Prolific character actor Eli Wallach dead at 98

Prolific character actor Eli Wallach dead at 98

ELI WALLACH: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. Photo: Associated Press

(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.

PHOTOS: 2014 Notable Deaths

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.


“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)

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

HOLIDAY TV: What to watch this week


This week is packed with programs to get you in the holiday spirit.

in Entertainment

Bono, Clooney, Kardashian part of all-star campaign for AIDS

FILE - In this March 2, 2014 file photo, Bono arrives at the Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. A New York City doctor says U2 singer Bono suffered multiple fractures and had to have two surgeries after his weekend bicycle accident. Orthopedic trauma surgeon Dr. Dean Lorich says Bono underwent a five-hour surgery on his elbow in which three plates and 18 screws were inserted on Sunday night. Bono had another surgery to repair a fracture to his left pinkie on Monday. Lorich says Bono will need therapy but a full recovery is expected.

Bono is a launching an all-star campaign featuring "once-in-a-lifetime experiences" like walking the red carpet with Meryl Streep or visiting the "Game of Thrones" set.

in Entertainment

WHAT’S ON: New on Netflix, Amazon & Hulu in December


Get your remotes ready for a new round of binge-worthy movies and TV.

in Music

Mexican Beatles fans attempt costume record


Music fans in Mexico sought to break the world record for gathering together the largest number of people dressed as members of iconic band The Beatles.

in Music

Chris Brown donating album proceeds to charity


The singer is giving a children's hospital a big boost by donating proceeds from his new album "Royalty" to the organization.