A career spanning over 50 years, Sam Levene was a Broadway, film, radio and television actor who originated numerous legendary roles in 33 original Broadway productions, many considered a part of American theatrical history, including Nathan Detroit in Guys and Dolls (1950), Horace Vandergelder in The Matchmaker (1954), Sidney Black in Light Up the Sky (1948), Patsy in Three Men on a Horse (1935), Al Lewis in The Sunshine Boys (1972).
Levene effortlessly segued between starring roles in over 100 productions on stage, radio, television and film, appearing in a variety of roles. Levene was the archetypal New Yorker on stage and screen who shined in creating rough character parts, often playing working class roles and appeared with a legendary roster of stars and directors. For 54 years Levene was a consistent presence on Broadway; in 1927 Levene made his Broadway debut in the melodrama Wall Street and in 1980, his last Broadway appearance, a starring role in a comedy directed by Joshua Logan. 9 years after his Broadway debut, Sam Levene moved to Hollywood and made his film debut, re-creating his stage role as Patsy in the film Three Men on a Horse (1936) directed and produced by Mervyn LeRoy. Sam Levene was the only member of the original Broadway production of the play Yellow Jack to appear in the 1938 film of the same name. Sam Levene was cast as a police lieutenant in After the Thin Man (1936), The Mad Miss Manton (1938), Shadow of the Thin Man (1941) and The Killers (1946) which included the film debut of Burt Lancaster, who just a year prior was professionally credited as Burton Lancaster when Sam Levene helped the former circus acrobat land a part in the original Broadway production of A Sound of Hunting.
Levene appeared in a staggering list of 39 Broadway productions, many of them bona-fide hits, 33 of which were the original Broadway productions. A consummate actor, who was equally adept in comedy and drama, Levene received greater recognition and praise for his comedic expertise and extraordinary stage timing who routinely received critical acclaim, even when the show itself was not of top quality. Levene earned a niche in American theatrical history by perfecting a certain species of comic hero and for the majority of those appearances, Levene was a Broadway star who consistently received above-title billing.