Legendary character actor Eli Wallach died at the age of 98 on June 24, his daughter Katherine confirmed to The New York Times. His career spanned over six decades working in the theater, on film and in television.
Here’s what you need to know about “the quintessential chameleon” actor Eli Wallach:
1.The Academy Never Nominated Him for a Film Role
Wallach never received a nomination for his work in film from the Academy of Arts and Sciences never honored Wallach with an Oscar nomination. The Academy did bestow upon the actor its Honorary Recipient award at the 2010 Governors Awards.
Watch Wallach’s funny and genuine acceptance speech above:
He won a Tony Award in 1951 for his role in the Tennessee Williams’ play The Rose Tattoo. He received a Golden Globe nomination for his film debut in Elia Kazan’s 1956 box office hit Baby Doll.
2. Wallach Received Fan Mail From Pope Benedict XVI
Wallach wrote in his autobiography The Good, The Bad, and Me: In My Anecdotage, he received more fan mail for playing Mr. Freeze on TV’s 1960s Batman series than any of his other roles combined. An interesting piece of fan mail not about his villainous Batman character came from Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, he told CBS News:
I got a letter from the Pope about four months ago, this Pope. He said, ‘One of my favorite movies is The Magnificent Seven.’ And I thought, ‘I don’t understand. I’m a killer in that. I kill people. Why is he so excited about me killing people?’
3. He Served as an Army Medic in World War II
During World War II, Wallach first served as a United States Army staff sergeant at a military hospital in Hawaii. He then attended the Officer Candidate School in Abilene, Texas to train as a medical administrative officer and graduated as a second lieutenant, eventually rising to captain. He deployed to Casablanca and then moved on to France.
Serving in France during the later years of the war, one of his superiors learned about his acting background and recruited him to put together a group to perform plays for the patients, according to Wallach’s Wikipedia page:
He and other members from his unit wrote a play called Is This the Army?, which was inspired by Irving Berlin’s This Is the Army. In the comedic play, Wallach and the other men clowned around as various dictators, with Wallach portraying Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany.
4. Wallach And His Wife of 66 Years Met in an Acting Class
Wallach married stage actress Anne Jackson on March 5, 1948 and they were married ever since. Jackson survives her husband along with their three children Peter, Roberta and Katherine.
According toThe New York Times Wallach and Jackson were one of the best-known acting couples in American theater. Wallach told the Times in 1973 that acting was what paid the bills.
For actors, movies are a means to an end… I go and get on a horse in Spain for 10 weeks, and I have enough cushion to come back and do a play.
5. Wallach and Clint Eastwood Shared a Bed Filming ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’
The actor didn’t have many starring roles, but the film roles he was offered did tend to be of the villainous sort. “I do seem to keep getting cast as the bad guys,” he once said according to The New York Times.
He starred opposite Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as the Mexican bandit Tuco. The two became good friends off screen, especially when their apartment in Italy during filming only had one bed, Wallach told CBS News:
The beds were this wide,” he recalled. “So Clint said, ‘Which side of the bed you want?’ And I thought, ‘I don’t know.’ I was very radical, so I said, ‘I’ll take the left side.’
In Lord Jim with Peter O’Toole he was the jungle tyrant The General. His character in The Godfather: Part III was the doomed Mafia boss Don Altobello.