Eli Herschel Wallach (/ˈiːlaɪ ˈwɔːlək/; December 7, 1915 – June 24, 2014) was an American film, television and stage actor whose career spanned more than six decades, beginning in the late 1940s. Trained in stage acting, which he enjoyed doing most, he became "one of the greatest 'character actors' ever to appear on stage and screen", with over 90 film credits. On stage, he often co-starred with his wife, Anne Jackson, becoming one of the best-known acting couples in the American theater. As a stage and screen character actor, Wallach had one of the longest ever careers in show business, spanning 62 years from his Broadway debut to his last major Hollywood studio movie.
Wallach initially studied method acting under Sanford Meisner, and later became a founding member of the Actors Studio, where he studied under Lee Strasberg. His versatility gave him the ability to play a wide variety of different roles throughout his career, primarily as a supporting actor.
For his debut screen performance in Baby Doll (1956), he won a BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer and a Golden Globe Award nomination. Among his other most famous roles are Calvera in The Magnificent Seven (1960), Guido in The Misfits (1961), and Tuco ("The Ugly") in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). Other notable portrayals include outlaw Charlie Gant in How the West Was Won (1962), Hitman Leon B. Little in Tough Guys (1986), 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.
Wallach in 1966
Eli Herschel Wallach
December 7, 1915
|Died||June 24, 2014 (aged 98)|
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of Texas at Austin (B.A.)|
City College of New York (M.Ed.)
Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre
|Known for||Tuco, Calvera, Guido, Don Altobello, Cotton Weinberger, Arthur Abbott, Mr. Freeze, Silva Vacarro|
|The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, The Magnificent Seven, The Godfather Part III, Batman, The Holiday, The Two Jakes, The Misfits, Baby Doll|
(m. 1948; his death 2014)
|Relatives||Joan Wallach Scott (niece) |
A. O. Scott (grandnephew)
|Awards||BAFTA Awards, Tony Awards, Emmy Awards, Honorary Academy Award|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Years of service||1941-unknown|
Wallach was born in Red Hook, Brooklyn, at 156 Union Street, a son of Jewish immigrants Abraham and Bertha (Schorr) Wallach, both from Poland. He had a brother and two sisters, with his family being the only Jews in an otherwise Italian American neighborhood. His parents owned Bertha's Candy Store. Wallach graduated in 1936 from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in history. While at the university, he performed in a play with fellow students Ann Sheridan and Walter Cronkite. In a later interview, Wallach said that he learned to ride horses while in Texas, adding that he liked Texas because "it opened [his] eyes to the word friendship." He explained, "You could rely on people. If they gave you their word, that was it ... It was an education."
Two years later he received a master of arts degree in education from the City College of New York. He gained his first method acting experience at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre in New York City, where he studied under Sanford Meisner. There, according to Wallach, actors were forced to "unlearn" all their physical and vocal mannerisms, while traditional stage etiquette and "singsong" deliveries were "utterly excised" from his classroom.
Wallach's education was cut short when he was drafted into the United States Army in January 1941. He served as staff sergeant in a military hospital in Hawaii and later sent to Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Abilene, Texas to train as a medical administrative officer. Commissioned a second lieutenant, he was ordered to Casablanca. Later, when he was serving in France, a senior officer noticed his acting career and asked him to create a show for the patients. He and his unit wrote a play called Is This the Army?, which was inspired by Irving Berlin's This Is the Army. In the comedy, Wallach and the other actors mocked Axis dictators, with Wallach portraying Adolf Hitler.
Wallach took classes in acting at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School in New York with the influential German director Erwin Piscator. He later became a founding member of the Actors Studio, taught by Lee Strasberg. There, he studied more method acting technique with founding member Robert Lewis, and with other students including Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Herbert Berghof, Sidney Lumet, and his soon-to-be wife, Anne Jackson. Wallach became Marilyn Monroe's first new friend when she became a student at the Actors Studio, once insisting on watching him perform in The Teahouse of the August Moon from the backstage wings, simply to see up close how experienced actors perform a two-hour play. She also became friends with his wife, Anne Jackson, also studying at the Studio, and would visit the couple at their home and sometimes babysit their new child.
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 (in which director Charles Laughton discouraged Wallach's established method acting style), 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 exposed Americans to the work of playwright Eugène Ionesco in plays like The Chairs and The Lesson in 1958, and in 1961 Rhinoceros opposite Zero Mostel. He last starred on stage as the title character in Visiting Mr. Green.
The stage was where Wallach focused his early career. From 1945 to 1950 he and his wife, Anne Jackson, worked together acting in various plays by Tennessee Williams. The five years following, he continued only working on stage, not becoming involved in film work until 1956. During those years, however, they were generally having a hard time making ends meet. He recalls they were getting along on unemployment insurance and living in a one-room, $35 a month apartment on lower Fifth Avenue in the Village. When he did get offered early movie parts, he turned them down with no regrets, and very early in his career he explained his reasoning:
What do I need a movie for? The stage is on a higher level in every way, and a more satisfying medium. Movies, by comparison, are like calendar art next to great paintings. You can't really do very much in movies or in television, but the stage is such an anarchistic medium.
Wallach and Jackson became one of the best-known acting couples in the American theater, as iconic as Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, and Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn, and they looked for opportunities to work together. During an interview, he said of Jackson, "I have tremendous respect and admiration for her as an actress. . . we have a terrific working compatibility when we're in the same play, especially when the play means something important to us." When he did gravitate toward accepting parts in films, he did so to "help pay the bills," he said, adding, "for actors, movies are a means to an end."
Despite the fact that he eventually acted in over 90 films and almost as many television dramas, he continued to accept stage parts throughout his career, often with Jackson. They played in comedies like The Typists and The Tiger in 1963, and acted together in Waltz of the Toreadors in 1973. In 1978 they played in a revival of The Diary of Anne Frank, along with their daughters, and in 1984 they acted in Nest of the Wood Grouse, directed by Joseph Papp. Four years later, in 1988, they acted in a revival of Cafe Crown, a portrait of the Yiddish theatre scene during its prime. They continued acting together as late as 2000, while he also took on roles alone throughout all those years.
Wallach's film debut was in Elia Kazan's controversial 1956 Baby Doll, for which he won the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) as "Most Promising Newcomer." Baby Doll was controversial because of its underlying sexual theme. Director Elia Kazan however, set explicit limits on Wallach's scenes, telling him not to actually seduce Carroll Baker, but instead to create an unfulfilled erotic tension. Kazan later explained his reasoning:
What is erotic about sex to me is the seduction, not the act ... The scene on the swing with Eli Wallach and Carroll Baker in Baby Doll is my exact idea of what eroticism in films should be.
Wallach went on to a prolific career as "one of the greatest 'character actors' ever to appear on stage and screen," notes Turner Classic Movies, acting in over 90 films. Having grown up on the "mean streets" of an Italian American neighborhood, and his versatility as a method actor, Wallach developed the ability to play a wide variety of different roles, although he tried to not get pinned down to any single type of character. "Right now I'm playing an old man," he said at age 84. But "I've been through all the ethnic groups, from Mexican bandits to Italian Mafia heads to Okinawans to half-breeds, and now I'm playing old Jews. Who knows?"
Noting this versatility as a character actor, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences called him "the quintessential chameleon," with the ability to play different characters "effortlessly," and L.A. Times theater critic Charles McNulty saw Wallach's "power to illuminate" his various screen or stage personas as being "radioactive." The Guardian newspaper has written that "Wallach was made for character acting," and includes movie clips from some of his most memorable roles in a tribute to him.
In 1961, Wallach co-starred with Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift and Clark Gable in The Misfits, Monroe's and Gable's last film before their deaths. Wallach never learned why he was cast in the film, although he suspected that Monroe had something to do with it. Its screenwriter, Arthur Miller, who was married to Monroe at the time, said that "Eli Wallach is the happiest good actor I've ever known. He really enjoys the work."
Some of his other films included The Lineup (1958), Lord Jim (1965) with Peter O'Toole, a comic role in How to Steal a Million (1966), again with O'Toole, and Audrey Hepburn, and as Tuco (the 'Ugly') in Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) with Clint Eastwood, followed by other Spaghetti Westerns, such as Ace High. At one point, Henry Fonda had asked Wallach whether he himself should accept a part offered to him to act in a similar Western, Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), which would also be directed by Leone. Wallach said "Yes, you'll enjoy the challenge," and Fonda later thanked Wallach for that advice.
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." In 2003 Wallach acted in Mystic River, produced and directed by Eastwood, who once said "working with Eli Wallach has been one of the great pleasures of my life."
A pivotal moment in Wallach's career came in 1953, when he, along with Frank Sinatra and Harvey Lembeck, tried out for the role of Maggio in the film From Here to Eternity. Sinatra biographer Kitty Kelly notes that while Sinatra's test was good, it had none of the "consummate acting ability" of Wallach. Producer Harry Cohn and director Fred Zinnemann were "dazzled" by Wallach's screen test and wanted him to play the part. However, Wallach had previously been offered an important role in another Tennessee Williams play, Camino Real, to be directed by Elia Kazan, and turned down the movie role. Wallach said that when he learned that the play had finally received financing, he "grabbed" the opportunity: "It was a remarkable piece of writing by the leading playwright in America and it was going to be directed by the country's best. There really wasn't much of a choice for me." The film, however, went on to win eight Academy Awards, including one for Sinatra, which revived his career. Wallach recalled afterwards, "Whenever Sinatra saw me, he’d say, 'Hello, you crazy actor!'" Wallach, however, claimed to have no regrets.
Film historian James Welsh states that during Wallach's career, he appeared in most of the "prestige" television dramas during the "Golden Age" of the 1950s, including Studio One, The Philco Television Playhouse, The Armstrong Circle Theatre, Playhouse 90, and The Hallmark Hall of Fame, among others. He won the 1966–1967 Emmy Award for his role in the telefilm The Poppy is Also a Flower. In 2006 Wallach appeared on NBC's Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, playing a former writer who was blacklisted in the 1950s. His character was a writer on The Philco Comedy Hour, a show that aired on a fictional NBS network. This is a reference to The Philco Television Playhouse, in several episodes of which Wallach actually appeared in 1955. Wallach earned a 2007 Emmy nomination for his work on the show.
During the filming of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Wallach nearly died three times. Once, he accidentally drank a bottle of acid which was placed next to his pop bottle; another time was in a scene where he was about to be hanged, someone fired a pistol which caused the horse underneath him to bolt and run a mile while Wallach's hands were still tied behind his back; in a different scene with him lying on a railroad track, he was close to being decapitated by steps jutting out from the train.
Wallach appeared as DC Comics' supervillain Mr. Freeze in the 1960s Batman television series. He said that he received more fan mail about his role as Mr. Freeze than about all of his other roles combined. He played Gus Farber in the television miniseries Seventh Avenue in 1977, and 10 years later, at the age of 71, he starred alongside Michael Landon in Highway to Heaven episode " A Father's Faith". Three years later he played aging mob boss Don Altobello in the third episode of Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather trilogy.
On November 13, 2010, at the age of 94, Wallach received an Academy Honorary Award for his contribution to the film industry from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. A few years prior to that event, Kate Winslet told another audience that Wallach, with whom she acted in The Holiday in 2006, was one of the "most charismatic men" she'd met, and her "very own sexiest man alive."
Wallach's final performance was in the short film The Train (2015). Wallach plays a holocaust survivor, who in a meeting teaches a self-consumed and preoccupied young man that life can change in a moment. The short was shot in early 2014 and premiered on August 6, 2015 at the Rhode Island International Film Festival.
Between 1984 and 1997, he also did voice overs in a series of commercials for the Toyota Pickup.
Eli Wallach was married to stage actress Anne Jackson (1926–2016) for 66 years from March 5, 1948, until his death. They had three children: Peter (born 1951), Roberta (born 1955), and Katherine (born 1958). Roberta played an epileptic teenager in Paul Zindel's The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds and appeared in several other movies.
A few years before 2005, Wallach lost sight in his left eye as the result of a stroke.
| Mr. Freeze Actor
A Cold Night's Death (also billed as The Chill Factor) is a 1973 made for television movie in the United States. The film was shown on January 30, 1973, on the ABC network.
The film was directed by Jerrold Freedman and starred Robert Culp, Eli Wallach, and Michael C. Gwynne. Culp and Wallach are two research scientists at the Tower Mountain Research Station (based on the University of California's White Mountain Research Station) who are trying to unravel the mysterious death of a colleague.A Lovely Way to Die
A Lovely Way to Die is a 1968 American crime film directed by David Lowell Rich and starring Kirk Douglas, Sylva Koscina, Eli Wallach and Kenneth Haigh.A police officer resigns from the force and becomes a bodyguard to the wife of a wealthy man. When her husband is found dead, he tries to clear her of murder.
The film is notable for two supporting players: Martyn Green, longtime Gilbert and Sullivan specialist and actor/singer/director with the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, makes a rare movie appearance, and Ali MacGraw makes her film debut in a walk-on.Anne Jackson
Anna Jane Jackson (September 3, 1925 – April 12, 2016) was an American actress of stage, screen, and television. She was the wife of actor Eli Wallach, with whom she often co-starred. In 1956, she was nominated for the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her performance in Paddy Chayefsky's Middle of the Night.
In 1963, she won an Obie Award for Best Actress for her performance in two Off-Broadway plays, The Typists and The Tiger.Baby Doll
Baby Doll is a 1956 American black comedy drama film directed by Elia Kazan, and starring Carroll Baker, Karl Malden and Eli Wallach. The film also features Mildred Dunnock and Rip Torn. It was produced by Kazan and Tennessee Williams, and adapted by Williams from his own one-act play 27 Wagons Full of Cotton. The plot focuses on a feud between two rival cotton gin owners in rural Mississippi; after one of the men commits arson against the other's gin, the owner retaliates by attempting to seduce the arsonist's nineteen-year-old virgin bride with the hopes of receiving an admission by her of her husband's guilt.
The film was controversial when it was released due to its implicit sexual themes, provoking a largely successful effort to ban it, waged by the Roman Catholic National Legion of Decency. Nevertheless, the film received multiple nominations for major awards and performed decently at the box office. Kazan won the Golden Globe Award for Best Director and the film was nominated for four other Golden Globe awards, as well as four Academy Awards and four BAFTA Awards awards, with Eli Wallach taking the BAFTA prize for "Most Promising Newcomer to Film."
The film is credited with originating the name and popularity of the babydoll nightgown, which derives from the costume worn by Baker's character. The film was featured in The New York Times' Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made.Cinderella Liberty
Cinderella Liberty is a 1973 American romantic drama film adapted by Daryl Ponicsan from his 1973 novel of the same name. The film tells the story of a sailor who falls in love with a prostitute and becomes a surrogate father for her 10-year-old mixed race son.
Produced and directed by Mark Rydell, the film stars James Caan, Marsha Mason, and Eli Wallach, with a supporting cast that includes Kirk Calloway, Burt Young, Allyn Ann McLerie, Dabney Coleman, Jon Korkes, and Allan Arbus.
The title is derived from the plot point that the sailor, while receiving medical treatment at the Navy base's medical facility, is given what is called a "Cinderella Liberty" pass which allows him to freely leave the naval base as long as he is back by midnight curfew. The film is one of two 1973 film adaptations of Ponicsan's novels, the other being The Last Detail.
Cinderella Liberty was nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Marsha Mason), Best Music, Original Dramatic Score, and Best Music, Song (John Williams and Paul Williams for "Nice to Be Around").
The movie was filmed in Seattle, Washington.Don Altobello
Osvaldo "Ozzie" Altobello is a fictional character and the primary antagonist of the film The Godfather Part III. In the film, he is portrayed by Eli Wallach.Eli Wallach credits
The following is the filmography and credits for American actor Eli Wallach (December 7, 1915 – June 24, 2014). He started acting in 1945 and is known for his film roles as Calvera in The Magnificent Seven (1960), Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), Napoleon in The Adventures of Gerard (1970), Cotton Weinberger in The Two Jakes (1990), Don Altobello in The Godfather Part III (1990), Donald Fallon in The Associate (1996), Arthur Abbott in The Holiday (2006), Noah Dietrich in The Hoax (2007), and Julie Steinhardt in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010), which was the last film he appeared in before retiring in 2010.He has also appeared in numerous television series, most known for playing Mr. Freeze in two episodes of Batman in 1967.Genghis Khan (1965 film)
Genghis Khan is a 1965 Technicolor film depicting the life and conquests of the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan in Panavision. It was released in the United Kingdom and the United States in 1965 by Columbia Pictures, it was directed by Henry Levin and featured Omar Sharif, who that same year starred in another epic, Doctor Zhivago. The film also included James Mason, Stephen Boyd, Eli Wallach, Françoise Dorléac and Telly Savalas.
A 70 mm version of the film was released by CCC Film in West Germany. It was filmed in Yugoslavia.How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life
How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life is a 1968 film directed by Fielder Cook. It stars Dean Martin, Stella Stevens and husband and wife Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson.Independence (1976 film)
Independence is a 1976 docudrama film directed by John Huston and starring Eli Wallach, Pat Hingle and Anne Jackson. E.G. Marshall narrates.
Independence was produced for the U.S. National Park Service on the occasion of the Bicentennial of the United States in 1976. In less than 30 minutes, visitors to Independence National Historical Park get a quick and dramatic overview of the political events that took place in Philadelphia between 1774 and 1800.Mistress (1992 film)
Mistress is a 1992 comedy-drama film starring Robert De Niro, Danny Aiello, Eli Wallach, Robert Wuhl and Martin Landau. The picture was written by Barry Primus and J.F. Lawton and directed by Primus.Movie Movie
Movie Movie is a 1978 American double bill directed by Stanley Donen. It consists of two films, Dynamite Hands, a boxing ring morality play, and Baxter's Beauties of 1933, a musical comedy, both starring the husband-and-wife team of George C. Scott and Trish Van Devere. A fake trailer for a flying-ace movie set in World War I entitled Zero Hour (also starring Scott) is shown between the double feature.
Barry Bostwick, Red Buttons, Art Carney and Eli Wallach also appear in both segments, with Harry Hamlin, Barbara Harris and Ann Reinking featured in one each. The script was written by Larry Gelbart and Sheldon Keller.Seven Thieves
Seven Thieves is a 1960 20th Century Fox film noir crime drama motion picture shot in CinemaScope. It stars Edward G. Robinson, Rod Steiger, Joan Collins and Eli Wallach.
Directed by Henry Hathaway and produced by Sydney Boehm, it was adapted for the screen by Sydney Boehm, based on the 1959 novel The Lions At The Kill by Max Catto. Technical advisor was Candy Barr, who, as choreographer, taught dance routines to Collins.
Seven Thieves received an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design Black-and-White (Bill Thomas).The Moon-Spinners
The Moon-Spinners is a 1964 American Walt Disney Productions action adventure feature film starring Hayley Mills, Eli Wallach and Peter McEnery in a story about a jewel thief hiding on the island of Crete. The film was based upon a 1962 suspense novel by Mary Stewart and was directed by James Neilson. The Moon-Spinners was Mills' fifth of six films for Disney, and featured the legendary silent film actress Pola Negri in her final screen performance.The People Next Door (1970 film)
The People Next Door is a 1970 American drama film directed by David Greene and starring Eli Wallach and Julie Harris. JP Miller adapted the screenplay from his 1968 CBS Playhouse teleplay.The Poppy Is Also a Flower
The Poppy Is Also a Flower is a 1966 ABC made-for-television spy and anti-drug film. It was originally made under the auspices of the United Nations as part of a series of television specials designed to promote the organization's work. The film was directed by Terence Young and stars Yul Brynner, Omar Sharif, Eli Wallach, Angie Dickinson, Senta Berger, Stephen Boyd, Trevor Howard, Rita Hayworth and Marcello Mastroianni. Grace Kelly (as Princess Grace of Monaco) narrates.The film was also known by alternate titles Poppies Are Also Flowers, The Opium Connection, and Danger Grows Wild (in the UK).The Tiger Makes Out
The Tiger Makes Out is a 1967 American black comedy film directed by Arthur Hiller and starring Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson. The plot concerns a kidnapper and his unintended victim. Making a brief appearance is Dustin Hoffman in his film debut.Tickling Leo
Tickling Leo is a 2009 independent drama film about three generations of a Jewish family whose silence about their past has kept them apart. The film was directed by Jeremy Davidson, and stars Lawrence Pressman, Daniel Sauli, Annie Parisse, Eli Wallach, Ronald Guttman and Victoria Clark.
Awards for Eli Wallach