He made his Hollywood debut as S.Z. Sakall in the Deanna Durbin-Kay Francis musical It's a Date. He quickly gained attention for his supporting roles in The Devil and Miss Jones (as Charles Coburn's butler), Ball of Fire (as one Gary Cooper's fellow scholars), and Yankee Doodle Dandy (as the naive backer of one of George M. Cohen shows). He was 59 when he played Carl in Casablanca, a role he almost turned down.
In The Film Encyclopedia, Ephraim Katz wrote of Sakall: "Fractured English, flabby jowls, and an excitable personality were his stock-in-trade in a long list of endearing portrayals." That endearing quality earned him the nickname "Cuddles" and, by 1945, he was sometimes billed on screen as S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall.
Sakall appeared in three films with Errol Flynn: the Westerns San Antonio and Montana and the comedy Never Say Goodbye (one of my favorites among his films). He played three characters named Felix (Christmas in Connecticut, My Dream Is Yours, and Painting the Clouds with Sunshine). For me, his finest hour was as Barbara Stanwyck's befuddled friend and "ghost cook" in Christmas in Connecticut, who announces "catatroph!" when things are bad and "everything hunky dunky" when they're good.
S.Z. "Cuddles" Sakall's last film was an adaptation of the operetta The Student Prince in 1954. He died of a heart attack the following year.