NEW YORK -- Jack Gilford, 81, a sad-eyed comic, dramatic actor and vaudevillian who shone in featured roles on stage, television and movies, died of cancer June 4 at his home in Manhattan.
He received an Academy Award supporting-actor nomination for the movie "Save the Tiger," in which he played the partner to Jack Lemmon's garment manufacturer. Lemmon won an Oscar for the film.
Mr. Gilford was twice nominated for Tony awards in Broadway musicals -- as Hysterium, the slave who ends up in drag in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," and as Herr Shultz in "Cabaret." He was Hysterium again in the movie film version of "Forum." He also appeared on Broadway in "The Diary of Anne Frank," "The Tenth Man," "The World of Sholom Aleichem" and "Romanoff & Juliet."
He performed as the mute king with Carol Burnett in stage and television versions of "Once Upon a Mattress," and did guest turns on numerous TV comedy and dramatic series, including "The Defenders," "All in the Family," "Rhoda," "The Love Boat," "Taxi," "Soap," "Head of the Class" and "Golden Girls."
Mr. Gilford could convulse an audience with slapstick or bring tears with portrayals of "little" men overwhelmed by circumstance. One off-beat triumph in his 55-year career was in the non-singing role of the drunken jailer in the Metropolitan Opera's production of "Die Fledermaus." He did the part in the 1950 production and many later ones.
Work in front of cameras dried up for the versatile actor during the McCarthy era, as it did for numerous show-business people with leftward political sentiments.
"One day the phone just stopped ringing and I didn't do TV or films for 10 years," Mr. Gilford said after the telephone resumed ringing in the late 1960s.
Small parts on Broadway and nightclub work saw him through. Among his other movie credits were "Cocoon," "Enter Laughing," "The Incident," "Catch-22," "They Might Be Giants" and "Who's Minding the Mint."
A commercial he appeared in for Crackerjack in the 1970s was an award-winner at the Cannes Festival. In 1982 he starred in a one-hour cable television production, "The Very Special Jack Gilford Special."
He was born Jacob Gellman in Brooklyn and began his career in 1934 at an amateur night on a stage in the Bronx. He got work in vaudeville and nightclubs, toured four years with Milton Berle and Ina Ray Hutton and began appearing in Broadway revues in 1939.
Survivors include his wife, the writer, producer and actress Madeline Lee, whom he married in in 1949, and their three children.