July 26, 1923-August 15, 2012
"It was easy"
Biff Elliot was born Leon Shalek in Lynn, Massachusetts. His name was changed when he started acting, using Elliot, the middle name of one of his two brothers. He grew up in Boston and in Presque Isle, Maine. After serving in the Army in World War II, he studied journalism, found a wife, and graduated from the University of Maine in 1949. He started acting in live television in New York, where he met Jack Lemmon, who became a life -long friend. Jack directed Biff in the film "Kotch," and Biff appeared in several of his films, having as one of his character's lines "Save the tiger."He was brought to Hollywood surrounded by a lot of publicity to play the role of Mike Hammer, Mickey Spillane's famous detective, in "I the Jury," released in 1953. He later autographed requested photos for fans including the ending line from the film, "It was easy."
He and his first wife, Elizabeth Dole (Betty), moved to California; and Biff worked in movies and television for the next 33 years. His wife died in 1974, and he married Connie Bandy in 1977.
His film roles included Save the Tiger, PT109, Pork Chop Hill, The True Story of Jesse James, Good Morning, Miss Dove and House of Bamboo. His many roles in television included Starman, CHIPs, Planet of the Apes, The Streets of San Francisco, Bonanza, Star Trek, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Surfside 6, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Combat, Perry Mason, Lux Video Theatre, Kraft Theatre. A footnote to his film career is Walter Matthau's insistence that he modeled his role in "Grumpy Old Men," after Biff.
He was a popular acting coach for many years at the Film Industry Workshops, and he also worked in radio sportscasting. He was a member of Screen Actors Guild, AFTRA, and The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
He is survived by his wife, Connie, many beloved nieces and nephews and his cat, Lionel. He was preceded in death by his parents, Susan and Israel Shalek, and brothers Stanley Shalek and Win Elliot.
There will be no funeral. A memorial service will be planned at a later date.
Donations in his memory can be made to Actors and Others for Animals, 11523 Burbank Blvd, North Hollywood, CA 91601; Motion Picture and Television Fund, PO Box 51150, Los Angeles, CA 90051-9706; Actors Fund, 729 7th Avenue, New York, NY 10019 or the charity of your choice .
Published in the Los Angeles Times on August 19, 2012
ELLIOT, Biff (Leon Shalek)
Born: 7/26/1923, Lynn, Massachusetts, U.S.A.
Died: 8/15/2012, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.
Biff Elliot’s westerns – actor:
The True Story of Jesse James – 1957 (Jim Younger)
Laramie (TV) – 1961 (Eliot)
The Travels of Jamie McPheeters (TV) – 1964 (Sgt. Fields)
Bonanza (TV) – 1972 (Harley Lewis)