Joseph Wiseman (May 15, 1918 – October 19, 2009) was a Canadian theater and film actor, best known for starring as the titular antagonist of the first James Bond film, Dr. No, his role as Manny Weisbord on Crime Story, and his career on Broadway. He was once called "the spookiest actor in the American theater".
Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada to Orthodox Jewish parents, Louis and Pearl Rubin (née Ruchwarger), Wiseman grew up in New York. At age 16, he began performing in summer stock and became professional, which displeased his parents.
Wiseman also had roles in a wide variety of films, Viva Zapata!, Dr. No, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Bye Bye Braverman, and guest-starring roles in the TV series The Streets of San Francisco, The Untouchables, Crime Story, an episode of The Twilight Zone ("One More Pallbearer"), Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Night Gallery. His last film was made in 1988, though he appeared in TV shows such as MacGyver, L.A. Law, and Law & Order after that time.
He made his Broadway debut in 1938, playing a small part in Robert E. Sherwood's Abe Lincoln in Illinois. Among the many productions he appeared in a long career in live theatre was the title role in In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer on Broadway in 1968, and the role of Father Massieu in the original Broadway production of Joan of Lorraine, the Maxwell Anderson play which eventually became the film Joan of Arc. His last Broadway appearance was in Judgment at Nuremberg in 2001.
He appeared in several films in the 1950s. He made his first major film appearance in 1951's Detective Story, where he recreated his performance from Broadway as an unstable small time hood. Soon after he played Marlon Brando's archenemy in Viva Zapata! (1952). In 1967, he was cast as Billy Minsky's father in The Night They Raided Minsky's, later he appeared opposite Sir Laurence Olivier in The Betsy (1978). Wiseman's last appearance on television was the supporting role of Seymour Bergreen on a 1996 episode of Law & Order titled "Family Business".
His most famous role as the titular Dr. No in the first James Bond film by Eon Productions came from producer Harry Saltzman, who cast Wiseman in the role in December 1961. It was Wiseman's performance in Detective Story that won him the part. Several sources also claim that Wiseman portrayed Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the 1965 James Bond movieThunderball (although the role is uncredited) with the voice done by Eric Pohlmann. Later in his life, he viewed the film with disdain, and preferred to be remembered for his theater career. Following the death of Charles Gray in 2000, Wiseman was the last surviving main villain of the James Bond films that Sean Connery made for United Artists.
Wiseman married Nell Kinard on August 28, 1943; they divorced. He was married to dancer, teacher and choreographer Pearl Lang from 1964 until her death in February 2009.
Wiseman died on October 19, 2009 at his home in Manhattan, having been in declining health for some time. Wiseman is survived by his daughter, Martha Graham Wiseman, and his sister, Ruth Wiseman.