George Chakiris made his film debut at the age of 12 singing in the chorus of Song of Love (1947). Following his graduation from high school, he supported his night-time dancing, singing and dramatic lessons with a daytime job clerking in a Los Angeles department store. Later he started his acting/dancing career appearing in musicals such as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)–he is one of the ballet dancers escorting Marilyn Monroe in “Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend”–White Christmas (1954), The Girl Rush (1955), There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954), Brigadoon (1954), and Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956). In 1957, he made his debut as a dramatic actor in Under Fire (1957). In 1958 he traveled to New York hoping for a Broadway “break.” Hearing that Jerome Robbins was casting the London company of “West Side Story”, he auditioned and was awarded the co-starring role of Riff. He played the part for almost two years on the West End stage before acting, singing and dancing as Bernardo in the Robert Wise film version (West Side Story (1961)), a performance that earned him a Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Since then, he starred in a succession of films, including Diamond Head (1962) with Charlton Heston, Bebo’s Girl (1964) with Claudia Cardinale, The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967) with Catherine Deneuve, Françoise Dorléac and Gene Kelly, The Big Cube (1969) with Lana Turner, Why Not Stay for Breakfast? (1979), Jekyll and Hyde… Together Again (1982), and Pale Blood (1990). He is one of the most traveled stars in motion pictures, having been to such locations as Hawaii, Japan, Mexico, Italy, England, Spain, and France. His nightclub career was launched to rave reviews at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and Harrah’s Club in Lake Tahoe. In the 1970s and 1980s, his career focused on television and music. He appeared as guest star in several TV series such as Hawaii Five-O (1968) (Death is a Company Policy – 1972), Wonder Woman (1975) (Death in Disguise – 1978), CHiPs (1977) (Fox Trap – 1983), Scarecrow and Mrs. King (1983) (Lost and Found – 1984), Murder, She Wrote (1984) (Weave a Tangled Web – 1989), and he joined the cast of Dallas (1978) from 1985 to 1986. He has released several records: “George Chakiris,” “Memories Are Made of These,” “The Gershwin Song Book,” “West Side Story’s Dynamic…”. Recently, he has appeared in several plays and stage musicals: after “The King and I” in the US in 1995, he performed in Britain the role of Rochester in “Jane Eyre”.
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