Jack Palance

  • Born: February 18, 1919
  • Died: November 10, 2006
  • Location: Montecito, California

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Jack Palance poses in Tehachapi, Calif.

Oscar-winning actor dies in California

Los Angeles (AP) — Jack Palance, the craggy-faced menace in Shane, Sudden Fear and other films who turned successfully to comedy in his 70s with his Oscar-winning self-parody in City Slickers, died Friday.

Palance died of natural causes at his home in Montecito, Calif., surrounded by family, said spokesman Dick Guttman. He was 87.

When Palance accepted his Oscar for best supporting actor he delighted viewers of the 1992 Academy Awards by dropping to the stage and performing one-armed push-ups to demonstrate his physical prowess.

“That’s nothing, really,” he said slyly. “As far as two-handed push-ups, you can do that all night, and it doesn’t make a difference whether she’s there or not.”

That year’s Oscar host, Billy Crystal, turned the moment into a running joke, making increasingly outlandish remarks about Palance’s accomplishments throughout the show.

It was a magic moment that epitomized the actor’s 40 years in films. Always the iconoclast, Palance had scorned most of his movie roles.

“Most of the stuff I do is garbage,” he once told a reporter, adding that most of the directors he worked with were incompetent, too.

“Most of them shouldn’t even be directing traffic,” he said.

Movie audiences, though, were electrified by the actor’s chiseled face, hulking presence and the calm, low voice that made his screen presence all the more intimidating.

His film debut came in 1950, playing a murderer named Blackie in Panic in the Streets.

After a war picture, Halls of Montezuma, he portrayed the ardent lover who stalks the terrified Joan Crawford in 1952’s Sudden Fear. The role earned him his first Academy Award nomination for supporting actor.

The following year brought his second nomination when he portrayed Jack Wilson, the swaggering gunslinger who bullies peace-loving Alan Ladd into a barroom duel in the Western classic Shane.

That role cemented Palance’s reputation as Hollywood’s favorite menace, and he went on to appear in such films as Arrowhead (as a renegade Apache), Man in the Attic (as Jack the Ripper), Sign of the Pagan (as Attila the Hun) and The Silver Chalice (as a fictional challenger to Jesus).

Other prominent films included Kiss of Fire, The Big Knife, I Died a Thousand Deaths, Attack! The Lonely Man and House of Numbers.

Weary of being typecast, Palance moved with his wife and three young children to Lausanne, Switzerland, at the height of his career.

He spent six years abroad but returned home complaining that his European film roles were “the same kind of roles I left Hollywood because of.”

His career failed to regain momentum upon his return, and his later films included The Professionals, The Desperadoes, Monte Walsh, Chato’s Land and Oklahoma Crude.

When he appeared as Fidel Castro in 1969’s Che! about Latin American revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, he told a reporter: “At this stage of my career, I don’t formulate reasons why I take roles — the price was right.”

He also appeared frequently on television in the 1960s and `70s, winning an Emmy in 1965 for his portrayal of an end-of-the-line boxer in Requiem for a Heavyweight.

He and his daughter Holly Palance hosted the oddity show Ripley’s Believe It or Not and he starred in the short-lived series The Greatest Show on Earth and Bronk.

Forty-one years after his auspicious film debut, Palance played against type, to a degree. His City Slickers character, Curly, was still a menacing figure to dude ranch visitors Crystal, Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby, but with a comic twist. And Palance delivered his one-liners with surgeon-like precision.

Through most of his career, Palance maintained his distance from the Hollywood scene. In the late 1960s he bought a sprawling cattle and horse ranch north of Los Angeles. He also owned a bean farm near his home town of Lattimer, Pa.

Although most of his film portrayals were as primitives, Palance was well-spoken and college-educated. His favorite pastimes away from the movie world were painting and writing poetry and fiction.

A strapping 6-feet-4 and 210 pounds, Palance excelled at sports and won a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina. He left after two years, disgusted by commercialization of the sport.

He decided to use his size and strength as a prizefighter, but after two hapless years that resulted in little more than a broken nose that would serve him well as a screen villain, he joined the Army Air Corps in 1942.

A year later he was discharged after his B-24 lost power on takeoff and he was knocked unconscious.

The GI Bill of Rights provided Palance’s tuition at Stanford University, where he studied journalism. But the drama club lured him, and he appeared in 10 comedies. Just before graduation he left school to try acting professionally in New York.

“I had always wanted to express myself through words,” he said in a 1957 interview. “But I always thought I was too big to be an actor. I could see myself knocking over tables. I thought acting was for little ... guys.”

He made his Broadway debut in a comedy, The Big Two, in which he had but one line, spoken in Russian, a language his parents spoke at home.

The play lasted only a few weeks, and he supported himself as a short-order cook, waiter, lifeguard and hot dog seller between other small roles in the theater.

His career breakthrough came when he was chosen as Anthony Quinn’s understudy in the road company of A Streetcar Named Desire, then replaced Marlon Brando in the Stanley Kowalski role on Broadway. The show’s director, Elia Kazan, chose him in 1950 for Panic in the Streets.

Born Walter Jack Palahnuik in Pennsylvania coal country on Feb. 18, 1919, Palance was the third of five children of Ukrainian immigrants. His father worked the mines for 39 years until he died of black lung disease in 1955.

In interviews, Palance recalled bitterly that his family had to buy groceries at the company store, though prices were cheaper elsewhere.

Yet, he told a Saturday Evening Post writer, he had “a good childhood, like most kids think they have.”

“It was fine to play there in the third-growth birch and aspen, along the sides of slag piles,” he said.


Condolence & Memory Journal

Pin my tail and call me a donkey, that really hepeld.

Posted by Reignbeau - SCZHlbJeBepGNM, FL   November 16, 2011

You will be missed! Not much else to say but "You were one of a kind"!

Posted by Tim - Salem, NH   December 30, 2006

Oh, those one handed push ups. He was an inspiration to many.

Peggy
Oregon

Posted by Peggy - Lake Oswego, OR   November 14, 2006

I JOINED "THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON" IN AUGUST OF 1973. HIRED AS A TALENT COORDINATOR, MY JOB WAS TO CHAT WITH AND PREPARE THE NOTES FOR GUESTS APPEARING ON THE PROGRAM. MY VERY FIRST ASSIGNMENT AND INTERVIEW WAS WITH JACK PALANCE.
INITIALLY HE WAS HARD TO TALK TO BUT HE FINALLY WARMED UP AND IT WAS THEN I LEARNED THAT THIS GUY--WHO WE ALL KNEW MOSTLY AS A HARD-EDGED SCREEN VILLAIN--WAS IN FACT A CULTURED MAN WHO LIKED TO WRITE POETRY. THAT WAS THE "HOOK" I NEEDED! AFTER CONVINCING HIM TO SHARE ONE OF HIS POEMS ON THAT FIRST SHOW, HE EVENTUALLY BECAME A REGULAR AND THE HIGHLIGHT OF EVERY VISIT WAS WHEN HE READ ONE OF HIS WRITINGS FOR JOHNNY AND THE VIEWERS.
HE WAS A DECENT, NICE MAN AND I WILL MISS THE FACT THAT HE IS NO LONGER WITH US.

Posted by Howard Papush - Los Angeles, CA   November 13, 2006

Jack has always been my hero, my one best actor. I will miss him sorely. His loss is a loss to the actor world and the world in general. There was no better.

Posted by Jim Ramsden - Boise, ID   November 12, 2006

As a "Coal Cracker" I've always been proud to watch Jack in the movies and the Ripley's TV show with his daughter. I'm of Polish descent and my Father went to work in the mines when he was only 10 years old, first picking slate in the breakers then he lead mules in the gangways. He was on a first aid team and won a medal along with a $20.00 dollar gold piece(long missing). Back in Pop;s days they used carbide lamps which resulted in many explosions and fires. I am very proud of my heritage and men like "Jack" a "Hunkie" who made it in the movies.
Peace be with you Jack.
May God bless your family
Bob Scholeck

Posted by Bob Scholeck - Orwigsburg, PA   November 12, 2006

Jack Palance was a very special actor who could play any role with conviction.
Its amazing how he could still act well into his 70's. He was very special and will be missed. Thank God he lead a full & happy life. My prayers go out to his family.
Ruby, Oregon

Posted by Ruby McManus - Cave Junction, OR   November 12, 2006

I think the sound of his voice will always bring goosebumps to me. I first remember hiim in "Shane".
His talent will be sorely missed and I would like to thank his wife and family for sharing him with us, his adoring fans.
Rest well my friend, enjoy that round up in the sky.

Posted by Shirley Naylor - Mc Connellsburg, PA   November 12, 2006

He didn't have leading-man good looks, but what a wonderful legacy he left - both in his work and in real life. Like so many, I was just drawn to this person. I was sad when I read that he had left us.

Posted by Dee Payne - Rockton, IL   November 12, 2006

THE FIRST TIME I SAW JACK PALANCE WAS AS A YOUNG CHILD IN SIGN OF THE PAGAN.. HE FASCINATED ME!!....I IMMEDIATELY WANTED TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT HIM AND FOLLOWED HIS CAREER THRU EVERY MOVIE HE MADE ESPECIALLY THE DAN CURTIS HORROR SERIES HE MADE.... HE WAS DARKLY SINISTER YET OVERWHELMINGLY SEXY.. YEARS LATER AS A GROUPIE IN THE 70'S AND 80'S IT AMUSED ME ONE NIGHT WHEN I GLANCED AROUND ME IN A NEW YORK ROCK CLUB AND NOTICED HOW MANY MEN LOOKED EXACTLY AS HIS CHARACTER IN SIGN OF THE PAGAN!! LONG HAIR, BARE CHESTS, TIGHT LEATHER PANTS...VERY STRANGE!! BUT A REAL TURN-ON!! JUDY.

Posted by JUDY SENNING - Elmont, NY   November 11, 2006

To his love ones. He was a true actor, no matter what age he was at his time in life. Bottom line he was a great dad and husband. He aged well and God was good to him. It shows in a person's face and this was not him acting. God Bless
to all his love ones and friends.

Ms. Joey from Greenwood, In.

Posted by Mary Keppler - Greenwood, IN   November 11, 2006

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, he will be missed by all.

Posted by Art and Sherry Crawford - Riverside, CA   November 11, 2006

I will truly miss Jack Palance. I have watched him in Westerns, Horror, and other movies. I have enjoyed them all. He will be missed. I would like to say that our prayers go out to his family. God bless

Pat

Posted by Patricia Olsen - Salina, KS   November 11, 2006

A distinguished actor with integrity. He possessed the character in his movies that you loved to hate and hated not to love. He will be missed.

Posted by BoBc Nashville - Nashville, TN   November 11, 2006

Jack Palace played the best 'bad guy' - with that intimidating glare. I always enjoy his movies for he is one of my favorite in the acting profession.

Posted by Sugar Lump - Philadelphia, PA   November 11, 2006

I like you in Winters End

Posted by jessie murphy - Coffeyville, KS   November 10, 2006

Not everybody remembers That jack palance once played Dracula. A memorable preformace for me.

Posted by Paul Beattie - Hillsboro, OR   November 10, 2006

i loved you in SHANE

'

'

Posted by jacqueline geffke - New York, NY   November 10, 2006


Default Album

Jack Palance poses in Tehachapi, Calif.
Jack Palance holds his Oscar
Jack Palance does a one-handed push-up at the Oscars
Jack Palance at the Chicago Auto Show
Jack Palance in Harrisburg, Pa. in 2004
Jack Palance holds his Emmy at the 1957 ceremony

Default Album

Jack Palance, 1994
Jack Palance as Tursen in 'The Horseman'
Billy Crystal and Jack Palance in New York, 2003
Flowers are placed on Jack Palance's Walk of Fame star, 2006