Sunday, July 26, 2009

RIP Donald Buka

Donald Buka, a veteran stage actor who toured with the Lunts
and acted opposite the likes of Helen Hayes and Bette Davis,
died on July 21 in Reading, MA. He was 88.

Born Aug. 17, 1920 in Cleveland, OH, his first Broadway
stage credit was in 1940 and it was a doozy - The Theatre
Guild's revival of The Taming of the Shrew, starring Alfred
Lunt and Lynn Fontanne in their sole attempt at Shakespeare.
By the end of the year he was in the ensemble of a Twelfth
Night in which Helen Hayes, as Viola, was directed by
Margaret Webster. In 1944, he was cast in no less than three
Broadway productions, beginning with Bright Boy, one of the
first shows produced by David Merrick, and followed by the
short-lived Helen Goes to Troy and Sophie.

After one more flop, 1945's Live It Again, the darkly
handsome actor began concentrating on television and film.
His first film role was perhaps his best known, playing the
son of Bette Davis in the 1943 film adaptation of Lillian
Hellman's Watch on the Rhine.

A few notable film noirs followed: "Vendatta" (produced by
Howard Hughes, who had Mr. Buka under contract for a time),
"The Street With No Name" (as Richard Widmark's evil
under-boss) and "Between Dawn and Midnight" (in which he
played a cop-killing gangster). He played a rare lead role
in 1953's "Stolen Identity," portraying a refugee taxi
driver working illegally in Vienna who switches identities
with a passenger who is murdered soon after leaving his cab.
He also took roles in many of the notable television
programs of the next two decades, including "Kraft
Television Theatre," "The Philco Television Playhouse,"
"Dragnet," "M Squad," "Alfred Hitchcock Presents," "77
Sunset Strip," "Perry Mason," "Ironside" and "The Barbara
Stanwyck Show."

Actress Yvette Vickers described a scene where Mr. Buka's
character manhandled her in an episode of "The Rebel": "He
was a fine actor, and we got into it. We were both on a
high-energy plane, like it was really happening. Yeah, he
was very rough. But we went out afterwards. He was
adorable."

He returned to Broadway one in the 1960s, for Those That
Play the Clowns; one in the 70s, A Texas Trilogy; and three
times in the 1980s, for revivals of Major Barbara, The Corn
Is Green and Design for Living. Off-Broadway theatre credits
included The Adding Machine with the Phoenix Theatre, and a
Hamlet starring Siobhan McKenna. Mr. Buka also taught acting
classes on the Upper West Side for years.
Mr Buka was married three times. The first two unions ended
in divorce. His third marriage, to artist Suzanne Sinaiko,
lasted from 1992 until her 1998, her death. He is survived
by son Dr. Robert (Bobby) L. Buka, a dermatologist in New
York City.

A memorial service is planned for the fall in Manhattan.

BUKA, Donald
Born: 8/17/1920, Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A.
Died: 7/21/2009, Reading, Massachusetts, U.S.A.

Donald Buka’s westerns – actor:
New Mexico – 1951 (Pat Van Vechton)
Zane Grey Theater (TV) – 1957 (Laredo)
Boots and Saddles (TV) – 1958 (Hubbard)
Colt .45 (TV) – 1959 (Donald Blesco)
Lawman (TV) – 1959 (Harry Jensen, Cole Hawkins)
Law of the Plainsman (TV) – 1959 (Roy Cameron)
The Rebel (TV) – 1961 (Jess Galt)
Whispering Smith (TV) – 1961 (Fred Gavin)
The High Chaparral (TV) – 1969 (Major Ramsey)

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