James Karen was born as Jacob Karnofsky on November 28, 1923 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. His father, Joseph, was a salon manager who devoted himself to the production business. His mother, Mae (Fried) Karnofsky, was a housewife.
He left home in 1940 and went to New York with a newly adopted stage name. A cousin, actor Morris Carnovsky, guided him to acting teacher Sanford Meisner. When the United States entered World War II in 1941, Mr. Karen joined the Army Air Forces; He spent part of the war as a cryptographer in Alaska, Goldstein said.
After the war ended in 1945, Mr. Karen returned to New York and spent time at the Actors Studio, including as a stand-in for several roles in Elia Kazan's 1947 Broadway production of "A Streetcar Named Desire," starring Marlon Brando and Jessica Tandy. He worked on Broadway in small roles or as a substitute in the mid-1970s and also appeared in regional theaters.
By 1970 he was receiving regular work on television and, in the middle of that decade, he moved to Los Angeles. However, he was already doing the Pathmark spots and kept that job even though the nearest Pathmark was thousands of miles away.
Mr. Karen discovered in 1984 that some viewers did not understand the difference between him and the roles he played. In "Little House: The Last Farewell", a television movie that was essentially the end of the beloved series "Little House on the Prairie", played a development mogul named Nathan Lassiter, who wants to take over the city of Walnut Grove.
"Hundreds of letters came to Pathmark asking the store to do something for me," Karen told U.P.I. "The customer relations department could not believe it, for some reason they never opposed the other heavens I played in. But Nathan Lassiter's wickedness blew their minds in. I guess they realized they would never see Walnut Grove again, and that He created a great sense of loss. "
He was in charge of calling or writing to the people who had expressed their complaints.
"They were amazed to hear from me," said the Pathmark man. "At first they were defeated. Then they laughed.