Eli Wallach 1915-2014
Eli Wallach was an American original and, some would say a national treasure. Born in Brooklyn and with a college degree in education, Wallach came into serious acting relatively late, after serving in World War 2, studying at the Actor’s studio with a generation of great American actors including Marlon Brando and Paul Newman. Whether playing a bandit in The Magnificent Seven, a misfit in The Misfits or one of the seemingly endless string of Italian American character roles he seemed destined to give inimitable life to, the Honorary Academy Award-winning Wallach brought a vital truth to stage and screen. The Golden Globe nominated actor (for Elia Kazan’s Baby Doll in 1957) was equally at home in a Tennessee Williams Broadway play, a Clifford Odets teleplay or as Mr. Freeze in the original Batman series, not to mention as unforgettable outlaw Tuco in Sergio Leone’s The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. In 2006, at the age of 91, the Jewish actor told the HFPA “I’ve made 80 movies. In the first 7 or 8 I was playing Italian gangsters. Then I played a Greek thief for Disney. Then I played half-breeds in the jungle in Cambodia. Now I’m finally getting to the Jewish stage”. Aside from Kazan and Leone, Wallach worked with such directors as John Huston, Oliver Stone, Francis Ford Coppola and Roman Polanski. As he told us in 2006: “The people I worked with enriched my life. I mean I’ve been directed by Kazan, Huston and Don Siegel and Leone. I’ve acted on stage with Charles Laughton, Henry Fonda (….), Zero Mostel….and I was lucky to get good material to act in so that I feel I’m richer for what I’ve gone through”. We feel the same for having witnessed his work.