Eddie Albert, a two-time Academy Award nominee and the star of the long-running television series Green Acres, died of pneumonia at his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Pacific Palisades on May 26. Albert was 99. (Photo: Green Acres Eddie Albert, Eva Gabor.)
Albert was featured in more than 70 movies from the late ’30s to the late ’80s. Among those were the army comedy Brother Rat (1938), with Wayne Morris and Priscilla Lane; My Love Came Back (1940) with Olivia de Havilland; The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956) with Marlon Brando and Glenn Ford; The Sun Also Rises (1957) with Tyrone Power and Ava Gardner; and Robert Aldrich’s prison comedy-drama The Longest Yard (1974), in which Albert played a vicious, conniving warden reportedly inspired by disgraced U.S. president Richard Nixon.
Eddie Albert was nominated for two Best Supporting Actor Academy Awards: Roman Holiday (1953), in which he was Gregory Peck’s sidekick, and The Heartbreak Kid (1972), as the irascible father of bride Cybill Shepherd.
Albert also had a successful television career. Besides acting in more than twenty made-for-TV movies and several miniseries, he starred in two hit shows: Green Acres with Eva Gabor and Switch with Robert Wagner. In Green Acres, Albert played his most popular character, Oliver Douglas, the befuddled New York attorney who moves with his chic and glamorous wife (Gabor) to a rural community called Hooterville.
Eddie Albert bio
According to his son, actor Edward Albert Jr., Eddie Albert Heimberger was born out of wedlock on April 22, 1906, in Rock Island, Ill. After getting married, his mother changed his birth certificate to read 1908, which explains why the latter date is the one found in references about him. Raised in Minneapolis, Albert studied drama at the University of Minnesota for two years before embarking on a show business career.
Following stints in amateur theater, magic shows, and singing engagements in nightclubs and on radio, Albert — who dropped his surname because people mispronounced it as “hamburger” — worked in summer stock and later on Broadway.
He gained recognition with the 1936 George Abbott production of Fred F. Finklehoffe and John Monks Jr’s Broadway hit Brother Rat, a comedy about the misadventures of three friends at the Virginia Military Institute. Also on Broadway, Albert played in Abbott’s comedy Room Service (1937) and in the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical The Boys from Syracuse (1938).
When Warner Bros. bought the rights to Brother Rat, they brought Albert along for a secondary role in the 1938 film version. Starring several up-and-coming WB performers — Wayne Morris, Priscilla Lane, Jane Bryan, Ronald Reagan, and Jane Wyman — the comedy was quite popular, leading to a sequel with the same cast, Brother Rat and a Baby, two years later.
Although Warners cast Eddie Albert in no less than six 1941 releases, his film career failed to take off. He spent some time in Mexico, working in a one-ring touring circus as an aerialist and clown while reportedly gathering intelligence for the United States Army about Nazi activities in that country. He eventually enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II, receiving a Bronze Star for his rescue of wounded Marines at Tarawa in the South Pacific. During his time with the Navy, Albert also took part in that institution’s training films branch.