Lionel Jay Stander, born on January 11, 1908, was an acclaimed American actor known for his work in films, radio, theater, and television.
He is particularly remembered for his portrayal of the lovable and loyal majordomo Max on the popular 1980s mystery series “Hart to Hart”.
Lionel Jay Stander’s Biography
Stander was born in New York City’s Bronx to Russian-Jewish parents. His family consisted of three children, the eldest of which was him. Stander spent a year at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he participated in student plays such as “The Muse of the Unpublished Writer” and “The Muse and the Movies: A Greenwich Village Comedy.”
Stander’s acting career began in 1928, when he portrayed Cop and First Fairy in E. E. Cummings’ play “Him” at the Provincetown Playhouse. In the early 1930s, he received notoriety for his performances in a number of short-lived plays, albeit one of them, “The House Beautiful,” was sharply criticised by Dorothy Parker.
Stander’s cinematic career suffered a setback when Harry Cohn, the head of Columbia Pictures, referred to him as a “Red son of a bitch” in 1938. ‘
Cohn threatened any studio that extended Stander’s contract with a $100,000 fine. Despite critical acclaim for his performances, Stander’s cinematic possibilities were severely limited.
His film appearances decreased from 15 in 1935 and 1936 to six in 1937 and 1938. From 1939 until 1943, he acted in only six films, none of which were produced by big studios, the most prominent of which being “Guadalcanal Diary” (1943).
In 1940, Stander was one of the first Hollywood stars summoned before the House Un-American Involvement Committee (HUAC) for alleged Communist involvement.
He did, however, clear his reputation when he forced himself into the grand jury hearing, and the district attorney dropped the charges against him.
In 1951, Stander was subjected to yet another round of charges when actor Larry Parks labelled numerous people as Communists during a closed-door meeting with HUAC investigators. Although Parks acknowledged knowing Stander, he did not recall ever meeting with him at a Communist Party gathering.
Later that year, during a HUAC hearing, actor Marc Lawrence said that Stander was a member of their Hollywood Communist ‘cell’ and had introduced him to the party line.
Outraged by the accusation, Stander wrote to HUAC, requesting that he appear before them and declare under oath that he was not a Communist. He also sued Lawrence for slander, which caused Lawrence to leave for Europe.
Stander was barred from TV and radio as a result of the subsequent blacklisting, but he continued to appear in theatre roles.
After nearly two decades on the blacklist, Stander returned to the United States and earned the role that made him famous, as the charming Max on the television series “Hart to Hart.”
In 1982, his performance earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. In 1986, he also voiced the character Kup in the animated film “The Transformers: The Movie.”
Stander’s final theatrical film appearance was as a dying hospital patient in “The Last Good Time” (1994). Stander was married six times and had six daughters over his life.
Lionel Jay Stander Cause Of Death
In 1994, Lionel Jay Stander died of lung cancer in Los Angeles, California, at the age of 86. He was laid to rest in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale.