Ernie Kovacs, American actor, producer-director, writer. Recipient Davis award for best radio ad lib, 1945, Sylvania award for best comedy show on television, 1956.
Kovacs' father Andrew immigrated from Hungary at age 13. He worked as a policeman, restaurateur, and bootlegger; the last so successfully that he moved his wife Mary, and sons Tom and Ernie, into a 20-room mansion in the better part of Trenton. Though a poor student, Kovacs was influenced deeply by his Trenton Central High School drama teacher, Harold Van Kirk, and received an acting scholarship at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1937 with Mr. Van Kirk's help. The end of Prohibition and the Depression brought hard financial times to the family. When Kovacs began drama school, all he could afford was a fifth floor walk-up apartment on West 74th Street in New York City.At WPTZ.
Student New York School of Theatre, 1935-1937.
Kovacs began using the ad-libbed and experimental style that would become his reputation, including video effects, superimpositions, reverse polarities and scanning, and quick blackouts.
He also did several television specials, including the famous Silent Show (1957), featuring his character, Eugene, the first all-pantomime prime-time network program.Kovacs wrote a novel, Zoomar: A Sophisticated Novel about Love and TV (Doubleday, 1957), based on television pioneer Pat Weaver; it took Kovacs only 13 days to write.Kovacs was killed in an automobile accident in Los Angeles in the early morning hours of January 13, 1962. Kovacs, who had worked for much of the evening, met Adams at a baby shower given by Billy Wilder for Milton Berle and his wife, who had recently adopted a three-year-old boy.
Kovacs found Hollywood success as a character actor, often typecast as a swarthy military officer (almost always a "Captain" of some sort) in such films as Operation Mad Ball, Wake Me When It's Over, and Our Man in Havana. He garnered critical acclaim for roles such as the perennially inebriated writer in Bell, Book and Candle and as the cartoonishly evil head of a railroad company (who resembled Orson Welles' title character in Citizen Kane) in It Happened to Jane, where he had his head shaved and his remaining hair dyed grey for the role. In 1960, he played the off center base commander Charlie Stark in the comedy Wake Me When its Over. His own personal favorite was said to have been the offbeat Five Golden Hours (1961), in which he portrayed a larcenous professional mourner who meets his match in a professional widow played by Cyd Charisse. Kovacs' last film, Sail a Crooked Ship, was released shortly before his death.
Kovacs had been chosen to appear as Melville Crump in Stanley Kramer's star-packed comedy It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, with Adams portraying his wife, Monica Crump. After his death, the role went to comedian Sid Caesar. Kovacs had also been slated to appear with Jack Lemmon and Kim Novak in The Notorious Landlady but was posthumously replaced by Fred Astaire.
Married Edith Adams, September 12, 1954. Children: Betty, Kip, Mia.