Jeff Corey (August 10, 1914 – August 16, 2002) was an American stage and screen actor and director who became a well-respected acting teacher after being blacklisted in the 1950s.
Corey was born Arthur Zwerling in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Mary (née Peskin) and Nathan Zwerling. After a Shakespearean stint in New York in the late 1930s, Corey made the move to Hollywood in 1940, where he became a highly respected character actor. One of his most notable movie roles was in a 1951 feature film, Superman and the Mole Men, which was later edited to a two-part episode of the television series The Adventures of Superman, retitled "The Unknown People". His portrayal of a xenophobic vigilante coincidentally reflected what was about to happen to him.
His career was halted in the early 1950s, when he was summoned before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Corey refused to give names of alleged "Communists" and "subversives" in the entertainment industry and went so far as to ridicule the panel by offering critiques of the testimony of the previous witnesses. This behavior led to his being blacklisted for 12 years. "Most of us were retired Reds. We had left it, at least I had, years before," Corey told Patrick McGilligan, the co-author of "Tender Comrades: A Backstory of the Hollywood Blacklist" who also teaches film at Marquette University. "The only issue was, did you want to just give them their token names so you could continue your career, or not? I had no impulse to defend a political point of view that no longer interested me particularly . . . They just wanted two new names so they could hand out more subpoenas."
During his blacklisting Corey drew upon his experience in various actors' workshops (including the Actors Lab, which he helped establish) by seeking work as an acting teacher. he soon became one of the most influential teachers in Hollywood. His students, at various times, included Robert Blake, Richard Chamberlain, James Dean, Jane Fonda, Peter Fonda, Michael Forest, James Hong, Penny Marshall, Darrell M. Smith, Diane Varsi, Sharon Tate, Rita Moreno, Jack Nicholson, Leonard Nimoy, Anthony Perkins, Rob Reiner,Barbra Streisand and Robin Williams.
In 1962 Corey began working in films again, and remained active into the 1990s. He played Hoban in The Cincinnati Kid in 1965, Tom Chaney the principal villain in 1969's True Gritand was sheriff Bledsoe in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid who warned Butch and Sundance that no good would come of their breaking the law. He reprised the role of sheriff Bledsoe in the 1979 prequel Butch and Sundance: The Early Days. He also played Wild Bill Hickok in Little Big Man in 1970.
He made guest appearances on many TV shows. His best-known science fiction appearances were in "O.B.I.T.", an episode of The Outer Limits; "The Cloud Minders", a third-season episode of Star Trek, in which he played High Advisor Plasus; and "Z'ha'dum", the third-season finale of Babylon 5, in which he played Justin, and as Caspay in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. He was also the voice of the villain Silvermane (in elderly form) in Spider-Man: The Animated Series. He also appeared in the short-lived Paper Moon, a comedy about a father and his presumed daughter roaming through the American Midwest during the Great Depression, trying to get rich quick. He had a memorable role in a third-season Night Court as a burned-out judge who'd lost his grip on reality.
In an interview in February 1973 aboard the SS Universe Campus of Chapman College, Corey detailed his TV work on Rod Serling's Night Gallery. Up to this time he was proudest of this work, for which he received an Emmy nomination.
Returning to one aspect of his acting roots, he can be seen directing some of the screen tests for Superman in the DVD extras.
Corey died on August 16, 2002, from complications from a fall. He was 88 years old.