Obituary: Nate Esformes (1932-2013)

August 6, 2013

Esformes Kokak

Character actor Nate Esformes died on June 19, according to the August edition of the WGA bulletin Write Now.

Born on June 29, 1932, Esformes came to prominence in the late sixties and seventies, usually playing characters of Latin American ethnicity.  He made what may have been his television debut as a gangster in “Legacy For a Lousy Future,” a 1966 episode of the New York City-based cop drama Hawk.  (As of this writing, the Internet Movie Database incorrectly puts Esformes in a different Hawk episode, and also has his date of birth wrong.)

By 1968, he had relocated to Los Angeles and his career began to take off in concert with the ascendancy of adventure shows that could make ample use of ethnically ambiguous villains: It Takes a Thief, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible (which used Esformes five times), Ironside, The Six Million Dollar Man.  Esformes also did multiple guest turns on Run For Your Life, The Flying Nun, Mannix, Police Story, and Hunter, and appeared in the mini-series Rich Man, Poor Man.  He played one of the Watergate burglars in All the President’s Men, and most of his other films have achieved either critical acclaim or cult fame: Petulia, Marlowe, Black Belt Jones, Henry Jaglom’s Tracks, Battle Beyond the Stars, Vice Squad, Invasion U.S.A.

If you’re wondering why Esformes’s death was reported by the Writers Guild, it’s because he had a story credit on a single Naked City episode early in his career.  That’s the only produced or published work by Esformes that I can find, apart from a 1983 Los Angeles Times story lamenting the closure of the famed Schwab’s Drug Store.  In fact, I wasn’t able to produce much of anything else on Esformes, either – not a single profile or interview.  That’s surprising, given how much we movie fans cherish our character actors.

If anyone out there knew Esformes, here’s the place to tell us about him.

Esformes Hawk

Above: Esformes (right) with Jennifer West and Larry Haines in Hawk (“Legacy For a Lousy Future,” 1966).  Top: Esformes in Kojak (“Close Cover Before Killing,” 1975).

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5 Responses to “Obituary: Nate Esformes (1932-2013)”

  1. Marty McKee Says:

    Thanks for pointing this out. I would have guessed more than five M:Is for Enformes. Seemed like he popped up all the time. He’s exactly the kind of ham-and-egg supporting player who probably had a million great stories to tell and nobody to ask him. We lose.

  2. Stephen Bowie Says:

    What’s really a shame is that Esformes appears to have been living in Park La Brea when he died — a huge apt. complex where I often stayed with a friend during my trips to L.A. (Michael J. Pollard and Patricia Morison both live there — no, not together — and Delbert Mann and Dede Allen used to before their deaths.)

    With those AV Club assignments off my plate, I’m trying to schedule some more interviews now, including one with a very neglected “ham and egg supporting player” who just left me a voicemail. Also working on transcribing another partial interview, done around the same time as Cliff Osmond’s, that sadly also just became a posthumous one.

  3. Rob Sinclair Says:

    Another actor-producer that is still with us and likely has some interesting stories to tell is James Lydon.

  4. Phil Says:

    I guess the WGA is really clued in on its members. I couldn’t find any other online source for this obit.

    He had two stints on ‘The Wild Wild West’. In the first, he ended up on the wrong side of a firing squad. In the second, he emerged unscathed (thanks to West and Gordon)…strangely, he was uncredited for this episode.


  5. I met Nate at the Farmers Market in the 80’s. We kept company for a time. The most refreshing thing about Nate was that never once, since I met him, did he ever utter an ethnic or religious slur. I do know that he was working on something for the last few years but I don’t know where it is or if his niece found it or what. I will miss his friendship.


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