Caxtonian Freedman recalls Sam Wanamaker

Leonard Freedman


hose of us who have literary interests are probably aware of Sam Wanamaker as the force behind the rebuilding of Shakespeare’s Globe on the South Bank of London’s Thames River. At the time of his death in 1993, the Globe was half-finished, but he had supervised its first stage of production.

Sam was a high school mate of mine in the 1930s at Chicago’s Tuley High School, and in choosing further education, he chose the Goodman Drama School in Chicago on advice of our high school drama teacher, who recognized his acting talent.

At the Goodman, I attended his appearance in the Shakespearean role of Henry VIII. On the strength of this performance, he was invited to appear in Chicago and Broadway roles. He appeared in a number of stage hits in 1940.

In 1950, he moved to London, where he made his permanent home and turned from acting to directing. Movie studios also became interested, and he created cinema features, including The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Taras Bulba, The Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines. Later in his career, he was director of the television series Columbo, starring Peter Falk.

But I remember him as a talented, highly social person by the name of Sam Watenmaker — his name before he adapted the stage name of Wanamaker. I remember him as a colleague, who used to come to me on trips home from England for assistance in finding stage equipment that he could not find in Europe. I remember him as a friend.

Sam Wanamaker (1919-1993), Chicago actor/director responsible for the building of Shakespeare’s Globe. Image from MSN Entertainment website.

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