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Allan Arbus

Photographer and Actor


Although most of us recognize him for his role on the popular TV series M*A*S*H Allan Arbus had a prior career which also resulted in success and recognition.  Aside from his role as psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Freedman on the much acclaimed TV show M*A*S*H, Allan Arbus  had a previous career as an Army photographer.  His photographic career blossomed leading him to own his own Fashion and Advertising studio with his wife, famed photographer Diane Arbus. 

Early Years

Arbus was born on February 15th 1918 in New York City. The son of Rose Goldberg and Harry Arbus, a stock broker.  He attended DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, where he first developed his love of acting while appearing in a student play.  Arbus was full of various interests, and at one point developed such a deep love for Benny Goodman that he took up and mastered the clarinet.

Love, Marriage, Divorce and Heartbreak

He met Diane Nemerov in 1937 when she was just 14 years old and he married her four years later at the age of 18.  They went on to have two children a daughter Amy who would also go on to become a photographer and daughter, Doon who would become  a writer and art director.  The couple separated in 1959 and divorced ten years later.  Three years later, ex-wife Diane committed suicide.  Allan remarried actress Mariclare Costello in 1977, and together they had one daughter, Arin Arbus. 

The Acting Bug

Arbus landed his first lead role in the Robert Downey Sr. cult film Greaser’s Palace in 1972.  One year  later he starred against acting legend Bette Davis in the movie Scream, Pretty Peggy. In 1976 he won the role of Gregory LaCava in W.C. Fields and Me and that led to his role in M*A*S*H.  His run on the popular series led to other television and film work including appearances in the movies Cinderella LibertyCoffy, and Damien: Omen II, and the TV series Mad About You.

His Photography Career

Having been a photographer in the Army, it was not surprising that his wife Diane’s father would come to him to produce advertising photographs for his fashionable Fifth Avenue department store.  Arbus took on the challenge using his wife Diane as his stylist.  His experience as an Army photographer gave him the technical knowledge and expertise to produce some memorable photographs for his father-in-law’s store.  Diane enjoyed her photography work with her husband and asked if he would teach her his craft.  He did so and together they opened their own studio.  The couple began taking on fashion jobs and soon found their fashion pictures gracing the pages of Harper’s Bazaar.  Arbus and his wife Diane displayed a photo in Edward Steichen’s noted photo exhibition The Family of Man, which gained the couple much popularity.  Diane was enthralled with photography and took every opportunity to learn the trade from her husband.  In 1956 Diane broke away from her husband and went on to develop her own unique style of photography and Allan went in a different direction.  Although he showed true brilliance as a photographer, he gave up his photographic career to concentrate on his acting in 1969 when he and Diane parted ways.  In later years when Arbus was interviewed he often commented on his wife’s photographic career noting, “I always felt that it was our separation that made her a photographer,’ Allan told the New York Times some time later. ‘I couldn’t have stood for her going to the places she did. She’d go to bars on the Bowery and to people’s houses. I would have been horrified.”  Although Arbus loved photography he soon learned that his true love was acting and he would concentrate on his new career moving from NY to California to further pursue his new career.


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