NEW YORK (AP) _ T.E. Kalem, drama critic for Time magazine since 1961 and a two-time president of the New York Drama Critic's Circle, has died of cancer. He was 65.

Kalem died Wednesday at Memorial-Sloan Kettering Hospital.

He joined Time in 1950 as a book reviewer, and soon became popular for his polished aphorism and quick, witty appraisal. He was a master of the brief, pointed review written without malice.

After more than a decade as a drama critic, Kalem said, ''Only a man with an iron stomach could stand the job unless he loves the theater, even abysmally bad theater. I would have quit long ago if I didn't feel the pinprick of excitment every time the curtain went up.''

Born Theodoros Kalemkierides in Malden, Mass., he attended Boston Latin School before graduating cum laude from Harvard University in 1942. He served in the U.S. Army for 31/2 years and won a bronze star in the Philippines campaign.

After the war, he went to Boston, where he started a weekly stock market letter. In 1948, he began attending the theater diligently and wrote book reviews for the Christian Science Monitor.

Here is a sample of some of Kalem's appraisals:

Of Tom Stoppard, he found it ''hard to say whether he preys on words or words prey on him.'' Sam Sheppard, he said, had a ''singular gift for lunging simultaneously at the jugular and the funny bone.'' Tennessee Williams was ''the laureate of the outcast ... the odd, the lonely, the emotionally violated.'' The play ''My One and Only,'' Kalem wrote ''inhales adrenaline and exhales formaldyhyde,'' and of the Elizabeth Taylor-Richard Burton production of a Noel Coward play, the critic said, ''Coward may have written 'Private Lives' but Midas cast this revival.''

Kalem is survived by his wife, Helen, and three children, Marina, Theodore and John.