burke, and Paul Newman heard but not seen, in Robert Altman’s Buffalo Bill And The Indians Or , Sitting Bull's History Lesson, 1976.
Buffalo Bill And The Indians (1976) - Open, This Piece Of Our History Identified as a Robert Altman opening, though hardly necessary, with Alan Rudolph's 90% original script (with a nod to a play by Arthur Kopit), shooting at the Stoney Indian Reservation in Alberta, with narration by Humphrey Gratz who plays the "old soldier," from Buffalo Bill And The Indians Or, Sitting Bull's History Lesson, 1976, starring Paul Newman, cinematography by Paul Lohmann.
Buffalo Bill And The Indians (1976) - The Last Thing A Man Wants To Do Director Robert Altman, after nearly 15 minutes, finally shows his star and title character, Paul Newman, on camera, in rehearsal for his Wild West Show, introduced by producer Joel Grey, with Harvey Keitel as his nephew and secretary, Geraldine Chaplin as Annie Oakley, John Considine her husband, in Buffalo Bill And The Indians, 1976.
Buffalo Bill And The Indians (1976) - Ain't All That Different From Real Life Paul Newman (title character), with his publicist (Kevin McCarthy, as “Arizona John Burke,” also a historical figure) insists on a staged greeting for his newly recruited Wild West Show co-star, at first mistaking interpreter Halsey (Will Sampson) for Sitting Bull (Frank Kaquitts), in Robert Altman’s Buffalo Bill And The Indians Or, Sitting Bull’s History Lesson, 1976.
Come September (1961) - She's A Beaut! En route from Milan to his villa at Portofino, American tycoon Robert (Rock Hudson) has a series of encounters with snarky fellow Yanks, college men, Bobby Darin as Tony, Joel Grey as “Beagle,” with Ronnie Haran and Chris Seitz, early in Come September, 1961.
Cabaret (1972) - Berlin, 1931 The opening is all director Bob Fosse and Joel Grey as the never-named “Master Of Ceremonies,” though the song is from the John Kander and Fred Ebb Broadway musical, and Michael York as innocent Englishman Brian is introduced in passing, in Cabaret, 1972, starring Liza Minnelli.
Cabaret (1972) - Didn't You Just Scream? On their first quasi-date in Berlin, English Brian (Michael York) and American Sally (Liza Minnelli) enjoy the train, and director Bob Fosse inter-cuts the M-C (Joel Grey) with a Nazi gang-bashing, in Cabaret, 1972.

Trailer

Promo

Family

Mickey Katz
Father
Comedian.
Grace Katz
Mother
Ronnie Katz
Brother
Younger.
Jennifer Grey
Daughter
Actor. Born on March 26, 1960; married actor-writer Clark Gregg on July 21, 2001.
James Grey
Son
Chef.

Companions

Jo Wilder
Wife
Singer, actor. Married June 29, 1958; divorced.

Bibliography

Notes

Grey received an honorary doctorate from Cleveland State University.

"Since I was nine I wanted to be on the stage. I didn't to be in competition with my Dad, so I didn't want to be a musician. I found the theater the place for me." --Joel Grey quoted in THE NEW YORK POST, November 12, 1996

"I seem to not want to repeat what I've already done. I prefer to do things that I don't know how to do. If I read a script and I say, 'God, I don't think I can do this,' I can be almost certain that I'm going to do it." --Grey quoted in THE NEW YORK POST, November 12, 1996