theodore bikel

Theo Bikel played the role of "Rance Muhammitz" (aka the devil) in Zappa's 200 Motels movie. At that time, both he and Zappa had Herb Cohen as manager.





frank zappa: 200 motels
   (1971, 2lp, usa, united artists)

fz013v.jpg (37378 bytes)

  tony palmer's film of frank zappa's 200 motels
    (2010, dvd, uk, tony palmer)


born: mar 2, 1924 in vienna, austria

      from: patrick neve (
theodore played the role of "rance muhammitz" (aka the devil) in 200 motels. he also sang a stirring rendition of "strictly genteel" near the end. how ironic that a singer mostly known for his religious albums would play the part of the devil for zappa.  how did they meet?  bikel was managed at the time by herb cohen.
bikel is still a very busy performer.  besides what seems to be a successful yiddish recording career he's also an emmy award winning television and film actor. for more information, here is his official website:

     from: michael erlewine
singer, guitarist, song collector, and author theodore bikel came to new york in 1955 and was soon an integral part of the folk scene in this country. speaking some 17 different languages, bikel was popular in the early and mid 60s performing the songs of many countries, but particularly those of israel.

     from: john scialli (
in 1959, bikel played the original almost-father in-law-of-a- singing-nazi, capt. georg von trapp (aka i'm tu zen, cram ham).  

     from: floandeddi ( - date: 4 jul 1998
i met mr. bikel at a barnes&noble book signing a couple years ago. everybody was having him sign copies of his new book! i  had him sign a cheap looking photo copy of the 200 motels album cover!! asked him if he had fun making that movie and he said "yes".  is theo cool or what?

     from: cosmc (
a new film version of dostoyevsky's crime and punishment is coming soon to theatres near you, starring (that crazy bastard) crispin glover as raskolnikov, and features theodore bikel as koch, a minor character as far as the book is concerned, but who knows how its been treated.

     from: paul hinrichs (
he also played the captain (or at least chief interogator) of the ill-fated german ww-i ship blown up by humphrey bogart and katerine hepburn at the end of "the african queen". i didn't believe it, but i just saw it today, and there he was, right there in the credits!
here's an interview with bikel.  (no zappa content)

     from: john scialli (
before there was 200 motels, there was:
a note of support from the actors' equity association was sent to the cast of hair in boston on april 14, 1970:
"the council of actors' equity association representing all 17,000 performers in the field of theatre throughout the united states and canada wishes to express to you its profound shock and dismay over the repressive and capricious action by local and state authorities in closing down the boston production of 'hair.' censorship is to us an abomination; closing a play for its content, for its ideas, for its setting (even if that setting displays an american flag -since when was there a valid decree as to who would be allowed to display it?) - all this is directly contrary to freedom of expression, freedom of speech, freedom of the arts to flourish. we say: beware; when men can do as they have done in boston then bookburning cannot be far behind.
theodore bikel
presiding officer"

     from: charles ulrich (
theodore bikel starred in fiddler on the roof (not the film, probably on broadway), obviously a role requiring one to sing.

     from: biffyshrew (
and supposedly the movie version was being filmed on the next soundstage while bikel was occupied with _200 motels_, feeling (according to one journalist) like he was in the wrong film...

     from: michael gushulak (
bikel devotes two or three pages of his autobiography to his involvement in *200 motels*.  he says he was quite favourably impressed by zappa in person, but was astonished by the apparent chaos on the movie set.

     from: charles ulrich (
one of bikel's recordings was presumably successful enough for allan sherman to parody it. i don't know what the title or lyrics of bikel's version were (in fact, i'm not sure how i know that he did the original-- hope i'm not mistaken), but sherman's version was called "me":

counting both feet, i have ten toes
they're not lady toes; they're men toes
and i keep them as mementos
for i love them tenderly

all my hands are full of fingers
very good as doorbell ringers
and the thought of fingers lingers
in my haunted memory

in the middle is my carcass
and i always dress my carcass
in the best from neiman marcus
that's a big store in big d

there are other things about me
which i'll show you if you doubt me
things that would not work without me
like my elbow and my knee

on my face: two eyebrows
they're not your brows; they're my brows
behind those eyebrows
that's where you'll find...



1955 israeli folk songs

1958 an actor’s holiday

1958 folk songs of israel

1958 a young man and a maid (with cynthia gooding)

1958 theodore bikel sings jewish folk songs

1958 songs of a russian gypsy                                            

1959 folk songs from just about everywhere (with geula gill),

1959 more jewish folk songs

1959 bravo bikel! (live from carnegie hall)

1960 songs of russia old and new

1960 the sound of music (original broadway cast)

1961 from bondage to freedom, elektra

1962 a harvest of israeli folk songs

1962 the poetry and prophesy of the old testamenta

1962 the best of bikel

1963 evening concerts: newport folk fest

1963 theodore bikel on tour

1964 a folksinger’s choice

1964 the king and i

1967 yiddish theatre and folk songs

1967 songs of the earth (with the pennywhistlers)

1968 theodore bikel is tevye

1969 various artists- the 1969 warner/reprise record show

1970 various artists- schlagers!

1970 a new day

1971 frank zappa- frank zappa's 200 motels

1972 greatest folksingers of 60s

1972 silent no more (soviet jewish underground)

1973 theodore bikel for the young

1987 broadway magic: the 60's

1987 theodore bikel sings jewish holiday songs

1990 sing for freedom: civil rights move

1991 smithsonian collection of folk song

1991 sings yiddish theatre ...

1991 folk song america, vol. 2

1991 yiddish theatre & folk songs

1991 a passover story

1992 a chanukkah story

1992 songs of a russian gypsy

1992 theodore bikel sings jewish folk songs

1992 theodore bikel sings more jewish folk songs

1993 seeger, pete- live at newport

1993 rodgers & hammerstein- rodgers & hammerstein songbook

1994 my fair lady- my fair lady [o.s.t.]

1994 collins, judy- live at newport

1995 chanukkah story- chanukkah story 

1996 rise up and fight–songs of jewish partisans

1997 golden throats volume 4: celebrities butcher the songs of the beatles (bikel covers "piggies".)

1998 theodore bikel: a taste of passover

     passover: the jewish experience

     chanukkah: the jewish experience

     classic holiday songs

     gimpel the fool & other stories

     jerusalem shining still

     zlateh the goat & other stories

     call of the wild




1951 the african queen- first officer

1952 moulin rouge- milo iv, king of serbia

1953 never let me go- russian patrol boat cop

1953 desperate moment- anton

1953 the little kidnappers

1954 chance meeting

1954 the divided heart 

1954 forbidden cargo- max

1955 above us the waves- german officer

1955 the colditz story- vandy

1956 flight from vienna

1957 the pride and the passion- general jouvet

1957 the enemy below- schwaffer

1958 the defiant ones- sheriff max muller

1958 fräulein

1958 i bury the living- andy mckee

1958 i want to live!- carl palmberg

1959 the angry hills - tassos

1959 the blue angel- klepert

1959 a dog of flanders- piet

1959 woman obsessed 

1963 man on the run

1964 my fair lady- zoltan karpathy

1965 sands of the kalahari- dr. bondrachai

1966 the russians are coming! the russians are coming!- the russian captain

1968 the desperate ones- kisielev

1968 sweet november- alonzo

1969 my side of the mountain- bando

1970 darker than amber- meyer

1971 frank zappa's 200 motels- rance muhammitz

1972 the little ark- the captain

1972 killer by night(tv)- sergeant phil gold

1975 murder on flight 502 (tv)

1976 victory at entebbe (tv)- yakov

1977 columbo: bye-bye sky-high i.q. the murder case (tv)- oliver brandt

1977 testimony of two men (mini-tv series)

1978 loose change (mini-tv series)- tom feiffer

1979 return of the king (tv)

1984 prince jack- the russian

1986 very close quarters- victor

1987 dark tower

1988 a stoning in fulham county (tv)- abe moser

1989 the true story of 200 motels

1989 see you in the morning- bronie

1989 christine cromwell: things that go bump in the night (tv)

1989 the final days (tv)

1991 shattered- doctor berkus

1991 sidney sheldon's memories of midnight (mini-tv series)- napoleon chotas

1992 crisis in the kremlin- leo

1993 my family treasure- grandpa danieloff

1993 benefit of the doubt- gideon lee

1997 shadow conspiracy- professor pochenko

1998 babylon 5: in the beginning (tv)- lenonn



other tv appearances:

1."burning zone, the" (1996) playing "old priest" in episode: "st. michael's nightmare" 9/17/1996

2."babylon 5" (1993) playing "rabbi koslov" in episode: "tko" (episode # 1.14) 5/25/1994

3."law & order" (1990) in episode: "snatched" 1/12/1994

4."star trek: the next generation" (1987) playing "sergei rozhenko" in episode:

   "family" (episode # 4.2) 9/29/1990

5."murder, she wrote" (1984) playing "prof. crenshaw" in episode: "indian giver"

   (episode # 4.10) 11/29/1987

6."knight rider" (1982) playing "graham deauville" in episode: "16 'chariot of gold" 1984

7."charlie's angels" (1976) playing "prof. wycinski" in episode: "angels on a string"

   (episode # 1.15) 1/19/1977

8."cannon" (1971) playing "mike tampa" in episode: "blood on the vine" 1972

9."hawaii five-o" (1968) playing "erich stoss" in episode: "sweet terror"

   (episode # 2.30) 11/5/1969

10."mission: impossible" (1966) playing "general casimir zepke" in episode:

   "cardinal, the" (episode # 3.6) 11/17/1968

11."gunsmoke" (1955) playing "martin kellums" in episode: "song for dying"

   (episode # 10.21) 2/13/1965

12."twilight zone, the" (1959) playing "oliver crangle" in episode: "four o'clock" 4/6/1962

13."wagon train" (1957) in episode: "dr. denker story, the" (episode # 5.18) 1/31/1962

14."u.s. steel hour, the" (1953) in episode: "hunted" 12/5/1956


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