Alan King, Actor and comedian, Died at 76

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Alan King was born Irwin Alan Kniberg died on May 9, 2004 of lung cancer at the age of 76, was an American actor and comedian, born in New York City, New York on December 26, 1927, the son of Polish-Russian-Jewish immigrants Minnie (née Solomon) and Bernard Kniberg, a handbag cutter.

He spent his first years on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Later, King’s family moved to Brooklyn. When he was fourteen, King performed “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime” on the radio program Major Bowes Amateur Hour.

He lost first prize, but was invited to join a nationwide tour. At fifteen, King dropped out of high school to perform comedy at the Hotel Gradus in the Catskill Mountains.

After one joke that made fun of the hotel’s owner, King was fired; however, he spent the remainder of that summer and the one that followed as M.C. at Forman’s New Prospect Hotel in Mountaindale, NY.

He later worked in Canada in a burlesque house while also fighting as a professional boxer. He won twenty straight fights before losing. King married Jeanette Sprung in 1947.

They had three children, Andrew, Robert, and Elainie Ray. His wife persuaded him to move to Forest Hills, Queens for their children, and later, to Great Neck, Long Island, where he lived for the rest of his life.

There, he developed comedy revolving around life in suburbia. With America moving to suburbs, King’s humour took off.

In 1955, King made his film debut, and he continued to take comedic supporting roles throughout his career. Notable films include Miracle in the Rain, Bye Bye Braverman, Just Tell Me What You Want and Enemies: A Love Story.

He also wrote five books, including Anyone Who Owns His Own Home Deserves It and Help! I’m a Prisoner in a Chinese Bakery.

King eventually expanded his range and made a name for himself in a wide variety of films. He often portrayed a gangster, as in Casino (1995) and Night and the City (1992), both starring Robert De Niro, as well as I, the Jury (1982) and Cat’s Eye (1985).

He frequently worked for director Sidney Lumet, beginning with Bye Bye Braverman (1968) and The Anderson Tapes (1971).

Lumet later cast him in a tour-de-force starring role in Just Tell Me What You Want (1980), a provocative comedy about a ruthless business mogul and his TV-producer mistress (Ali MacGraw).

He is the founder of the Alan King Diagnostic Medical Center in Jerusalem, he started a scholarship for American students at Hebrew University, he is an advocate for the Nassau Center for Emotionally Disturbed Children, and he is on the Board of Trustees at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

King has also founded a program called Laugh Well, which grew out of his own experiences with oral cancer, and is an attempt to use laughter to help hospital patients who are trying to overcome their own fears.

The original plan was to perform in children’s hospitals and homes for the aging, but with these events now being broadcast to hospitals all over the country, King’s program has been able to reach as many as 100,000 people a year.


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