George Chakiris was born in Norwood Ohio on September 16, 1934, to Greek parents. He is best known for his appearance in the film version of West Side Story as Bernardo, the leader of the Sharks gang, for which he won both the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture.
He made his first film appearance as an adolescent chorus singer in Song of Love (1947), the filmed biography of Robert and Clara Schumann.
After receiving training as a dancer, Chakiris was given a few unbilled solo spots in such film musicals as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and White Christmas (1954).
His roles increased in size after he became a dramatic actor in the late 1950s. Chakiris went on to win an Academy Award for his singing/dancing/acting portrayal of Puerto Rican gang leader Bernardo in West Side Story (1961), after which his starring career went into an unexpected eclipse.
George Chakiris’ television credits include a leading role (along with Anna Maria Alberghetti, Jose Ferrer and Barbara Eden) in a 1967 TV adaptation of Kismet; a co-starring stint with Rosemary Harris in Notorious Woman, a 1975 dramatization of the life of George Sand which premiered in the U.S. on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre; and a recurring role on the prime-time serial Dallas.