Ottenheimer, Albert M.

Variant names
Active 1935
Active 1980

Biographical notes:

Actor, author and a founder of the Seattle Repertory Playhouse, and founding member of the Seattle local of the American Federation of Radio Artists.

From the description of Papers, 1935-1980. (University of Oregon Libraries). WorldCat record id: 19274462

Albert M. Ottenheimer was born on September 6, 1904 in Tacoma, Washington, where he attended Lincoln High School. He worked on the staff of the Tacoma Daily Ledger for three years before entering the University of Washington, where he graduated magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in 1927.

While in college he played in stage productions and worked on the staffs of school publications. In 1928 he joined Florence and Burton W. James in the founding of the Seattle Repertory Playhouse, which for over 20 years earned good repute on the regional theatre circuit. There Ottenheimer acted in over 150 plays while teaching, directing, and helping to manage the theatre. Two plays produced there, L'Envoi and Funny Man, were written by Ottenheimer. He also wrote the books upon which two successful Northwest musicals, Calico Cargo and San Juan Story, were based. While on leave of absence from the Playhouse he put in two stints as a screenwriter at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

In the mid-1940's, Ottenheimer was a founding member of the Seattle local of the American Federation of Radio Artists (AFRA, now AFTRA), and chairman of its Negotiating Committee. He worked in the field of labor relations, and his duties included the writing of exhibits and briefs for the Railroad Brotherhood in Presidential Emergency Board cases. He joined the Actor's Equity Union in 1953, after moving from Seattle to New York.

Ottenheimer's 1951 move to New York City was the result of his being blacklisted in Seattle during the McCarthy era. The Canwell Committee, a local version of the House Un-American Activities Committee, was investigating communist activity on the University of Washington campus during the 1940's. As Ottenheimer refused to answer questions regarding his political activities and beliefs, he was given a sentence of 30 days in jail. In addition, he was put on the blacklist, forcing him to move across the country. The Playhouse suffered from the bad publicity and eventually went out of business itself. (It has since been revived as the Seattle Repertory Theatre.)

Ottenheimer found work immediately in New York, but the blacklist eventually caught up with him and forced him to do side work such as "temporary typing" for awhile. He regained his acting career in the late 1950's, however, when he was able to resume his work.

He has appeared in television serials, commercials, and dramas, but Ottenheimer's main forte was on the theatre stage. His most notable Broadway role was that of "Doc," the druggist on West Side Story. He toured with this musical nationally as well as internationally, travelling to Europe and Israel.

While West Side Story was in Amsterdam, Ottenheimer met a Dutch actress named Mies Waalewijn. They married there and she returned with him to the United States after the tour. Mies, a talented actress herself, soon found her niche in the U.S. acting circuit.

Other Broadway appearances on the part of Albert M. Ottenheimer include the The Deputy, The Tender Heel, and Mardi Gras. He also worked in many off-Broadway productions, as well as plays performed all around the country. He has toured with Charlton Heston, Raymond Burr, Zero Mostel, and Richard Chamberlain. Ottenheimer also acted in films, posed for magazine advertisements, and wrote stories and articles for such magazines as Esquire, Collier's, Blue Book, and The New Yorker .

Ottenheimer's family included his wife Mies, his Schnauzer Betje, and his brother Eldon. Mies and Betje were both frequent company for Ottenheimer on his travels. Ottenheimer died January 25, 1980 while rehearsing for a play at the Cincinnati Playhouse. He was 75 years old. More biographical information can be found within the collection.

From the guide to the Albert M. Ottenheimer papers, 1935-1980, (Special Collections and University Archives, University of Oregon Libraries)

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