George Chakiris was born in Norwood Ohio on September 16, 1934, to Greek parents. Chakiris is famous for playing the leader of the Sharks gang, in the film version of West Side Story as Bernardo, for which he won both the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture.
His first film appearance was 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 spots in such film musicals as Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953) and White Christmas (1954).
His roles kept increasing in size after he became a dramatic actor in the late 1950s. Chakiris went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor 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.
In television George Chakiris played the leading role (next to Anna Maria Alberghetti, Jose Ferrer and Barbara Eden) in a 1967 TV adaptation of Kismet. Also, 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.