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Jack Palance

during the filming of The Godchild (1974)
Born Volodymyr Palahniuk
February 18, 1919(1919-02-18)
Hazle Township, Pennsylvania, United States
Died November 10, 2006 (aged 87)
Montecito, California,
United States
Other name(s) Jack Brazzo
Walter Palance
Walter J. Palance
Walter Jack Palance
Occupation Actor
Years active 1947–2004
Spouse(s) Virginia Baker (1949 – 1968) (divorced) 3 children
Elaine Rogers (1987 – 2006) (his death)

Jack Palance (February 18, 1919 – November 10, 2006) was a Ukrainian American film actor. With his rugged facial features, Palance was best known to modern movie audiences as both the characters of Curly and Duke in the two City Slickers movies, the first for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, but his career spanned half a century of film and television appearances.

Contents

Early life

Palance, one of five children, was born Volodymyr Palahniuk (Ukrainian: Володимир Палагнюк) in the Lattimer Mines section of Hazle Township, Pennsylvania, the son of Anna (née Gramiak) and Ivan Palahniuk, who was an anthracite coal miner.[1] Palance's parents were Ukrainian immigrants,[2][3] his father a native of Ivane Zolote in Southwestern Ukraine and his mother from the Lviv region.[4] He worked in coal mines during his youth before becoming a boxer.

In the late 1930s, Palance started a professional boxing career. Fighting under the name Jack Brazzo, Palance reportedly compiled a record of 15 consecutive victories with 12 knockouts before fighting the future heavyweight contender Joe Baksi in a "Pier-6" brawl. Palance lost a close decision,[5][6] and recounted: "Then, I thought, you must be nuts to get your head beat in for $200".[7]

With the outbreak of the Second World War, Palance's boxing career ended and his military career began as a member of the United States Army Air Forces. Palance's rugged face, which took many beatings in the boxing ring, was disfigured when he bailed out of a burning B-24 Liberator bomber while on a training flight over southern Arizona, where he was a student pilot. Plastic surgeons repaired the damage as best they could, but he was left with a distinctive, somewhat gaunt, look. After much reconstructive surgery, he was discharged in 1944.

Palance graduated from Stanford University in 1947 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Drama. During his university years, to make ends meet he also worked as a short order cook, waiter, soda jerk, lifeguard at Jones Beach State Park, and photographer's model.

Career

Palance's acting break came as Marlon Brando's understudy in A Streetcar Named Desire, and he eventually replaced Brando on stage as Stanley Kowalski.

In 1947, Palance made his Broadway debut, and this was followed three years later by his screen debut in the movie Panic in the Streets (1950). The very same year, he was featured in Halls of Montezuma about the U.S. Marines in World War II, where he was credited as "Walter (Jack) Palance". Palance was quickly recognized for his skill as a character actor, receiving an Oscar nomination for only his third film role, as Lester Blaine in Sudden Fear.

Palance earned his second Oscar nomination playing cold-blooded gunfighter Jack Wilson in 1953's cinema classic Shane

The following year, Palance was again nominated for an Oscar, this time for his role as the hired gunfighter Jack Wilson in Shane. Several other Western roles followed, but he also played such varied roles as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula and Attila the Hun.

In 1957, Palance won an Emmy for best actor for his portrayal of Mountain McClintock in the Playhouse 90 production of Rod Serling's Requiem for a Heavyweight.

Jean-Luc Godard persuaded Palance to take on the role of Hollywood producer Jeremy Prokosch in the 1963 nouvelle vague movie Le Mépris, with Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli. Although the main dialogue was in French, Palance spoke mostly English.

While still busy making movies, in the 1960s Palance also released an album of country-Western music for Warner Bros. Records. This happened in 1969 and it recalled the Lee Hazlewood music that was popular at the time. Recorded in Nashville with the usual studio cats, the album is a playful country rock romp not unlike other late 60's Nashville recordings and featured Palance's self penned classic song "The Meanest Guy That Ever Lived". The album was re-released in 2003 by the "Walter" label in CD version.

He starred the 24 episodes series Bronk between 1975 and 1976.

He also hosted (with his daughter Holly Palance) the television series Ripley's Believe It or Not!.

Appearances in Young Guns (1988) and Tim Burton's Batman (1989) reinvigorated Palance's career, and demand for his services kept him involved in new projects each year right up to the turn of the century.

Palance, at the time chairman of the Hollywood Trident Foundation, walked out of a Russian Film Festival in Hollywood. After being introduced, Palance said, "I feel like I walked into the wrong room by mistake. I think that Russian film is interesting, but I have nothing to do with Russia or Russian film. My parents were born in Ukraine: I'm Ukrainian. I'm not Russian. So, excuse me, but I don't belong here. It's best if we leave."[8]

In 2001, Palance returned to the recording studio as a special guest on friend Laurie Z's Heart of the Holidays album to narrate the famous classic poem The Night Before Christmas.

In 2002, he starred in the television movie Living with the Dead opposite Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen and Diane Ladd. In 2004, he starred in another television production, Back When We Were Grownups, opposite Blythe Danner, his performance as Poppy being Palance's last.

According to writer Mark Evanier, comic book creator Jack Kirby modeled his character Darkseid on the actor.[9]

Academy Award

Four decades after his film debut, Palance won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor on March 30, 1992, for his performance as cowboy Curly Washburn in the 1991 comedy City Slickers. Stepping onstage to accept the award, the intimidatingly fit 6' 4" (1.93 m) actor looked down at 5' 7" (1.70 m) Oscar host Billy Crystal (who was also his co-star in the movie), and joked — mimicking one of his lines from the film — "Billy Crystal... I crap bigger than him." He then dropped to the floor and demonstrated his ability, at age 73, to perform one-handed push-ups. Crystal then turned this into a running gag. At various points in the broadcast, he announced that Palance was backstage on the Stairmaster; had "just bungee-jumped off the Hollywood sign"; had rendezvoused with the Space Shuttle in orbit; had fathered all the children in a production number; had been named People magazine's Sexiest Man Alive; and had won the New York primary election. At the end of the broadcast, Crystal told everyone he'd like to see them again "but I've just been informed Jack Palance will be hosting next year." (The following year, host Crystal arrived on stage atop a giant model of the Oscar statuette, being towed by Palance using his teeth.)

Marisa Tomei Academy Award Controversy

At the 1993 Academy Awards, Palance presented the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress to Marisa Tomei, which resulted in a famous Oscar controversy. The American film critic Rex Reed was dissatisfied with Tomei's win, and started a rumor that Palance had erroneously called out the wrong name when opening the envelope. Reed espoused that Palance had been unable to read the printing on the card inside the envelope, had become confused or was too "drunk" or "stoned" to announce the winner properly. In 1997, Reed claimed on television that a "massive cover-up" was underway to prevent the public from finding out about the mistake. The rumor became a Hollywood urban legend. Palance refuted Reed's claim, saying he had been correct in reading Tomei's name as the winner when opening the envelope. He called the rumor about the "false win" upsetting and felt it would destroy Tomei's career.

Bruce Davis, executive director of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, issued an official statement: "The legend of Marisa Tomei's 'mistaken Oscar' has appeared in various forms over the years and in that short time has achieved the status of urban myth. There is no more truth to this version than to any of the others we've heard. If such a scenario were ever to occur, the Price Waterhouse people backstage would simply step out onstage and point out the error. They are not shy."

Tomei refused to comment on the rumor, calling it extremely hurtful. She would go on to receive critical acclaim and respect for future performances in Unhook the Stars, Alfie and Before the Devil Knows You're Dead and received Academy Award nominations for In the Bedroom and The Wrestler. Roger Ebert commented on his website that "Not only is the rumor untrue, it is unfair to Marisa Tomei, and Rex Reed owes her an apology."

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Palance has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6608 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1992, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Personal life

Jack Palance (left) visiting a VA Hospital in 2005

Palance was married to his first wife, Virginia Baker, from 1949 to 1968. They had three children: Holly (born in 1950), an actress, Brooke (born in 1952) and Cody (1955–1998).

Daughter Brooke married Michael Wilding, son of Michael Wilding Sr. (1912-1979) and Elizabeth Taylor; they have three children as well.

An actor himself, Cody Palance appeared alongside his father in the film Young Guns, and was just 42 when he died from malignant melanoma on July 16, 1998. Jack Palance had hosted The Cody Palance Memorial Golf Classic to raise awareness and funds for a cancer center in Los Angeles. Besides being an actor, Cody Palance was a musician who performed live with his band.[10]

Palance became divorced and married Elaine Rogers in May 1987. On New Year's Day 2003, his first wife Virginia Baker (July 7, 1922 - January 1, 2003) was struck by a car and killed in Los Angeles.

Palance painted and sold landscape art, with a poem included on the back of each picture. He is also the author of The Forest of Love, a book of poems, published in 1996 by Summerhouse Press.

True to his roots, Palance acknowledged a life-long attachment to his Pennsylvania heritage and visited there when able. Shortly before his death, he had placed his Butler Township, Pennsylvania, Holly-Brooke farm up for sale and his personal art collection up for auction.[11]

Death

Palance died at the age of 87, of natural causes, at his daughter's home in Montecito in Santa Barbara County.[12] He was cremated, and his ashes were retained by family and friends.[13] Jack Palance lived for a number of years around Tehachapi, near Bakersfield, in the high desert of southern California.

Jack Palance collection auction

The Jack Palance Collection 2006 seal

Following other recent celebrity auctions, Palance's personal lifetime collection of over 3,000 items at his Holly-Brooke Farm (named for his two daughters) in Butler Township, Pennsylvania went on the auction block in October 2006. Auction planners purposely included some smaller keepsakes for people who wanted something belonging to the 87-year-old actor. "People can spend $5 or $50,000 at this auction", said Phil Eagle, an antique appraiser who traveled from California to painstakingly authenticate the items and sort them into manageable lots to be sold.[11]

"Each item will bear a special sticker featuring a picture of the actor and the words 'Jack Palance Collection' to add to the value and future collectibility", Eagle said.[11]

Filmography

Films

Year Film Role Notes
1950 Panic in the Streets Blackie
Halls of Montezuma Pigeon Lane
1952 Sudden Fear Lester Blaine Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1953 Shane Jack Wilson Nominated — Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Man in the Attic Slade
Second Chance Cappy Gordon
Arrowhead Torinada
1954 The Silver Chalice Simon Magus
Sign of the Pagan Attila the Hun
1955 The Big Knife Charles Castle
I Died a Thousand Times Roy Earle aka Roy Collins
1956 Attack Lieutenant Costa
Playhouse 90: Requiem for a Heavyweight Harlan 'Mountain' McClintock (TV)
1957 House of Numbers
1959 Flor De Mayo
1959 Ten Seconds to Hell Erik Koertner
1960 Austerlitz General Weirother
1961 Barabbas Torvald
1963 Contempt Jeremy Prokosch
1965 Once a Thief Walter Pedack
1966 The Professionals Jesus Raza
1968 The Mercenary Curly
1969 Justine Antonin
Legion of the Damned Colonel Charley MacPherson
Che! Fidel Castro
1970 Compañeros John
Monte Walsh Chet
1972 Chato's Land Captain Quincy
Si può fare... amigo Sonny Bronston
1976 God's Gun Ben Haenni
1977 Portrait of a Hitman Jim Buck
1979 Angels' Brigade Mike Farrell
1980 Hawk the Slayer Voltan
1987 Bagdad Café Rudi Cox
1988 Gor Xenos
Young Guns Lawrence G. Murphy
1989 Batman Carl Grissom
Outlaw of Gor Xenos
Tango & Cash Yves Perret
1990 Solar Crisis Travis
1991 City Slickers Curly Washburn Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Motion Picture
1993 Cyborg 2 Mercy
1994 City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold Duke Washburn
The Swan Princess Lord Rothbart Voice
Cops and Robbersons Jake Stone
1997 Ebenezer Ebenezer Scrooge
1999 Treasure Island Long John Silver

Television movies/mini-series

Year Title Role
1968 Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde
1973 Dracula Count Dracula
1974 The Godchild Rourke
1975 The Hatfields and the McCoys Devil Anse Hatfield
1979 The Last Ride of the Dalton Gang Will Smith
1980 The Ivory Ape Marc Kazarian
The Golden Moment: An Olympic Love Story Whitey Robinson
1981 Evil Stalks This House Stokes
1992 Keep the Change Overstreet
1994 The Twilight Zone: Rod Serling's Lost Classics Dr. Jeremy Wheaton (segment "Where the Dead Are")
1995 Buffalo Girls Bartle Bone
1997 I'll Be Home for Christmas Bob
Ebenezer Ebenezer Scrooge
1999 Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End John Witting
2001 Living With the Dead Allan Van Praagh
2004 Back When We Were Grownups Paul 'Poppy' Davitch

Television shows

Year Title Role Notes
1950 Lights Out Episode "The Man Who Couldn't Remember"
1952 Westinghouse Studio One Episode "The King in Yellow"
Curtain Call Episode "Azaya"
Westinghouse Studio One Episode "Little Man, Big World"
The Gulf Playhouse Episode "Necktie Party"
1953 Danger Episode "Said the Spider to the Fly"
The Web Episode "The Last Chance"
Suspense Tom Walker Episode "The Kiss-Off"
The Motorola TV Hour Scott Malone/Kurt Bauman Episode "Brandenburg Gate"
Suspense Episode "Cagliostro and the Chess Player"
1956 Playhouse 90 Harlan "Mountain" McClintock "Requiem for a Heavyweight"
Emmy Award for Best Single Performance by an Actor
Zane Grey Theatre Dan Morgan Episode "The Lariat"
1957 Playhouse 90 Monroe Stahr "The Last Tycoon"
Playhouse 90 Manolete "The Death of Manolete"
1963 The Greatest Show on Earth Circus manager Johnny Slate Series - top billing
1965 Convoy Harvey Bell Episode "The Many Colors of Courage"
1966 Run for Your Life Julian Hays Episode "I Am the Late Diana Hays"
Alice Through the Looking Glass Jabberwock (Live Theatre)
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Louis Strago 2 episodes "The Concrete Overcoat Affair: Parts I and II"
1971 Net Playhouse President Jackson "Trail of Tears"
1973 The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour Himself
1975 Bronk Det. Lt. Alex 'Bronk' Bronkov Series
1979 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century Kaleel Episode "Planet of the Slave Girls"
Unknown Powers Presenter/Narrator
1981 Tales of the Haunted Stokes Episode "Evil Stalks This House"
1982-1986 Ripley's Believe It or Not! Himself - Host Series
2001 Night Visions Jake Jennings Episode "Bitter Harvest"

References

External links








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