Actor Biff Elliot

Biff Elliot (born Leon Shalek, July 26, 1923 – August 15, 2012) was an American actor. He is perhaps best known for his role as popular detective Mike Hammer in the 1953 version of I, the Jury, and for his guest appearance as Schmitter in the Star Trek episode “The Devil in the Dark”.

Personal life

Biff Elliot was born Leon Shalek in Lynn, Massachusetts, the son of Susan M. (née Bernstein) and Israel Shalek. He was the youngest of three brothers. His ancestors were Jewish Immigrants from Eastern Europe. His father opened a burlap bag manufacturing business in Presque Isle, Maine. His eldest brother, Irwin Elliot Shalek (Win Elliot) was a popular radio and television host and sports commentator. His other brother, Stanley, was president of his father’s business.

He took the nickname Biff when he got into amateur Golden Glove boxing. His mother learned of his fighting and cancelled any further bouts. He turned his energy to other sports, his favorites being running track and football.

While he was in college at the University of Maine, the United States entered World War II, and Biff went into the United States Army, serving in North Africa and Italy in the 34th Infantry Division. After the armistice, Biff put in six months on occupation duty and was shipped home, where he resumed his education at the University of Maine, graduating in 1948 with a degree in journalism.

He met his first wife, Elizabeth (Betty) Dole at college, and she left after her sophomore year to get married. They moved to New York City, and Betty worked as a high fashion model.

Elliot eventually decided to give up writing and go after television acting jobs as he had done some acting in college, and live television was at its height. He appeared in every important dramatic show of the time, appearing alongside actors who would go on to become well known. His show with James Dean is one of many that has disappeared from that era.

Elliot was brought to Hollywood by Victor Saville, who was preparing to film the popular Mike Hammer detective books written by Mickey Spillane. Biff played the lead role in the 1953 movie I, the Jury. He was the first actor to portray Mike Hammer on film. After that, Biff and Betty moved permanently to Hollywood. Biff worked steadily in movies and TV dramas until his wife’s death in 1974 at the age of 45.

Elliot married again in 1977 to Connie Bandy. They were married for 35 years until his death in 2012.


He first started doing stage and television work, mostly playing tough, working-class characters. When he was spotted by a Hollywood attorney while performing a television episode, the attorney recommended him to Victor Saville, the producer who was preparing the first film adaption of Mickey Spillane’s I, the Jury. When accepted for the audition, Elliot was brought to Hollywood, and began preparing for his role by cramming with Mike Hammer novels, spending the whole night re-reading them. After a successful 15-minute audition, Elliot landed his first leading role on film and became the first actor to portray the famed Mike Hammer in a motion picture. Elliot was signed for a long term contract as Mike Hammer but other actors were later cast in the role.

In 2004 Elliot recorded a commentary track for I, the Jury.

Over the next few years, Elliot was a prominent fixture in classic war films of the 1950s and ’60s, appearing in Between Heaven and Hell, The Enemy Below, Pork Chop Hill, and PT 109. But mostly he worked in television. In 1959, Elliot got a seemingly good break when playwright Clifford Odets happened to see I, the Jury and offered him a role in The Story on Page One, which Odets wrote and directed. Thereafter, over the next decade, Elliot was mostly seen on television, including an appearance on Frank Lovejoy’s detective series, Meet McGraw, and an appearance on Perry Mason, starring Raymond Burr. In 1961 Elliot played the part of Buddy Blue,a trumpeter on the run from a gangster in the series 77 Sunset Strip.In 1966, he portrayed a government agent in an episode of the comedy series The Dick Van Dyke Show. In 1967, he appeared in the Star Trek episode “The Devil in the Dark”. He guest-starred in an episode of Gibbsville in 1976. In 1977, he had a memorable supporting role in Telly Savalas’s Beyond Reason with Diana Muldaur. A late notable role came in 1974 when he co-starred in the Planet of the Apes series. He appeared in two episodes, one as a human and another as an orangutan. Elliot would make his final film appearance in 1986 in a comedy, co-starring with Jack Lemmon in a scene from That’s Life!.

His last appearance on television was in 1986 on the set of the television series of Starman, and he retired in 2001.[citation needed]


After Elliot’s retirement he worked in radio sports, covering Los Angeles sports for CBS Radio Network. Elliot was previously married to Betty Dole, a former model, whom he met during his tenure at the University of Maine and married in his sophomore year in 1948. She died in 1974. In 1977, he married Connie Bandy and they resided in Los Angeles.

A brother of Win Elliot, longtime CBS Radio Network sportscaster and 1950’s TV game show host, Biff Elliot died in his home in Studio City, California on August 15, 2012, aged 89.

Partial filmography

  • I, the Jury (1953) – Mike Hammer
  • House of Bamboo (1955) – Webber
  • Good Morning, Miss Dove (1955) – Reverend Alex Burnham
  • Between Heaven and Hell (1956) – Tom Thumb – Co. G
  • The True Story of Jesse James (1957) – Jim Younger
  • The Enemy Below (1957) – Quartermaster
  • Torpedo Run (1958) – Lt. Paul Buckeye (uncredited)
  • Pork Chop Hill (1959) – Pvt. Boven
  • The Story on Page One (1959) – Eddie Ritter (uncredited)
  • PT 109 (1963) – Seaman Edgar E. Mauer
  • Combat! (1963) episode: “The Party” as Rafferty
  • Brainstorm (1965) – Detective (uncredited)
  • Blood Bath (1966) – Cafe Manager
  • Destination Inner Space (1966) – Dr. Wilson
  • The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (1966) – Cmdr. Arthur Simpson
  • Combat! (1966) episode: “The Outsider” as Doctor
  • The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1969) – Archie
  • The Day of the Wolves (1971) – The Inspector
  • The Hard Ride (1971) – Mike
  • Kotch (1971) – Motel Manager
  • Cool Breeze (1972) – Lt. Carl Mager
  • Save the Tiger (1973) – Tiger Petitioner
  • This Is a Hijack (1973) – Neal Hanaford
  • The Front Page (1974) – Police Dispatcher
  • Planet of the Apes (TV series) (1974) episode: The Cure – Orangutan
  • The Wild McCullochs (1975) – Ralph
  • The Dark (1979) – Detective Jack Bresler
  • Beyond Reason (1985) – Police Sergeant
  • That’s Life! (1986) – Belmont
  • External Links

    Actor Biff Elliot – Wikipedia

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