TV, Film, and Broadway Star Eddie Albert Dies at 99
He was born Edward Albert Heimberger on April 22, 1906, in Rock Island, Illinois. When he was a year old, his family moved to Minneapolis, where he later developed an interest in show business. After graduating from the University of Minnesota, he began his career as a circus trapeze flier and a clown. He made his Broadway debut in 1936 in a comedy titled O Evening Star, going on to appear in Brother Rat and with the Marx Brothers in Room Service before starring in the original production of Rodgers & Hart's The Boy From Syracuse in 1938. That same year, he made his movie debut in the film version of Brother Rat (1938).
In 1939, while sailing off the coast of Baja California, Albert heard rumors of secret submarine fueling stations, and he reported to Army intelligence that Japanese posing as fishermen were making hydrographic surveys of the area. While working for the Escalante Brothers Circus in Mexico before World War II, he photographed German U-boat activity for U.S. Army Intelligence. He joined the Navy six months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. After attending officers' training school, Albert was assigned to a transport ship and saw action in the South Pacific as a lieutenant; he was part of the first wave of Marines at the Battle of Tarawa in November 1943.
Among the many films in which he appeared are I'll Cry Tomorrow, Teahouse of the August Moon, The Sun Also Rises, The Longest Day, and Oklahoma! (in which he played Ali Hakim). He received Academy Award nominations in the Supporting Actor category for his performances in Roman Holiday (1953) and The Heartbreak Kid (1972).
Albert's post WW-II Broadway credits included Miss Liberty; replacement stints in The Seven-Year Itch, The Music Man, and Say, Darling; and the comedy No Hard Feelings, which closed on opening night at the Martin Beck Theatre in 1973. (That show also starred Nanette Fabray, Stockard Channing, and Conrad Janis.) His last Broadway appearance was as a replacement in the 1983 revival of You Can't Take It With You.
The actor is most famous for starring opposite Eva Gabor in Green Acres, which aired on CBS from 1965 to 1971 and continues to be seen on cable TV. Albert played a man who gives up a successful Manhattan law practice and buys a run-down farm near the fictional town of Hooterville -- much to the displeasure of his pampered wife, who would much rather have remained in the city. ("Darlin', I love you, but give me Park Avenue!")
Albert was also known as a humanitarian and an environmentalist. In 1946, he formed Eddie Albert Productions; the company made 16-millimeter industrial films and educational films for schoolchildren, including two sex-education films that were controversial at the time. In 1963, Albert served as world envoy for Meals for Millions. He also helped to launch the first Earth Day in 1970 and was a special consultant for the 1974 World Hunger Conference in Rome.