HAL LINDEN is an American actor, singer and musician whose career has spanned more than 65 years with memorable roles on stage, television, in film and a cabaret-style variety show that he tours nationally. Linden is perhaps best known for his portrayal of police precinct captain Barney Miller in the hit television series that aired on ABC from 1975-1982, earning multiple Golden Globe and Emmy nominations for his work.
Linden made his Broadway debut in 1957 in the musical Bells Are Ringing opposite Judy Holliday and subsequently toured with the national company. He later starred in the 1962 Off Broadway revival of Cole Porter’s 1930s hit Anything Goes. To date, he has performed in more than 20 Broadway and Off Broadway productions. His numerous stage credits include On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, Subways Are for Sleeping, The Apple Tree, The Pajama Game, The Sisters Rosenswieg, A Christmas Carol, Tuesdays With Morrie, I’m Not Rappaport, Something More, The Education of Hyman Kaplan, Three Men on a Horse, Chicago, Cabaret, The Gathering and The Rothschilds, for which he won the 1971 Tony Award for Best Actor In A Musical.
His outstanding stagecraft led to roles on both the big and small screen. His feature film credits include: Bells Are Ringing (1960), When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder? (1979), Starflight One (1983), Out To Sea (1997) with Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon, A New Life (1988) with Alan Alda, and Time Changer in 2002.
There is no doubt however, that audiences know Linden best from his many roles on television. He hosted ABC’s FYI, a sixty-second information series, (similar in format to the network’s popular Schoolhouse Rock), which aired three times a day in the early 1980s and for which he earned two Emmy Awards. Linden garnered a third Emmy in 1984 for his portrayal of a rabbi in The Writing On The Wall, for the CBS series Schoolbreak Special. He hosted the popular ABC children’s series Animals, Animals, Animals in the 1970s. The show, produced by ABC News, earned numerous Emmys and the Peabody Award.
After Barney Miller, Linden starred in several more series for network television: Blacke’s Magic (1986), Jack’s Place (1992-93) in which he played a retired jazz musician, and The Boys Are Back (1994). He’s had numerous guest appearances on some of television’s most popular shows including: Hot In Cleveland, Gilmore Girls, Will and Grace, The Drew Carey Show, The Nanny, The King of Queens, Touched By An Angel and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
More recently, Linden has spent considerable time traveling the country with his show, “Hal Linden In Concert.” The set is an entertaining combination of songs and theatrical musings highlighting memorable moments from his life and career. The Grand Rapids, Mich., Press calls it, “…an evening of visual variety that was all first-rate.” The Toronto Star noted, “The term ‘class act’ could have been coined for Linden. Hitting all the right notes, smack in their resonant middles,” and the Milwaukee Journal commented, “A poised performance worthy of one of the great entertainers of his era.”
In 2011 he released his first CD, titled It’s Never Too Late. The disc, a labor of love that Linden recorded over a period of three decades, includes 14 tracks that range from classic pop to jazz standards, Broadway and feature film tunes and favorites from the American Songbook.
Linden was born Harold Lipshitz, in New York City on March 20, 1931. He graduated from the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan and later studied music at Queens College, before graduating from City College of New York. A classically trained clarinetist, (he joined the musician’s union at 15), Linden played in dance bands with Bobby Sherwood, Ray McKinley and Sammy Kaye, before being drafted into the Army, where he sang and provided entertainment for the troops. He had long dreamed of leading a Big Band of his own, where he could play his clarinet, sing and make records, but when he returned from his stint in the Army, he realized that the Big Band era was winding down and opted instead to pursue a career in acting. He enrolled at New York’s American Theatre Wing where he trained in voice and drama. He continued to study acting under mentors Paul Mann and Lloyd Richards as well as voice training with John Mace and Richard Dorr. Linden was married for 52 years to his wife Frances, until her passing in 2010. They have four children.
Linden serves as spokesman for the Jewish National Fund.