Akim Mikhailovich Tamiroff was born on October 29, 1899 in Tiflis, Russian Empire. Of Armenian ancestry, Tamiroff trained at the Moscow Art Theatre drama school. He arrived in the U.S. in 1923 on a tour with a troupe of actors and decided to stay. Tamiroff managed to develop a career in Hollywood despite his thick Russian accent.
Tamiroff's film debut came in 1932 in an uncredited role in “Okay, America!”. He performed in several more uncredited roles until 1935, when he co-starred in “The Lives of a Bengal Lancer”. The following year, he was cast in the title role in “The General Died at Dawn”, for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. He appeared in the 1937 musical “High, Wide, and Handsome” and the 1938 proto-noir “Dangerous to Know” opposite Anna May Wong, frequently singled out as his best role.
While Tamiroff may not be a household name now, his performance as the boss in “The Great McGinty” inspired the cartoon character Boris Badenov, the male half of the villainous husband-and-wife team Boris and Natasha on ‘The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’. He was also spoofed in a 1969 episode of the TV show ‘H.R. Pufnstuf’ entitled "The Stand-in" in which a frog named "Akim Toadanoff" directs a movie on Living Island.
Akim appeared in two Euro-westerns: “A Man Called Amen” (1968) as Puzza/Pig Sty/Phantom/Dean Light, and “100 Rifles” (1969) as General Romero but his scenes were deleted.
Tamiroff died on September 17, 1972 in Palm Springs, California from cancer.
Today we remember Akim Tamiroff on what would have been his 115th birthday.
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