|Paramus, NJ||March 17, 2022|
Not every star of the film 12 Angry Men has a gravesite to visit. Of the seven who do, the first I saw was — fittingly — Martin Balsam, who played Juror 1 in the 1957 classic. Balsam died while on vacation in Italy in 1996. His body was cremated and his ashes are kept in Paramus, New Jersey, in the building at the front of the joint Cedar Park & Beth El Cemeteries.
When I went to Cedar Park & Bethel El in 2022, the internet resource Find a Grave did not provide enough information to guide me to Balsam’s gravesite unassisted. An employee at the information desk wrote down his niche’s location on a paper and then directed me to a separate office, where I handed the directions to a suited man who walked me to my destination. Should anyone reading this wish to visit Martin Balsam, I can now provide instructions on how to find him. Upon entering the office and mausoleum building, turn left and head through the entryway for the Sanctuary of Abraham & Sarah. Bear to the right as you go through the chapel, passing by a series of pews. Proceed through the doorway to the right of the altar.
Once beyond the chapel, advance straight down the hallway, beyond the large letters mounted vertically that comprise the name “PRESSMAN.” When you exit that hallway and go through another pair of glass doors, you will find yourself in a vast room. Ahead, up a staircase, is the Italian marble Tree of Life. On the right, closer to the glass doors you came through, are crypts which display the surnames Cohen and Goldstein. Martin Balsam’s cremation niche is on the opposite wall and faces the Cohen and Goldstein graves. Balsam is in the first column, five rows up from the bottom.
As another way to aid people who want to pay their respects to the actor in the future, I added GPS coordinates to his Find a Grave virtual memorial. It is possible for pinpoints to be moved purposely or inadvertently by users on Find a Grave, though, so as great of a resource as that database is, I cannot guarantee eternal accuracy of its GPS coordinates. However, the coordinates on this webpage are locked-in and reliable. Scroll down to see Balsam’s location on the map.
When the second cemetery employee I encountered read the note with the name and location of the decedent I wanted to visit, he remarked, “Because you’re a fan, right?” At that point I had seen Balsam perform in seven films apart from 12 Angry Men, including Psycho, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Cape Fear remake. He also acted in my favorite historical drama, All the President’s Men, and in two episodes of one of my most treasured television series, The Twilight Zone. Yet at the time of my visit I was unaware I was in the presence of an Oscar-winner: Balsam was the recipient of the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1966. He was honored for his work in the previous year’s movie, A Thousand Clowns. His trophies were not limited to film roles, though; in April 1968, Balsam received a Tony Award for his acting in the Broadway production, You Know I Can’t Hear You When the Water’s Running.
Born: November 4, 1919 in New York, New York
Spouses: Pearl Somner (m. 1952-1954); Joyce Van Patten (m. 1957-1962); Irene Miller (m. 1963-1987)
Academy Award: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (1966)
Tony Award: Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play (1968)
Died: February 13, 1996 in Rome, Italy
Cause of Death: Stroke
Interment: Cedar Park & Beth El Cemeteries, Paramus, New Jersey
"Thank you. I've just seen all those movies [that my fellow Best Supporting Actor nominees appeared in] -- I don't know what to say now. I'm elated, I'm delighted, I'm stunned."
- Martin Balsam
April 18, 1966 in his acceptance speech for Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the 38th Academy Awards, held at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Santa Monica, California
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Oscars. “Martin Balsam Wins Supporting Actor: 1966 Oscars.” YouTube video, 2:43. January 22, 2013. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vx4BcEIqo-k.
Van Gelder, Lawrence. “Martin Balsam Is Dead at 76; Ubiquitous Character Actor.” New York Times. February 14, 1996. Page D19. https://www.nytimes.com/1996/02/14/nyregion/martin-balsam-is-dead-at-76-ubiquitous-character-actor.html.