Jack Garfein, Broadway and Movie Director and Acclaimed Acting Teacher, Dies at 89

Jack Garfein - Getty - H 2019
Ian Gavan/Getty Images for BFI

A pioneer at the Actors Studio and former husband of Carroll Baker, he worked early on with Ben Gazzara, James Dean and Bruce Dern.

Jack Garfein, who directed Broadway plays and Hollywood films and taught acting to the likes of James Dean, Ben Gazzara and Bruce Dern, died Monday of complications from leukemia, Playbill reported. He was 89.

The first director hired by The Actors Studio, Garfein collaborated with filmmakers including Elia Kazan, John Ford and George Stevens and guided Uta Hagen, Herbert Berghof, Shelley Winters, Jessica Tandy, Hume Cronyn, Ralph Meeker and Elaine Stritch on stage and/or screen.

According to the biography on his website, Garfein also discovered Dern, Gazzara, Dean, Steve McQueen, George Peppard, Doris Roberts, Jean Stapleton, Pat Hingle, Albert Salmi, Paul Richards and Susan Strasberg.

For the big screen, Garfein directed The Strange One (1957), a drama with homoerotic undertones that starred Gazzara in his film debut, and he wrote and directed Something Wild (1961), starring Carroll Baker as a schoolgirl raped and held captive. (Saul Bass did the fabulous opening credits.)

Baker, the Oscar-nominated star of Kazan's Baby Doll, was Garfein's wife from 1955 — they met in acting class — until their divorce in 1969.

Born on July 2, 1930, in Czechoslovakia, Garfein spent time in several concentration camps and was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. He came to New York in 1946 to live with his uncle and won a scholarship to the Dramatic Workshop at The New School, where he studied with German director Erwin Piscator. (Classmates included Walter Matthau, Tony Curtis and Rod Steiger.)

Garfein studied directing at The American Theater Wing with Lee Strasberg and in 1951 joined the Actors Studio, where he hired Dean and directed the play End as a Man, which made it to Broadway in 1953 and starred Gazzara. (He would turn the Calder Willingham play into The Strange One at Columbia.)

Garfein helmed three more plays on Broadway in the next five years: N. Richard Nash's Girls of Summer, starring Winters and Peppard; John McLiam's The Sin of Pat Muldoon; and Sean O'Casey's The Shadow of a Gunman, starring Dern.

He produced for Broadway two plays written by Arthur Miller as well: The Price in 1979 and The American Clock in 1980.

In collaboration with Paul Newman, Garfein founded the Los Angeles branch of The Actors Studio in 1966. He also launched his own Paris acting studio, Le Studio Jack Garfein, in 1985 and wrote a book, Life and Acting: Techniques for the Actor, published in 2010.

Survivors include his wife, Natalia, whom he married in August, and his children with Baker, Emmy-winning actress Blanche Baker and composer Herschel Garfein.