Actor and director Sam Wanamaker died at his London home Saturday as his long-held dream of rebuilding Shakespeare’s Globe Theater finally neared reality. He was 74.
He died after a five-year fight with cancer, his family said.
Wanamaker, who was born in Chicago and got his early stage training at the Goodman Theatre there, worked in Britain when he was blacklisted in the 1950s during the McCarthy era. He lived in Britain for most of his life since the ’50 s. His last stage performance in the U.S. was at the Goodman in 1964 with “Macbeth.”
In 1957, he created the New Shakespeare Cultural Center in Liverpool. Two years later, he performed a highly praised Iago to Paul Robeson’s Othello at Stratford-on-Avon.
Although he played a wide range of roles on stage and in films in the United States and Britain, Wanamaker became best known for his tireless quest for a living memorial to William Shakespeare in London.
In 1949, he visited London and went to the site of the Globe Theater on the south bank of the River Thames, where Shakespeare’s plays were produced in his lifetime.
He was astonished to find nothing but a plaque, and the idea of establishing a new Globe was formed. He spent more than 20 years overcoming bureaucratic obstacles and occasional hostility.
Wanamaker founded the Shakespeare Globe Trust in 1971 to develop the site, and lived to see Prince Edward unveil the first part of the construction last year. The target date for completion of the project is April 1995.
He was made an honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his campaign to rebuild the Globe.
Among Wanamaker’s many roles were in “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold” and “Private Benjamin” on film, and the TV miniseries “Holocaust.”
In the 1970s, he directed television series such as “Columbo” and “Hawaii Five-0,” and directed opera at London’s Covent Garden and in San Francisco, Sydney and Chicago.
He also flew the flag for U.S. theater in London, directing productions of American plays including Clifford Odets’ “The Big Knife” and N. Richard Nash’s “The Rainmaker.”
Wanamaker is survived by his wife, Charlotte, and three daughters, Abby, Jessica and the actress Zoe Wanamaker.
Dates for his funeral and memorial service had not been set.