I am not sure why the name Michael Sarrazin (1940 - 2011) should sound familiar. He was never a big star, but I know I have seen him in several movies and TV shows. He was nominated for the 1969 Golden Globe award for Most Promising Newcomer, and in 1971 for a BAFTA in the same category, but he only has 68 titles listed on IMDb. Most Bit Actors have many more.
His first few acting efforts were short films and small parts on television, mostly in his native Canada. In 1967 he lands a part in Gunfight at Abilene, a western starring Bobby Darin (1936 - 1973) and Leslie Nielsen (1926 - 2010). And no, it wasn't a comedy.
His next film may actually be his biggest claim to fame. He co-starred with George C. Scott (1927 - 1999) in The Flim-Flam Man (1967). The film also starred Sue Lyon (b. 1946) of Lolita (1962) fame, and Harry Morgan (1915 - 2011) who is a real star.
The next year he co-stars with Tony Franciosa (1928 - 2006) in another western, A Man Called Gannon. Funny, but I can't see Franciosa in westerns. I remember him from "Valentines Day" and "The Name of the Game" as a suave sophisticate opposite people like Susan Saint James (b. 1946).
Also in 1968 Michael works with James Caan (b. 1940) in another western, Journey to Shiloh. This must have been Sarrazin's western phase.
In 1969 he has a large part in They Shoot Horses, Don't They with Jane Fonda (b. 1937) and Gig Young (1913 - 1978). The film attracted many Oscar nominations and one win, to Gig for Best Supporting Actor, but none were to go to Sarrazin.
Here's a test for you. What 1970 film starred Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, Lee Remick, Michael Sarrazin and Richard Jaeckel? I didn't know it either, and I have never seen the movie called Sometimes a Great Notion. It is a story about a family of Oregon loggers...their lives and loves...but it may have been mired down by trying to be a drama, action, adventure, soap opera. Someday I'll look for it. (Maybe.)
In the early 1970s Sarrazin starred in a few movies, but not very good ones. Look for him in Pursuit of Happiness (1971), Believe in Me (1971), and The Groundstar Conspiracy (1972). In 1972 he shows up in The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean, but he is way down the cast list. That is a Paul Newman movie all the way.
1975 brings another shot at stardom in The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, with Margot Kidder (b. 1948) and Jennifer O-Neill (b. 1948). Sarrazin has top billing and the title role, but it may just be too late. The next year he has another title role in The Loves and Times of Scaramouche, co-starring Aldo Maccione as Napoleon and Ursula Andress (b. 1936) as Josephine. See what I mean?
His films in the 1980s continue the trend of second rate work. Movies such as Double Negative (1980), The Seduction (1982), Viadukt a Hungarian film from 1983, and Mascara (1987).
He does some more television work and even becomes a regular on "Deep in the City" a Canadian two season series. His final films are Arrival II (1998) and FeardotCom (2002). We won't even talk about them.
Even though the work of Michael Sarrazin wasn't stellar, he was a handsome man, who had a way about him that enhanced the films he was in. He was a true Bit Actor. Michael passed away in April 2011 after battling cancer.