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Jack Palance

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Also Known As: Walter Palanskie, Vladimir Palahnuik, Walter Palance, Walter Jack Palance, Walter "Jack" Palance Died: November 10, 2006
Born: February 18, 1918 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania Profession: actor, professional boxer, model, salesman, lifeguard, cattle rancher, radio repairman, short order cook, coal miner, waiter

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Tall, powerfully built stage actor whose gaunt, leathery features were first seen on film in 1950, when Elia Kazan, who had previously directed Palance on Broadway in "A Streetcar Named Desire", cast him as a plague-ridden gangster in "Panic in the Streets". With his severe, strongly sculpted cheekbones, beady, piercing eyes and velvety, insinuating line delivery, Palance did manage to achieve star status, though he has usually played menacing, often dangerous or at least harshly unsympathetic types. Palance went on to earn two supporting actor Oscar nominations, as the seemingly affectionate husband of Joan Crawford actually plotting her demise in "Sudden Fear" (1952) and as a particularly nasty gunslinger in "Shane" (1953). Leading roles soon followed, beginning with his recreation of Jack the Ripper for the modest period thriller, "Man in the Attic" (1953). Palance did occasionally manage to play victim as well as victimizer, notably as a blackmailed movie star in Robert Aldrich's adaptation of Clifford Odets' blistering portrait of Hollywood, "The Big Knife" (1955), and in a fine Emmy-winning turn as an unfortunate boxer in Rod Serling's landmark TV play, "Requiem for a Heavyweight"...

Tall, powerfully built stage actor whose gaunt, leathery features were first seen on film in 1950, when Elia Kazan, who had previously directed Palance on Broadway in "A Streetcar Named Desire", cast him as a plague-ridden gangster in "Panic in the Streets". With his severe, strongly sculpted cheekbones, beady, piercing eyes and velvety, insinuating line delivery, Palance did manage to achieve star status, though he has usually played menacing, often dangerous or at least harshly unsympathetic types. Palance went on to earn two supporting actor Oscar nominations, as the seemingly affectionate husband of Joan Crawford actually plotting her demise in "Sudden Fear" (1952) and as a particularly nasty gunslinger in "Shane" (1953). Leading roles soon followed, beginning with his recreation of Jack the Ripper for the modest period thriller, "Man in the Attic" (1953). Palance did occasionally manage to play victim as well as victimizer, notably as a blackmailed movie star in Robert Aldrich's adaptation of Clifford Odets' blistering portrait of Hollywood, "The Big Knife" (1955), and in a fine Emmy-winning turn as an unfortunate boxer in Rod Serling's landmark TV play, "Requiem for a Heavyweight" (1956). One of Palance's last really outstanding films from this peak period was the powerful war film, "Attack!" (1956). As the 1960s dawned, routine actioners like "Ten Seconds to Hell" (1959) and "Once a Thief" (1965) became increasingly common. During this time he began appearing in foreign films, and though they included such similar fodder as "Barabbas" (1962), Palance did manage a superb turn as a crass American movie producer in Jean-Luc Godard's "Le Mepris/Contempt" (1963). He also tried TV with the circus-set series, "The Greatest Show on Earth" (1963-64). Palance began alternating supporting roles with leads during the late 60s and early 70s but he kept very busy in mostly action fare including "The Desperados" (1968), "The Horsemen" (1971) and "Oklahoma Crude" (1973). TV work began to increase as well, and Palance clearly enjoyed himself giving unnerving, showmanlike performances in a special presentation of "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (1968) and in his first TV-movie, "Dracula" (1974). Palance tried a TV series again with the gritty cop drama, "Bronk" (1975-76) but had better luck bringing a creepy, bemused flair to his hosting duties on "Ripley's Believe It or Not" (1982-86), especially when he taunted audiences to "believe it...or not". He won new audiences with his offbeat performances as a courtly, aging artist in Percy Adlon's cult hit, "Bagdad Cafe" (1987) and as a gruff veteran trail boss leading tenderfoot vacationers on a cattle drive in the mid-life crisis comedy "City Slickers" (1991). The film earned the good-humored veteran actor a supporting Oscar and led to another sprightly performance--at the Academy Award ceremony, where he joked about his ability to keep working as well as his virility and then dropped to the floor to prove it with a series of one-armed push-ups. The inevitable sequel, "City Slickers II: The Search for Curly's Gold" (1994), followed; since the first film killed off Palance's character, Curly, this film featured the feisty actor as Curly's brother.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Back When We Were Grownups (2004) Poppy Davitch
2.
 Marco Polo (2000)
3.
 Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End (1999) John Witting
4.
 Treasure Island (1999) Long John Silver
5.
 Ebenezer (1998) Ebenezer; Future Scrooge
6.
 I'll Be Home For Christmas (1997) Bob Greiser
7.
 Swan Princess, The (1994) Voice Of Rothbart
9.
 Cops And Robbersons (1994) Jack Stone
10.
 Twilight Zone: Rod Serling's Lost Classics (1994) Jeremy Wheaton ("Where The Dead Are")
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1938:
Became a professional boxer at age 20; reportedly won 18 out of 20 bouts (date approximate)
:
Injured throat in last fight; left with signature raspy voice
:
Returned to Pennsylvania and worked briefly as a coal miner
1942:
Joined US Army Air Force; involved in plane crash during training
1944:
Left military service; returned to work in the coal mines
:
Attended Stanford on the GI Bill
:
Worked for a time as a reporter in San Francisco for $35 a week
:
While at Stanford, landed role alongside Aline MacMahon in the play "My Indian Family"
1946:
Moved to NYC
1947:
Broadway acting debut, a one-line role as a Russian soldier in "The Big Two"
1948:
Appeared in the Off-Broadway production of "The Silver Tassie"
:
Understudied Anthony Quinn in the national tour of "A Streetcar Named Desire"
:
After returning to NYC, became Marlon Brando's understudy for the Broadway production of "A Streetcar Named Desire", staged by Elia Kazan; spotted by 20th Century Fox talent scout when he went on for Brando
:
Put under contract by 20th Century Fox
1950:
Film debut in "Panic in the Streets", directed by Kazan
1952:
Received first Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for "Sudden Fear"
1950:
Walked out on Fox contract when he failed to be cast alongside Brando in "Viva, Zapata!"; role went to Anthony Quinn who won an Oscar
1951:
Returned to Broadway in "Darkness at Noon"
1952:
Received first Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for "Sudden Fear"
1953:
Cast as the hired gunman in "Shane"; although filmed before "Sudden Fear", "Shane" was not released until the following year
1953:
Received top billing in a feature film for the first time in the Jack the Ripper Gothic thriller, "Man in the Attic"
1953:
First color film, "Second Chance"
1954:
Co-starred in "Sign of the Pagan"
1955:
Spent a summer season at the American Shakespeare Festival in Straford, Connecticut
1955:
Portrayed a movie idol in "The Big Knife"
1957:
Made guest appearance on TV's "The Perry Como Show"; surprised many by displaying his vocal abilities
1957:
Had dual role in "The House of Numbers"
1958:
Lived in Switzerland
1960:
Starred in the title role of the NBC adventure special "Rivak, the Barbarian"
:
Starred as Johnny Slate on the ABC TV series, "The Greatest Show on Earth"
1965:
Began playing primarily supporting parts in features with his role in "Once a Thief"
1963:
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard in "Contempt"
1966:
Played the Jabberwock in a one-hour NBC-TV musical adaptation, "Alice Through the Looking Glass"
1965:
Returned to the stage as the King of Siam opposite Celeste Holm's Anna Leonowens in "The King and I" in Anaheim, California
1974:
TV-movie debut, "Dracula"
1966:
Co-starred in "The Professionals"
1968:
Had title roles in the ABC special "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"; was injured in a fall during filming and later sued, receiving some $500,000 in damages
1969:
Cast as Fidel Castro in "Che!", the biopic of revolutionary Ernesto 'Che' Guevara
1973:
Co-starred with George C Scott and Faye Dunaway in "Oklahoma Crude"
1974:
Had title role in the CBS adaptation of "Dracula"
1980:
First TV miniseries, "The Golden Moment--An Olympic Love Story"
1981:
Hosted the special "Ripley's Believe It or Not!"
:
Hosted the ABC primetime documentary series, "Ripley's Believe It or Not"
:
Hosted the ABC half-hour primetime documentary series, "Ripley's Believe It or Not!"; daughter Holly served as co-host
1987:
Returned to features with his leading role in the adult action-fantasy, "Gor"
1992:
Hosted four syndicated historical documentary specials, "Legends of the West with Jack Palance"
1988:
Portrayed a painter in "Bagdad Cafe"
1989:
Co-starred in "Batman" directed by Tim Burton
1991:
Played Curly, an ornery trail boss who whips a trio of urban dwellers into shape to participate in a Montana cattle drive in "City Slickers"
1992:
Startled audience and gave host Billy Crystal material for quips when he performed a series of one-armed push-ups as part of his Oscar acceptance speech at the Academy Awards ceremony after winning Best Supporting Actor Oscar for "City Slickers"
1994:
Appeared as Curly's twin brother in "City Slickers II: The Secret of Curly's Gold"
1994:
Provided the voice for the sinister villain Rothbert in the animated "The Swan Princess"
1995:
Had featured role in the CBS miniseries "Buffalo Girls"
1998:
Played title role in "Ebenezer", the TNT-aired adaptation of "A Christmas Carol"
1999:
Cast as Christopher Walken's father in the CBS "Hallmark Hall of Fame" presentation "Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End"
2000:
Returned to films after a six-year absence in "Marco Polo"
2001:
Portrayed Long John Silver in feature remake of "Treasure Island"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Hazle Township High School: Hazle , Pennsylvania -
University of North Carolina: -
Stanford University: Stanford , California -

Notes

Palance owns a ranch in California's Tehachapi Mountains where he runs 150 head of cattle.

Stories on Palance often note that the slightly coarse and leathery quality of the skin on his face was due to plastic surgery he underwent after suffering burns during combat in WWII, but in some interviews Palance has denied this.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Virginia Baker. Actor. Met when both worked as understudies in the national tour of "A Streetcar Named Desire"; married on April 21, 1949; divorced in 1969.
wife:
Elaine Rogers. Married in May 1987; divorced.

Family close complete family listing

father:
John Palahnuik. Coal miner. Ukranian.
mother:
Anna Palahnuik.
brother:
Leon Palahniuk. Made appearances in films like "Chato's Land" and "Te Deum".
daughter:
Holly Palance. Actor, screenwriter. Born on August 6, 1950; was one of Palance's co-hosts on TV's "Ripley's Believe It or Not".
daughter:
Brooke Palance. Born on February 9, 1952.
son:
Cody John Palance. Born in 1955; died of melanoma in 1999 at the age of 43.
VIEW COMPLETE FAMILY LISTING

Bibliography close complete biography

"The Forest of Love" Summerhouse Press

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