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Shaike Ophir

(1929 - 1987)

Shaike Ophir was an Israeli actor, comedian and pantomimist.

Ophir was born in Jerusalem as Yeshayahu Goldstein. At the age of 14 he joined the Palmach but left soon thereafter to join the Ohel theater. In the War of Independence, Ophir rejoined the Palmach and during his service, the Chizbatron, the Palmach's entertainment troupe, was created and Ophir joined it.

After his military service, Ophir travelled to Paris to study pantomime under Atiene Decrot, the father of modern pantomime. After three years of study and half a year of performing with Marcel Marceau, he returned to Israel and joined the Cameri Theater. While there, he founded a Cameri pantomime group. In 1956, he went to the United States, working there for four and a half years and performing with Marlene Dietrich.

In the beginning of the 1960s, Ophir returned to Israel. He wrote and directed the first two shows of Ha-Gashash ha-Ḥiver and was recognized as an established actor, both in theater and film. Of his 28 films, the best known is the award-winning The Policeman Azulai (1971), written and directed by Ephraim *Kishon, where he plays a blundering policeman so inept that criminals try to boost his arrest record so that he will remain on the beat. Other Kishon films include Ervinka (1967),The Blaumlich Canal (1970), and The Fox in the Chicken Coop (1978), and Ophir also starred in Hole in the Moon (1965) and Abual Benat (1973). His movie career garnered him three Kinor David prizes. He also put on one-man shows such as A Thousand Faces and The Joy of the Poor, portraying an entire gallery of Israeli types, none more hilarious than the fiery Histadrut orator eating a sandwich as he delivers a speech. Ophir was called "the king of Israeli entertainment."

In 2004, the Israeli film academy named its equivalent of the Oscar the Ophir in his honor. In 2005, Ophir was voted the 33rd-greatest Israeli of all time in an online poll conducted by an Israeli newspaper.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved; Wikipedia