The son of a Czech-American golf pro, Jon Voight was active in student theatricals in high school and at Catholic University. In 1960 he began studying privately with Neighborhood Playhouse mentor Sanford Meisner, and made his off-Broadway debut that same year in O Oysters, receiving a daunting review which opined that he could “neither walk nor talk.” Fortunately, Voight persevered, and in 1961 took over the role of “singing Nazi” Rolf in the Broadway hit The Sound of Music (his Liesl was Laurie Peters, who became his first wife).
Blessed with handsome, Nordic features, Voight kept busy as a supporting player on such TV series as Gunsmoke, Coronet Blue, and NYPD, and in 1966 spent a season with the California National Shakespeare Festival. The following year, he won a Theatre World Award for his stage performance in That Summer, That Fall. Thus, by the time he became an “overnight” star in the role of wide-eyed hustler Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy (1969), he had nearly a decade’s… read more