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Samuel Wanamaker (14 June 1919 – 18 December 1993) was an American film director and actor, credited as the person most responsible for the modern recreation of Shakespeare's Globe Theatremarker in Londonmarker.


Early years

Wanamaker was born in Chicago, Illinoismarker, the son of Ukrainianmarker Jewish immigrants from Nikolayevmarker, tailor Morris Wanamaker (Manes Watmacher) and Molly Bobele. Wanamaker trained at the Goodman Theatremarker, Chicago, and began working with summer stock theatre companies in Chicago and northern Wisconsin, where he helped build the stage of the Peninsula Players Theatre in 1937.


Wanamaker began his acting career in travelling shows, and worked on Broadwaymarker. In 1940, he married Charlotte Holland, a Canadianmarker radio soap star of the 1940s and later an actress.

Communist party

In 1943, Wanamaker was part of the cast of the play Counterattack at the National Theatremarker, Washington D.C.marker. During the play he became struck by the ideals of Communism and joined the American Communist Party. He attended Drake Universitymarker prior to serving in the U.S. Army between 1943 and 1946 during the Second World War. In 1947 he returned to civilian life and, before relocating to Hollywoodmarker, left the Communist Party.

HUAAC blacklisting

In 1951, Wanamaker made a speech welcoming the return of two of the Hollywood Ten. In 1952 at the height of the McCarthy "Red Scare" period, despite his distinguished service in the U.S. Army during World War II, Wanamaker learned that he had become blacklisted by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAAC), which he discovered while filming Mr. Denning Drives North in the UK. Wanamaker consequently decided not to return to the United States. Instead, he reestablished his career in England, as actor on stage and screen, director and producer.

The BBC documentary Who Do You Think You Are? broadcast on 24 February 2009, which featured Wanamaker's daughter Zoë, revealed that the FBImarker had kept a substantial investigation file for him, including incriminating witness statements. His activities were also reportedly monitored by MI5marker.

Britain and America

In 1957, he was appointed director of the New Shakespeare Theatremarker, in Liverpoolmarker. In 1959, he joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatremarker company at Stratford-upon-Avonmarker. In the 1960s and 1970s, he produced or directed several works at Covent Gardenmarker and elsewhere including the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations in 1974. In the 1970s, Wanamaker began an intimate, long-standing relationship with the then-widowed American actress, Jan Sterling.

He worked both as a director and actor in both films and television, and his appearances included such movies as The Spiral Staircase (1974), Private Benjamin (1980), Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987), and Baby Boom (1987). He also directed stage productions. In 1980, he directed Giuseppe Verdi's opera "Aida" starring Luciano Pavarotti at San Francisco Opera (now broadcast version released as DVD). He also was featured as the widowered and very ruthless Department Store owner, Simon Berrenger on the short lived drama Berrenger's in 1985.

The Man Who Built the Globe

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, Southbank, London, 2004

Wanamaker founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust to rebuild the Globe Theatremarker in London, and played a central role in realizing the project, eventually raising well over ten million dollars. According to the New York Times, it became Wanamaker's "Great Obsession" to realize an exact replica of William Shakespeare's first Globe Theatre, eventually securing the financial support of philanthropist and fellow lover of Shakespeare, Samuel H. Scripps.

According to Karl Meyer of The New York Times:

The Shakespeare project helped Mr. Wanamaker keep his sanity and dignity intact. On his first visit to London in 1949, he had sought traces of the original theater and was astonished to find only a blackened plaque on an unused brewery. He found this neglect inexplicable, and in 1970 launched the Shakespeare Globe Trust, later obtaining the building site and necessary permissions despite a hostile local council. He siphoned his earnings as actor and director into the project, undismayed by the skepticism of his British colleagues.

On the south bank of the Thames River in London, near where the modern recreation of Shakespeare's Globe stands today, is a plaque that reads: "In Thanksgiving for Sam Wanamaker, Actor, Director, Producer, 1919-1993, whose vision rebuilt Shakespeare's Globe Theatre on Bankside in this parish".

There is a blue plaque on the riverside wall of the theatre.

Personal life

Wanamaker died of prostate cancer in Londonmarker in 1993 at the age of 74, before his dream could be finalized, and prior to the grand opening by the Queen in June 1997. He was survived by three daughters, Abby, Jessica and the actress Zoë Wanamaker.




  • Return of the Saint – as Domenico in "Dragonseed" (episode # 1.22) February 25, 1979
  • Rafferty – as Hollander in "Rafferty" (Pilot) (episode # 1.1) September 5, 1977
  • Thirty-Minute Theatre in "A Wen" (episode # 1.233) December 27, 1971
  • Judd for the Defense – as Shelly Gould in "The Gates of Cerberus" (episode # 2.8) November 15, 1968
  • The Baron – as Sefton Folkard in "You Can't Win Them All" (episode # 1.19) February 1, 1967
  • Run for Your Life – as Major Joe Rankin in "A Rage for Justice: Part 2" (episode # 2.17) January 16, 1967
  • Run for Your Life – as Major Joe Rankin in "The Flight from Tirana: Part 1" (episode # 2.16) January 9, 1967
  • Gunsmoke – as Asa Longworth in "Parson Comes to Town" (episode # 11.31) April 30, 1966
  • The Wild Wild West – as Dr. Arcularis in "The Night of the Howling Light" (episode # 1.14) December 17, 1965
  • The Defenders – as United States Attorney Brooker in "A Taste of Ashes" (episode # 4.8) November 12, 1964
  • The Defenders – as Edward Banter in "Hollow Triumph" (episode # 3.35) June 20, 1964
  • The Outer Limits – as Dr. Simon Holm in "A Feasibility Study" (episode # 1.29) April 13, 1964
  • Espionage – as Sprague in "Festival of Pawns" (episode # 1.10) December 11, 1963
  • Man of the World – as Nicko in "The Bandit" (episode # 2.1) May 11, 1963
  • The Defenders – as James Henry David in "A Book for Burning" (episode # 2.27) March 30, 1963
  • The Defenders – as Dr. Ralph Ames in "The Hundred Lives of Harry Simms" (episode # 1.7) October 28, 1961
  • Danger Man – as Patrick Laurence in "The Lonely Chair" (episode # 1.8) October 30, 1960
  • Cameo Theatre in "Manhattan Footstep" (episode # 1.4) June 7, 1950



  1. [1]
  2. "Sam Wanamaker's Great Obsession," by Karl E. Meyer, The New York Times, December 29, 1996.
  3. Obituary for Sam Wanamaker, New York Times, December 19, 1993
  4. Shakespeare's Globe :: Sam Wanamaker

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