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Lee J. Cobb 1911-1976

Country : New York City, New York
Profession : Actor
Date of birth : 1911-12-08
Date of death : 1976-02-11
Cause of Death : Unspecified

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Lee J. Cobb (December 8, 1911 – February 11, 1976) was an American actor. He is probably best known for creating the role of Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's 1949 play Death of a Salesman under the direction of Elia Kazan. It is widely considered to be his best performance, and one of the greatest performances ever on the American stage. Character actor Robert F. Simon, Cobb's understudy, replaced him in the Willy Loman role.


Born Leon Jacob to a Jewish family in New York City, Cobb studied at New York University before making his film debut in The Vanishing Shadow (1934). He joined the Manhattan-based left wing Group Theatre in 1935.


Cobb entered films in the 1930s, long before he ever played Willy Loman. He was cast as the Kralahome in the 1946 non-musical film Anna and the King of Siam. He also played the sympathetic doctor in The Song of Bernadette, and appeared as James Coburn's supervisor in the spy spoofs In Like Flint and Our Man Flint. He reprised his role of Willy Loman in the 1966 CBS television adaptation of Death of a Salesman, which included actors Gene Wilder, Bernie Kopell, and George Segal. Cobb was nominated for an Emmy Award for the performance. Mildred Dunnock, who had co-starred in both the original stage version and the 1951 film version, again repeated her role as Linda, Willy's devoted wife.

Cobb was named as a possible Communist in testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee because of his involvement in liberal causes and his support of political and charitable organizations suspected of being Communist fronts. He was called to testify before HUAC but refused to do so for two years until, with his career threatened by the blacklist, he relented in 1953 and gave testimony in which he named twenty people as former members of the Communist Party USA.

Following the hearing he resumed his career and worked with Kazan and Budd Schulberg, two other HUAC "friendly witnesses" on the 1954 film On the Waterfront which is widely seen as an allegory and apologia for testifying. In 1957 he appeared in Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men as the abrasive Juror #3. Cobb also appeared as Wyoming ranch owner Judge Henry Garth in the first four seasons of the long-running NBC western television series The Virginian. He appeared with co-stars James Drury, Doug McClure, Roberta Shore, Gary Clarke, and Randy Boone. In 1968, he performed as King Lear with Stacy Keach as Edmund, René Auberjonois as the Fool, and Philip Bosco as Kent achieved the longest run for the play in Broadway history, although the 1950 Broadway production of the play, with Louis Calhern as Lear, played 48 performances as opposed to Cobb's 47. One of his final film roles was that of police detective Lieutenant Kinderman in the 1973 horror film The Exorcist. Cobb died of a heart attack in 1976 in Woodland Hills, California and was buried in Mount Sinai Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Selected Broadway credits

  • Crime and Punishment (1935)
  • Waiting for Lefty (1935)
  • Johnny Johnson (1936)
  • Golden Boy (1937)
  • Death of a Salesman (1949)
  • King Lear (1968)


  • The Vanishing Shadow (1934)
  • North of the Rio Grande (1937)
  • Rustlers' Valley (1937)
  • Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937)
  • Danger on the Air (1938)
  • The Phantom Creeps (1939)
  • Golden Boy (1939)
  • This Thing Called Love (1940)
  • Men of Boys Town (1941)
  • Paris Calling (1941)
  • Down Rio Grande Way (1942)
  • The Moon Is Down (1943)
  • Tonight We Raid Calais (1943)
  • Buckskin Frontier (1943)
  • The Song of Bernadette (1943)
  • Winged Victory (1944)
  • Anna and the King of Siam (1946)
  • Johnny O'Clock (1947)
  • Boomerang! (1947)
  • Captain from Castile (1947)
  • Call Northside 777 (1948)
  • The Miracle of the Bells (1948)
  • The Luck of the Irish (1948)
  • The Dark Past (1948)
  • Thieves' Highway (1949)
  • The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950)
  • Sirocco (1951)
  • The Family Secret (1951)
  • The Fighter (1952)
  • The Tall Texan (1953)
  • Yankee Pasha (1954)
  • Gorilla at Large (1954)
  • On the Waterfront (1954)
  • Day of Triumph (1954)
  • The Racers (1955)
  • The Road to Denver (1955)
  • The Left Hand of God (1955)
  • The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit (1956)
  • Miami Expose (1956)
  • 12 Angry Men (1957)
  • The Garment Jungle (1957)
  • The Three Faces of Eve (1957)
  • The Brothers Karamazov (1958)
  • Man of the West (1958)
  • Party Girl (1958)
  • The Trap (1959)
  • Green Mansions (1959)
  • But Not for Me (1959)
  • Exodus (1960)
  • The DuPont Show with June Allyson as Captain Maximilian Gault in "School of the Soldier" (CBS, 1961)
  • The Final Hour (1962)
  • Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1962)
  • The Brazen Bell (1962)
  • How the West Was Won (1962)
  • Come Blow Your Horn (1963)
  • Our Man Flint (1966)
  • In Like Flint (1967)
  • The Day of the Owl (1968)
  • Coogan's Bluff (1968)
  • They Came to Rob Las Vegas (1968)
  • Mackenna's Gold (1969)
  • The Liberation of L.B. Jones (1970)
  • Macho Callahan (1970)
  • Lawman (1971)
  • The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing (1973)
  • Ultimatum (1973)
  • Ransom! Police Is Watching (1973)
  • The Exorcist (1973)
  • The Balloon Vendor (1974)
  • Mark of the Cop (1975)
  • That Lucky Touch (1975)
  • Cross Shot (1976)
  • Nick the Sting (1976)

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