Telly Savalas

Telly Savalas
Los Angeles Times


Telly Savalas
Film: North side of the 6800 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Born Aristotle Savalas on Jan. 21, 1922 in Garden City, N.Y.
Died Jan. 22, 1994 of prostate cancer in Sheraton-Universal Hotel, CA

Telly Savalas, the bald-headed actor who played movie villains, is perhaps best known as the hard-boiled, lollipop-loving New York City detective in the 1970s television series "Kojak."

"Kojak" broke into the top-10-rated shows in its first season, 1972-73. Savalas won an Emmy as best actor in a dramatic series in the 1973-74 season. The police drama lasted until 1978, setting the standard for later gritty, realistic cop shows such as "Hill Street Blues" and "NYPD Blue."

The actor became indelibly linked with the character of Lt. Theo Kojak, and he remained grateful for the recognition.

"He always said, 'How could it get any better? I'm just a guy from New York playing a guy from New York.' "

Kojak's habitual greeting, "Who loves ya, baby?" was lobbed at women, fellow cops and hoodlums and grew into the detective's signature and a national catch phrase. He was easily recognized by his pate, a look established when he was cast as Pontius Pilate in the 1965 film "The Greatest Story Ever Told" and ordered by director George Stevens to shave his head.

His television career was built mainly on roles as hoodlums and villains. Based on one of those roles, Burt Lancaster provided Savalas his first important film role in 1961 ,as a police detective in "The Young Savages," about New York crime. The following year, he appeared opposite Lancaster in "Birdman of Alcatraz" as a sadistic convict. The role won him an Academy Award nomination as supporting actor.

He soon became one of Hollywood's busiest character actors, working in the films "Johnny Cool" (1963), "The New Interns" (1964), "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (1965), "Genghis Khan" (1965), "Battle of the Bulge" (1965), "The Slender Thread" (1965), "Beau Geste" (1966), "The Dirty Dozen" (1967), "The Scalphunters" (1968), "Mackenna's Gold" (1969) and "Kelly's Heroes" (1970).

After "Kojak's" run ended, Savalas remained active in films and television, including returns to his Kojak role.

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    Academy Awards

    Year Category Work
    1962 Best Supporting Actor Birdman of Alcatraz Nomination

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