• 1 October 1896
  •  Rangoon, Burma

Abraham Sofaer


Born on October 1, 1896, in Rangoon, Burma, to Burmese-Jewish parents, distinguished veteran character actor Abraham Sofaer was a one-time schoolteacher in both Rangoon and London. He switched gears to acting after a short time and made his stage debut as a walk-on in William Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" in 1921. He made his first London appearance with "The Green Goddess" in 1925 and, from the 1930s on, alternated between the London and Broadway stages playing an assortment of Shakespearean roles (Othello, Lear, Cassius, etc.) among other classic plays. Sofaer scored a personal triumph in New York as Benjamin Disraeli opposite Helen Hayes in "Victoria Regina" in 1936. The following year, he directed Ms. Hayes in "The Merchant of Venice", in which he played the title role of "Shylock". A theatre repertory player of note, he also focused on the big screen and made his British film debut with The Dreyfus Case (1930). Recognized for his bulgy-eyed stare and imposing stance, he built up a solid reputation over the years for playing odd and interesting Eastern ethnics. From sultans and swamis to dictators and even Indian chiefs, his characters could be portrayed as wise and good-hearted or cunning and wickedly evil. In the mid-1950s, Sofaer settled in Hollywood where he became a main staple in exotic, costumed adventure, appearing almost exclusively in movies and TV. Some of his better known U.S. films include Quo Vadis (1951), His Majesty O'Keefe (1954), Elephant Walk (1954), Taras Bulba (1962) and Chisum (1970). Throughout the 1960s, he could be counted on for episodic roles in all the popular shows of the day including Perry Mason (1957), Wagon Train (1957), Gunsmoke (1955), Daniel Boone (1964) and Star Trek (1966). Sofaer died of congestive heart failure in California at the age of 91 in 1988.