Prolific U.S. character actor Eli Wallach dies at 98 - NYT

WASHINGTON Wed Jun 25, 2014 1:35pm IST

Actor Eli Wallach accepts a Career Achievement award during the 2006 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Awards gala in New York January 9, 2007. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson/Files

Actor Eli Wallach accepts a Career Achievement award during the 2006 National Board of Review of Motion Pictures Awards gala in New York January 9, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson/Files

Rajalakshmi (C), 28, smiles after winning the Miss Wheelchair India beauty pageant in Mumbai November 26, 2014. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Miss Wheelchair India

Seven women from across India participated in the country's second wheelchair beauty pageant, which aims to open doors for the wheelchair-bound in modelling, film and television, according to organisers  Slideshow 

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Eli Wallach, an early practitioner of method acting who made a lasting impression as the scuzzy bandit Tuco in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly", died on Tuesday at the age of 98, the New York Times reported.

Wallach appeared on the big screen well into his 90s in Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer" and Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" sequel and other films.

"It's what I wanted to do all my life," Wallach said of his work in an interview in 2010.

Having grown up the son of Polish Jewish immigrants in an Italian-dominated neighborhood in New York, Wallach might have seemed an unlikely cowboy, but some of his best work was in Westerns. Many critics thought his definitive role was Calvera, the flamboyant, sinister bandit chief in "The Magnificent Seven". Others preferred him in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" as Tuco, who was "the ugly", opposite Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti Western.

Years later, Wallach said strangers would recognize him and start whistling the distinctive theme from the film.

Wallach graduated from the University of Texas, where he picked up the horseback-riding skills that would serve him well in later cowboy roles, and studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse Actors Studio before World War Two broke out.

DYNAMIC ACTOR, PROLIFIC CAREER

"Wallach is the quintessential chameleon, effortlessly inhabiting a wide range of characters, while putting his inimitable stamp on every role," the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which gave him an honorary Oscar in 2010, wrote in a profile on its website.

After serving as an Army hospital administrator during the war, he found work on the New York stage and took classes at the Actor's Studio, which used Method acting in which actors draw on personal memories and emotions to flesh out a role. He appeared in "This Property Is Condemned" and ended up marrying the show's leading lady, Anne Jackson - a marriage that also led to several stage and screen collaborations.

Wallach made a name on Broadway with roles in two Tennessee Williams' works, "Camino Real" and "The Rose Tattoo," for which he won a Tony in 1951, as well as a two-year run in "Mr. Roberts."

His first movie was another Williams work, "Baby Doll" in 1956. Other major films included "How the West Was Won", "Mystic River", "The Holiday", "Lord Jim" and "The Misfits" - in which he starred with Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe with John Huston directing an Arthur Miller script - and "The Godfather Part 3."

Despite the notable movies, Wallach said it was his portrayal of the villain Mr. Freeze on the "Batman" television show of the 1960s that generated the most fan mail.

Wallach titled his autobiography "The Good, the Bad and Me: In My Anecdotage". He and his wife lived in New York and had three children.

The New York Times said his death had been confirmed by his daughter.

(Reporting by Bill Trott in Washington; Additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Andrew Heavens)

Showbiz

REUTERS SHOWCASE

Jamini Roy

Jamini Roy

Photo Gallery – Bengali household name Jamini Roy’s paintings  Full Article 

A Minute With

A Minute With

'Sunny' Charlie Day on oddballs, 'Horrible Bosses'  Full Article 

Arab Singer Dies

Arab Singer Dies

Lebanese singer Sabah dies at 87  Full Article 

Book Talk

Book Talk

Pack of Thieves? Convict-era Australia stacks the deck  Full Article 

Ferguson Impact

Ferguson Impact

Garth Brooks cancels TV appearances amid Ferguson unrest  Full Article 

Canada Sex Case

Canada Sex Case

Canadian celebrity radio host charged with sexual assault  Full Article 

Broadway in Cuba

Broadway in Cuba

Broadway finds a new stage in an old venue: Cuba  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device  Full Coverage