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).


12 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.

    • He did live in Park La Brea at the time of his death. He struggled with diabetes and hypoglycemia which was probably the underlying cause of his passing. I believe his niece Riva had admitted him to the veterans hospital in Westwood where he died.

  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.

  6. Tom Fitzpatrick Says:

    I met Nate in 53 when we both wound up in the same recon platoon in the 82nd Airborne. We where both from NY so we hit it off from the get-go. Even back then he was interested in acting. So
    I was not surprised later when I saw him in the movies.

  7. Fred J Fisher Says:

    I worked with Nate in the early 1990s when he was a Creative Exec at CRC (Creative Road Corporation) in Hollywood. He asked me to write a screenplay based on my children’s book, “A Punkin in the Frost.” I found him a charming and knowledgeable man who loved the business. Sorry to hear of his passing.

  8. Mac Says:

    Great to see this information about Mr Esformes! He had a great guest role on Six Million Dollar Man, as the bodyguard of a prime minister (played by Anne Revere), who was to receive a Bionic Heart. My family knew we recognized his face and has seen him before. May he rest in peace:-)

  9. Pat spirer Says:

    I knew Nate in NYC through my sister in law pat shuren née spirer . They both went to California after my husband,s murder William spirer.

  10. Anon Says:

    I bumped into Nate frequently during the 1980s and 1990s, when he was often at the Farmers Market in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles. He lived in the Park La Brea apartments nearby, and I often saw him walking on Hauser or 3rd St.

    He was a very nice man. I recall sitting with him and my recently widowed mother one afternoon on Farmers Market, at a table by Dupar’s, and he could not have been kinder or more engaging.

  11. Phyllis Schwartz Says:

    Nate went to HS with my father the late Larry Schwartz
    Here is what it said about him in his HS yearbook next to his

    Nathan Esformes graduated Franklin K. Lane H.S. in June 1950. He lived at 56 Lee Avenue in Brooklyn [Williamsburg].
    Next to photo: “We wonder if it’s his attire That makes him every girl’s desire.” Honor roll, Mixed Chorus, “Echoes” [yearbook] staff.
    City College of New York [future]

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