Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Legendary, Multi-Faceted Actor Dead At 98

You may remember him as one of the distinctive characters in The Godfather.
Or you may recall his lighthearted performance in How To Steal A Million.
Or from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly.
Or for his breakthrough role in Baby Doll.
Or his many appearances on television.

His face was as familiar to us as any actor of his generation -- and he kept working and kept getting important roles far longer than most.

He's Eli Wallach and he has passed on at age 98.

He was a film, television and stage actor whose career spanned more than six decades, beginning in the late 1940s. For his performance as Silva Vacarro in Baby Doll, he won a BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer and a Golden Globe nomination. Among his most famous roles are Calvera in The Magnificent Seven (1960), Guido in The Misfits (1961), and Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). 

Other notable portrayals include Don Altobello in The Godfather Part III, Cotton Weinberger in The Two Jakes (both 1990), and Arthur Abbott in The Holiday (2006). One of America's most prolific screen actors, Wallach remained active well into his nineties, with roles as recently as 2010 in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and The Ghost Writer.
In 1945 Wallach made his Broadway debut and he won a Tony Award in 1951 for his performance alongside Maureen Stapleton in the Tennessee Williams play The Rose Tattoo. His other theater credits include Mister Roberts, The Teahouse of the August Moon, Camino Real, Major Barbara, Luv, and Staircase, co-starring Milo O'Shea, which was a serious depiction of an aging homosexual couple. He also played a role in a tour of Antony and Cleopatra, produced by the actress Katharine Cornell in 1946. He last starred on stage as the title character in Visiting Mr. Green.

Wallach's film debut was in Elia Kazan's controversial 1956 Baby Doll, for which he won the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) for "Most Promising Newcomer." He went on to a prolific career in films, although rarely in a starring role. Other early films include The Lineup, The Misfits with Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, The Magnificent Seven with Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen, Lord Jim with Peter O'Toole, a comic role in How to Steal a Million with Audrey Hepburn, and as Tuco (the 'Ugly') in Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with Clint Eastwood followed by several other spaghetti westerns, including Ace High. Wallach and Eastwood became friends during the filming of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and he recalled their off-work time together: "Clint was the tall, silent type. He's the kind where you open up and do all the talking. He smiles and nods and stores it all away in that wonderful calculator of a brain."
Wallach was born on December 7, 1915 in Brooklyn, NY, to Jewish parents who emigrated from Poland, and was one of the few Jewish kids in his mostly Italian neighborhood. He went on to graduate with a B.A. from the University of Texas in Austin, but gained his dramatic training with the Actors Studio and the Neighborhood Playhouse.

Wallach received BAFTA Awards, Tony Awards and Emmy Awards for his work, and received an Honorary Academy Award at the 2nd Annual Governors Awards, presented on November 13, 2010.

Eli Wallach was very much a family man who remained married to his wife Anne Jackson for 66 years. He is survived by his wife, three children, five grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.

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