Eli Wallach passed away wednesday from natural causes, he was 98 years old. Best known for his roles as Tuco in the Italian Western “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. Mr. Freeze in the television series “Batman” and as Calvera in the American Western “The Magnificent Seven”. Wallach was also a stage actor who developed his “method acting” whilst appearing in the productions of “The Rose Tattoo”, “Mister Roberts” and “Teahouse of the August Moon”.
Born on December 7, 1915 in Brooklyn, New York. When he graduated from high school, Wallach left New York and attended the University of Texas at Austin. It was an experience that changed his life and opened him to a whole new world. After graduating from UTA with a B.A. in History, he headed back to New York to further expand upon stage acting (he started out by appearing in a few productions whilst at UTA). During his time at the Neighborhood Playhouse he studied “method acting” under the tutelage of Sanford Meisner.
Wallach was drafted into the U.S. Army and served as a staff sergeant and later a 2nd class lieutenant. During his service in the military, he found time to continue and develop his foray into stage acting by participating in plays and even writing one based upon the war. After being discharged from the Army, Wallach went back to New York and continued with theatrical acting. He became a founding member of the Actors Studio and learned more about “method acting” from Lee Strasberg. In 1951 he won a Tony Award for his performance in the play “The Rose Tattoo”.
Eli Wallach acted in bit roles on television before making the transition to the cinema. His first role on the silver screen was the film “Baby Doll” (a film written by Tennessee Williams) directed by Elia Kazan that earned him a 1957 BAFTA Award for “Most Promising Newcomer to Film.” He continued to act on the stage, the silver and small screen and co-starred in such films as “The Misfits”, “How the West Was Won”, “Lord Jim”, “The Two Jakes”, “The Godfather: Part III” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”.
Wallach had a very long career in cinema. He was a reliable character actor who could always chew the scenery with some of the best in the business. His contributions to the film industry were finally rewarded in 2011 when he was awarded with an honorary Academy Award for a “Lifetime’s worth of indelible screen characters”. Eli Wallach was the quintessential character actor. Whether it was playing a shady bandito, an aging mafioso, a cranky old man or a military officer he was one of the best and he will be missed.
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