James Karen

James Karen

Birth name: Jacob Karnofsky
Born: November 28, 1923
Age: 94
Birthplace: Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, U.S.
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James Karen (born Jacob Karnofsky; November 28, 1923) is an American character actor of Broadway, film and television. Karen is best remembered for his roles in Poltergeist, The Return of the Living Dead, Invaders from Mars, and in The Pursuit of Happyness.

Karen is also known for his recurring television role as Tom Bradford's boss, Eliot Randolph in Eight is Enough. He also appeared in commercials for Pathmark which earned his nickname "Mr. Pathmark". He was nominated for a Saturn Award for his 1985 role in The Return of the Living Dead.


Early life

Karen was born Jacob Karnofsky in Wilkes-Barre, in northeastern Pennsylvania, the son of Russian-born Jewish immigrants Mae (née Freed) and Joseph H. Karnofsky, a produce dealer.

As a young man, Karen was encouraged to be an actor by U.S. Congressman Daniel J. Flood, who was an amateur thespian himself, recruiting him into a production at the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre. He attended the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York.


The first movie Karen has recalled seeing was the Buster Keaton film Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928). He was later a very good friend of Keaton. His big break came when he was asked to understudy Karl Malden in the original Broadway production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

On television, he played Dr. Burke on As the World Turns and was the original Lincoln Tyler on All My Children. He is perhaps best known for his recurring role on the television series Eight Is Enough. He is also well-known on the East Coast for his 20 years as television and radio spokesman for the Pathmark supermarket chain. On the streets of New York, Karen was known as "Mr. Pathmark".

Karen appeared in an episode of the 1977 NBC situation comedy The Kallikaks, and played Earl Silbert in the 1979 miniseries Blind Ambition. A decade later, he appeared in an episode of The Golden Girls as a prospective love interest for Dorothy. He is also known for playing Herbert Purcell, a businessman and leader of a local Ku Klux Klan chapter, in a 1981 episode of The Jeffersons; and the evil tycoon Nathan Lassiter, who killed the town of Walnut Grove in the final TV movie of Little House on the Prairie. Karen has been a lifelong member of The Actors Studio,. Karen's notable film credits include in The China Syndrome, Poltergeist, The Return of the Living Dead, and in Oliver Stone's Wall Street.

In most recent years, Karen has been recognized for his role as Martin Frohm in the 2006 film The Pursuit of Happyness.

Personal life

He was married to Susan Reed, the former actress and folk singer. They divorced in 1967, and in 1986, he married current wife Alba Francesca. Karen has one child and two grandchildren.

Selected filmography

  • Film (1965) as Passerby
  • Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965) as Dr. Adam Steele
  • Hercules in New York (1970) as Professor Camden
  • I Never Sang for My Father (1970) as Old Age Home Director
  • Rivals (1972) as Child Psychiatrist
  • Amazing Grace (1974) as Annenberg
  • All the President's Men (1976) as Hugh Sloan's Lawyer
  • Something for Joey (1977) as Dr. Wingreen
  • Mary Jane Harper Cried Last Night (1977) as Dr. Sutterman
  • The Gathering (1977) as Bob Block
  • Capricorn One (1977) as Vice President Price
  • Opening Night (1977) as Bellboy
  • F.I.S.T. (1978) as Andrews
  • Institute for Revenge (1979) as Power Broker
  • The China Syndrome (1979) as Mac Churchill
  • The Jazz Singer (1980) as Barney Callahan
  • Take This Job and Shove It (1981) as Loomis
  • Poltergeist (1982) as Mr. Teague
  • Time Walker (1982) as Dr. Wendell J. Rossmore
  • Frances (1982) as Judge Hillier
  • Kiss Me Goodbye (1982) as Lawyer (uncredited)
  • Sam's Son (1984) as Mr. Collins
  • The Boy Who Loved Trolls (1984) as Richman
  • The Return of the Living Dead (1985) as Frank
  • Jagged Edge (1985) as Andrew Hardesty
  • Invaders from Mars (1986) as Gen. Climet Wilson
  • Hardbodies 2 (1986) as Logan
  • Billionaire Boys Club (1987) as Mr. Fairmont Sr.
  • Wall Street (1987) as Lynch
  • Return of the Living Dead Part II (1988) as Ed
  • Girlfriend from Hell (1989) as Carl's Dad
  • Vital Signs (1990) as Dean of Students
  • Road Lawyers and Other Briefs (1990) as Judge Bowelmore (segment "Road Lawyers")
  • The Closer (1990) as Ned Randall
  • The Willies (1990) as Uncle Harry / Mr. Jenkins
  • Heart of the Deal (1990)
  • The Unborn (1991) as Dr. Richard Meyerling
  • Spirit of the Eagle (1991) as Adult Little Eli (Narrator) (voice)
  • Stone Soup (1993) as Paul
  • Future Shock (1994) as Kafka
  • Revenge of the Nerds IV: Nerds in Love (1994) as Mylan Whitfield
  • Congo (1995) as College President / Elliot's Boss
  • Piranha (1995) as Governor
  • Nixon (1995) as Bill Rogers
  • Up Close & Personal (1996) as Tom Orr
  • Behind Enemy Lines (1997) as TV Reporter
  • Always Say Goodbye (1997) as William Tager
  • Joyride (1997) as The Client
  • A River Made to Drown In (1997) as Ray
  • Freedom Strike (1998) as President Mitchell
  • Shadow of Doubt (1998) as Norman Calloway
  • Girl (1998) as Dad
  • Apt Pupil (1999) as Victor Bowden
  • Fly Boy (1999) as Gramps
  • Any Given Sunday (1999) as Christina's Advisor
  • Thirteen Days (2000) as George Ball
  • Mulholland Drive (2001) as Wally Brown
  • A House on a Hill (2003) as Sy
  • Unscripted (2005) as Dante's Friend
  • Superman Returns (2006) as Ben Hubbard (scenes deleted)
  • Outlaw Trail: The Treasure of Butch Cassidy (2006) as Leroy Parker
  • The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) as Martin Frohm
  • Trail of the Screaming Forehead (2007) as Reverend Beaks
  • Dark and Stormy Night (2009) as Seyton Ethelquake
  • Jack and the Beanstalk (2009) as Verri Saddius
  • Sympathy for Delicious (2010) as Father Rohn
  • The Butterfly Room (2012) as Taxidermist
  • Ambush at Dark Canyon (2012) as Seymour Redfield
  • America's Most Haunted (2013) as Ralph George
  • Rain from Stars (2013) as Spencer
  • Bender (2016) as Old Man Bender


Karen was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Actor for his role in The Return of the Living Dead in 1985. For his contributions to the horror film industry, Karen received an honorary Saturn Award in 1998. He was nominated for a Fangoria Chainsaw Awards for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Unborn in 1991.

[ Source: Wikipedia ]