George Chakiris was born in Norwood, Ohio. He is the son of Steven and Zoe Chakiris. They were immigrants from Greece.
A graduate of the American School of Dance, Chakiris recalls the early days of passing the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, “where the world’s most glamorous people were seen,” never thinking that one day he would be attending his own premiere for West Side Story (1961; for which he received a Golden Globe and an Academy Award), and eventually, in December 2011, he would have his hand and footprints placed in the famous forecourt, among those whom he had idolized.
In 1947, Chakiris made his film debut in the chorus of Song of Love. Later, he appeared in several small roles, usually as a dancer or a member of the chorus in various musical films. He was one of the dancers in Marilyn Monroe’s “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” number in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes released in 1953. He again appeared as a dancer alongside Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas (1954) in “Love, You Didn’t Do Right by Me.”
In 1961, George’s biggest success came with the film West Side Story, for which he won the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Bernardo, leader of the Sharks.
He had also appeared as Riff, leader of the Jets, in the West End version in London. He starred as a doctor in the film Diamond Head released in 1963, opposite Charlton Heston and Yvette Mimieux; and in 1967, he appeared alongside Gene Kelly in Jacques Demy’s French musical Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (The Young Girls of Rochefort).
Besides films, Chakiris performed on Broadway and for television. In the early 1960s, he embarked on a career as a pop singer, resulting in a couple of minor hit songs. In 1960, he recorded one single with noted producer Joe Meek.
George Chakiris worked more in television in the 1970s and 1980s, appearing on such shows as Wonder Woman, Medical Center, Hawaii Five-O, Dallas, Murder, She Wrote and the TV daytime drama Santa Barbara.
In Superboy, he appeared as Professor Peterson during the series first two seasons from 1988-1990. Chakiris’s last role to date was in a 1996 episode of the sitcom Last of the Summer Wine.
His reclusive reputation has made him highly sought for interviews. His hobby of making sterling silver jewelry has turned into a new occupation and can be viewed at georgechakiris.com.