Telly Savalas, born Aristotelis Savalas on January 21, 1922, in Garden City, New York, was a multifaceted talent in the world of entertainment. He made a lasting impact in the film and television industry with his distinctive looks, gravelly voice, and charismatic presence. This article delves into the fascinating biography of Telly Savalas, his impressive filmography, and his memorable role in the James Bond film “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.”
Telly Savalas had a remarkable life journey that led him to become a renowned actor. His parents were Greek immigrants, and he grew up in a diverse neighborhood on Long Island. After serving in World War II, Savalas attended Columbia University on a basketball scholarship but eventually decided to pursue a career in acting. His early years in the entertainment industry were marked by struggle and hardship. However, his dedication and talent eventually caught the eye of casting directors, leading to his breakthrough in Hollywood.
Savalas’ Career and Filmography
Telly Savalas’ acting career spanned several decades, during which he portrayed a wide range of characters. He was a versatile actor known for his ability to switch seamlessly between drama and comedy. Some of his most notable film and television roles include:
- “Birdman of Alcatraz” (1962): Savalas received critical acclaim for his role as Feto Gomez, a fellow inmate of Robert Stroud, portrayed by Burt Lancaster.
- “The Dirty Dozen” (1967): In this iconic war film, Savalas played the role of Archer Maggott, one of the twelve convicts sent on a suicide mission behind enemy lines during World War II.
- Kelly’s Heroes” (1970): He starred as the tough-talking, cigar-chomping Master Sergeant Big Joe in this wartime caper comedy alongside Clint Eastwood.
- “Kojak” (1973-1978): Perhaps his most famous role, Savalas played the titular character, Detective Theo Kojak, in this popular television series. His catchphrase, “Who loves ya, baby?” became legendary.
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (1969): Savalas took on the role of Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the arch-nemesis of James Bond, played by George Lazenby, in this James Bond film.
His Role in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”
Now the target of an international pursuit orchestrated by the British Secret Service under the codename Operation Bedlam, Blofeld establishes a specialized institute for allergy research on top of Piz Gloria, a mountain in the Swiss Alps. James Bond embarks on an investigation, starting with Swiss lawyer Gumbold’s office, where he uncovers that Blofeld is in contact with Sir Hilary Bray, a genealogist from the London College of Arms. Blofeld is attempting to lay claim to the aristocratic title of “Comte Balthazar de Bleuchamp.” Bond travels to Switzerland, assuming Bray’s identity, to gather intelligence on Blofeld, who has gone to extreme lengths, even undergoing earlobe surgery, to support his claim to nobility. During his mission, Bond discovers Blofeld’s secret plan to contaminate and sterilize the world’s food supply using biological warfare, with the assistance of his brainwashed Angels of Death. Blofeld proposes to halt his sinister plan if he is pardoned for his past crimes and recognized as the legitimate Count de Bleauchamp. Bond attempts to trick Blofeld into leaving Switzerland, hoping to apprehend him without violating Swiss sovereignty, but Blofeld refuses, and Bond is eventually captured by Blofeld’s henchwoman, Irma Bunt. Blofeld reveals that he identified Bond’s ruse when he tried to lure him out of Switzerland, and he orders his men to take Bond away. Bond eventually escapes by skiing down Piz Gloria while Blofeld and his henchmen pursue him.
The following morning, Bond, with the help of his future wife, Tracy, resumes his mission. However, Blofeld intercepts them, triggering an avalanche. Tracy is captured, but Bond is buried in the snow, managing to escape. M informs Bond that Blofeld’s ransom demand will be met and forbids him from launching a rescue mission. Undeterred, Bond enlists the aid of Marc-Ange Draco and his Unione Corse forces to assault Piz Gloria and rescue Tracy from Blofeld’s clutches. The facility is obliterated, and Blofeld flees the destruction alone in a bobsleigh, with Bond in hot pursuit. The pursuit concludes when Blofeld gets entangled in a tree branch, ejecting him from the bobsled and seemingly killing him. Subsequently, Bond and Tracy marry in Portugal and pull over to the side of the road to remove flowers from their car. While they converse, Blofeld, wearing a neck brace, and Bunt carry out a drive-by shooting on the couple’s vehicle, with Blofeld behind the wheel and Bunt firing the weapon. Bond survives, but tragically, Tracy is killed in the attack.