Hal Linden

Hal Linden

We just saw that Hal was on the new hit Hot in Cleveland and were reminded what a great actor he is. He was the star of a cop show for eight years back in the late 1970s and early 1980s called Barney Miller. It was nominated for an Emmy every single year it was on! But he has continued to appear on TV a lot since then, in everything from Golden Girls to Gilmore Girls!

One thing most people don’t know about Hal is that he can sing. In another series set in Cleveland, The Drew Carey Show, Hal sang in an episode based on the musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. But Hal was singing on screen all the way back in 1960, in the movie Bells Are Ringing, starring Dean Martin and Judy Holiday (see this Bonus). He was in the stage version first, and Judy came to his wedding!

But, speaking of movies, Hal’s other hit was Out to Sea, which starred the famously odd couple of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau (see this Bonus), about elderly gents on a singles cruise. And Hal also lent his famous voice to two English-ed versions of Japanese monster movies, including Godzilla versus The Sea Monster. Grrr!

Another thing Hal has done more than once is appear in a soap opera! He was a regular in The Bold and the Beautiful just a few years ago, and in Search for Tomorrow back in 1969.

Aside from his own cop show, Hal’s been on crime shows from 2003’s Law & Order: Criminal Intent to 1973’s The FBI… to 1963’s Car 54, Where Are You? OK, that last one was less of a crime show than just a crime. We mean, it was not a great show!

Hal tried two more series after Barney MillerJack’s Place and Blacke’s Magic— but neither took off. Instead, he spent the last few decades appearing in sitcoms like King of QueensWill & Grace, and both The Nanny and its follow-up show, Living with Fran.

Some of Hal’s projects have been Jewish. He played a rabbi in a series aimed at kids… narrated a segment on American history about how Americans dealt with the Holocaust… and played Jewish studio boss Jack Warner (as in “Warner Brothers”) in a TV movie about early action star Erroll Flynn. He also won a Tony for a stage production about a powerful European Jewish family, the Rothschilds (see this Bonus).

Hal was born in the Bronx to a musical family. As a teenager, he studied classical clarinet and went on to play with orchestras when he was just 15! He played sax, too, in pop bands and even in Army bands! After the Army, he studied acting and changed his last name to Linden. Was that the name of a beloved relative? Another actor he admired? Nope! It was a small town in New Jersey and he just liked the name! 

He never gave up his stage work, either, or playing clarinet. (BTW, click to see another Jewish clarinetist who is more famous for his movies! And to see another sax player.)

Hal is very charitable, and raises money for everything from children’s health to Israel’s natural resources. And when the Olympics came to LA, he carried the Olympic torch!

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