George Tobias: From Broadway to “Bewitched”

Today a salute to George Tobias (1901-1980) best remembered for his role as Abner Kravitz, long-suffering neighbor of the Stevens family on the TV sitcom Bewitched (1964-1971). Kravitz was so long-suffering in fact, that he lived through TWO Gladys Kravitzes over the life of the series. Tobias was droll as an easy-going retiree, usually seen engaging in some hobby until his nosy wife sets his house in a uproar with news of the latest bizarre goings-on at the Stevens house, which is typically full of mischievous witches. Abner’s dismissal of his wife’s reports might be charged to gaslighting but we’re generally okay with it since (as he constantly reminds her) his wife really ought to be minding her own business!

Tobias had been a familiar onscreen character actor for a quarter century prior to the advent of Bewitched with two decades of stage experience prior to that. Some of his more notable Broadway appearances before his film career included roles in the original productions of What Price Glory? (1924), Red Rust (1929), Paths of Glory (1935), and You Can’t Take it With You (1936). Interestingly, he had roles in the original 1939 film Ninotchka as well as the 1955 Broadway musical adapted from it Silk Stockings, as well as the 1957 screen version of that. If you watch carefully you will see George Tobias in a suprising number of classic films: Maisie (1939), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939), They Drive By Night (1940), Sergeant York (1941), The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941), Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), My Sister Eileen (1942), Mission to Moscow (1943), This is the Army (1943), Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943), Mildred Pearce (1945), Sinbad the Sailor (1947), My Wild Irish Rose (1947), The Set-Up (1949), The Glenn Miller Story (1954), The Seven Little Foys (1955), and Marjorie Morningstar (1958). From the last ’50s onward, most of his work was in television. Prior to Bewitched, he was a regular on the short-lived series Hudson’s Bay (1959) and Adventures in Paradise (1960-61), Some of his later films include The Glass Bottom Boat (1966), The Phynx (1970), and Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970). Fittingly his last screen credit was an episode of Tabitha (1977)

Originally from New York, he is said to have gotten his early theatrical experience at the Neighborhood Playhouse.

For more on the history of show business, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous