Sad news: Acclaimed character actor Eli Wallach, best known for roles in “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” and “The Magnificent Seven,” has died. He was 98.
His son, Peter, told the Associated Press his father died on natural causes “The best way to honor him is to put on one of his movies,” he said. “Put on ‘Baby Doll’ or ‘Magnificent Seven.’ Those live forever.”
Wallach has been a fixture of theater and film since the ’50s: He won a Tony Award in 1951 for his performance as Alvaro in Tennessee Williams’s “The Rose Tattoo,” and made his film debut five years later in the Elia Kazan’s “Baby Doll,” as a seductive salesman who targets naive young bride Caroll Baker.
He played the villainous Calvera in 1960’s “The Magnificent Seven,” (a remake of “Seven Samurai”) in which oppressed Mexican villagers hire freelance muscle to take him out. He was also Tuco “The Ugly” in Sergio Leone’s 1966 spaghetti western starring Clint Eastwood (“The Good”) and Lee Van Cleef (“The Bad.”)
Wallach is survived by his wife of 66 years, Anne Jackson, their three children, and his grandnephew A.O. Scott, a film critic for the New York Times.
The actor never won an Oscar (and, shockingly, was never nominated) but received an Honorary Oscar in 2010. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hailed him as “the quintessential chameleon, effortlessly inhabiting a wide range of characters, while putting his inimitable stamp on every role.”
He famously turned down the role that won Frank Sinatra an Oscar in “From Here to Eternity.” Wallach said in a 2004 interview, “Whenever Sinatra saw me [after that], he’d say, ‘Hello, you crazy actor!’”
His most recent films include “Mystic River,” “The Holiday,” “The Ghost Writer,” and “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.”
This controversial 1956 film, based on a Tennesse Williams play, was Wallach’s film debut. He played Silvo Vacarro, who seduces business rival Karl Malden’s young bride (Caroll Baker).
In his second film (directed by Don Siegel), Wallach played a psychopathic killer named Dancer who’s involved in an international drug-smuggling racket.
The Magnificent Seven
In one of Wallach’s best-known films, he played Calvera, a Mexican bandit leader whose tyranny prompts the local villagers to hire seven gunslingers — Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Brad Dexter, and Horst Buchholz — to protect them.
This John Huston film was the last movie for both stars Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. Wallach played Guido, one of Gable’s cowboy pals who are rounding up wild mustangs in Nevada.
Wallach was one of a series of colorful bad guys on the 1960s TV series “Batman.” He played Mr. Freeze, who must wear a cryogenic suit to survive after an industrial accident.
The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
If you’ve only seen one Wallach film, chances are it’s this Sergio Leone western, in which he, Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef are looking for a stash of buried Confederate gold.
Maybe not a great classic, but another memorable villain by Wallach. This time, he plays Statos, who menaces Hayley Mills while she’s on vacation in Greece with her aunt (Joan Greenwood). Notable for being silent star Pola Negri’s final film.
The Godfather Part III
In the third “Godfather” film, Wallach was cast as Don Altobello, a former ally of Micheal Corleone who attempts to assassinate him.