Sunday, December 2, 2012

RIP Ben Tatar

Ben Tatar, a Pittsburgh-born (January 23, 1930) actor who got his start as a personal assistant to comedy actor Jackie Gleason and had been the live-in companion of screen legend Ava Gardner, died Thursday November 29, 2012 at UPMC Shadyside. Mr. Tatar, who had chronic pulmonary disease, was 82

After serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Mr. Tatar graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English and drama. He then headed to New York City on a full scholarship to attend an acting school affiliated with the American Theatre Wing.

Mr. Tatar worked as a cue card boy in television for "The Jimmie Rodgers Show" and "The Kate Smith Show" and handled fan mail for the 1950s sitcom, "The Honeymooners," starring Gleason. He later became Gleason's personal assistant, traveling to Paris to play a small acting role in the 1962 comedy "Gigot," starring Mr. Gleason and directed by Pittsburgh native Gene Kelly.

Ben spoke Spanish, Italian, French and German, and spent a number of years living in Spain, where he became director of dubbing for film companies there, dubbing films into different languages.

Over the years Mr. Tatar had small parts in numerous films, including 1964's "The Thin Red Line" filmed in Spain; the "Battle of the Bulge" starring Henry Fonda in 1965; 1970's "Patton" starring George C. Scott; "The Wind and the Lion" in 1975; and more recently, "The Piano Lesson," a 1995 TV movie produced by the Hallmark Hall of Fame and written by the late Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson.

After returning to Pittsburgh from New York in 1981, Mr. Tatar was active in local theater. In recent years, he "reinvented himself," said his niece, Barbara Jones, appearing in locally produced low-budget cult horror films.

Tatar whose real name was Beniamino Tatarini appeared in four Euro-westerns: “The Christmas Kid” (1966) as the prosecuting attorney, “The Bang Bang Kid” (1967) as Leech, “Land Raiders” (1969) as Loomis and “Pancho Villa” (1971) as Private Bates. 

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