By James Pylant
DO NOT POST OR PUBLISH WITHOUT PERMISSION
"Iíve heard that Jack Albertson was Cloris Leachmanís uncle; is that true?" a friend asked. The late actor, who co-starred with Freddie Prinz in a television series, Chico and the Man (1974-1978), and opposite Shelley Winters in the Poseidon Adventure (1972),1 was an uncle-by-marriage to actress Cloris Leachman. He was also a grand uncle-by-marriage to actress Sharon Stone.
A native of Malden, Middlesex County, Massachusetts,2 Jack Albertson was born 16 June 1907 to immigrant parents, Leo Albertson and Flora Craft.3 His sister, actress Mabel Albertson, was reportedly born in Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts, on 24 July 1901.4 However, her son, producer George Englund, tells me that he believes her birthplace was Haverhill (also in Essex County).5 The family has been acting for generations, the first being Jack and Mabelís mother, a stock actress.6 One source says there was yet another actor-sibling, Frank Albertson, which is incorrect.7 "The actor Frank Albertson was no relation to our family," says Mr. Englund.8
George Englund also shared other details about his family background:9
"We were really poor," said Jack Albertson in an interview a few years before his death. "My father took a powder, and my mother had to work in a shoe factory to support my sister and me."10
Leopold Albertson, a shoemaker, son of Hirsch Albertson and Anna Blicarsky, and Flora Craft, a dressmaker, daughter of Luis Craft and Rosa Zalmanovitz, were married in Boston on 25 December 1900. Both were twenty-two and Russian-born.11
Alexander Eliss Erlich lived at 172 Washington, in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1918, when he registered for the draft. He was a self-employed barber, born on 5 August 1884 in Russia. His wife, Flora Erlich, was named as nearest relative.12 Eight years earlier, Alec Herlich, age twenty-six, a barber, and a divorcee Flora Albertson, age thirty, wedded on 1 June 1910 in Lynn.13
The 1920 census shows Alexander Erlich, age thirty-four, renting a dwelling at 172 Washington, in Lynn, Essex County, Massachusetts. Under birthplace, "Russian Volina" [Vilnius] is entered, and Yiddish is given as his parentsí native tongue. A laborer in an iron shop, he came to America in 1907. His wife, Flora, age forty, born in Russia, also of Yiddish-speaking parents, came to America in 1897. Harold Albertson, stepson, age twelve, born in Massachusetts, is also listed in the household.14 Mabel Albertson, age nineteen, who worked in retail as a saleslady, boarded next door with a Canadian family, at 173 Washington. New York, instead of Massachusetts, is listed as her birthplace, and "Vilna (Russia)" is identified as the birthplace of both parents.15
Flora Erlich was born 25 December 1879 and died at age seventy-five on 30 June 1955 in Los Angeles County, California. Craft appears as the surname of her father on her death certificate.16 Alexander Erlich died in Los Angeles on 26 January 1973.17
Mabel Albertson was a familiar guest star in many television series in the 1960s, usually as an affluent, snobbish character. Most notably was her recurring role of the disapproving, bewildered mother-in-law of Elizabeth Montgomeryís "Samantha Stephens" on Bewitched. She is also remembered as the clinging mother of "Howard Sprague" on Mayberry, and later as mother of "Donald Hollinger" in That Girl. In Peter Bogdanovichís screwball comedy Whatís Up, Doc? Mabel Albertsonís "Mrs. Van Hoskins" was a more flamboyant role.18
The 1930 census shows Jack Albertson as Harold Albertson renting a residence on East 89th Street, in Manhattan. At age twenty-two, he was a theatre actor. Living with him were sister Mabel Albertson, age twenty-eight, divorced and a stage actress. Both were born in Massachusetts to Russian parents. The household had three others: Mabelís children, Patrica [Patricia] Ripley, age five, born in Pennsylvania, and George Ripley, age four, born in the District of Columbia; and a twenty-year-old Irish maid named Elizabeth Curan.19
Mabel Albertson briefly married to Harold Austin Ripley, and their son, George Ripley, was born in Washington, DC, in 1926. He later became George Englund,20 following his motherís remarriage to Ken Englund, a radio and film writer. No, No, Nanette, This Thing Called Love, and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty are among the famous movies written by Ken Englund. He died at age 79 on 10 August 1993 in Los Angeles.21
George Englund followed the family tradition in the entertainment industry, succeeding as a producer, writer, and director. Englund headed Marlon Brandoís production company, and his long relationship with that actor is chronicled in a book, The Way It's Never Done Before: My Friendship with Marlon Brando. He also directed Brando in the critically acclaimed movie, The Ugly American.
In 1974, Englundís mother, Mabel Albertson, starred in a television movie, Pete and Tillie, with his wife, actress Cloris Leachman. Mabel Albertson died on 28 December 1982, with Alzheimerís Disease, in Santa Monica, California.22
Cloris Leachman was born in De Moines, Iowa, on 30 April 1926. She and George Englund married in 1953 and divorced in 1979. They had five children: George Englund, Jr., Bryan Englund, Adam Englund, Dinah Englund, and Morgan Englund, all of whom have carried on the familyís career in show business. George Englund, Jr., was the second husband of actress Sharon Stone.23