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Anthony Quinn

Anthony Quinn

  • Black Swan, The (1942) September 21 (ET) - Reminder REMINDER
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Also Known As: Anthony Rudolph Oaxaca Quinn Died: June 3, 2001
Born: April 21, 1915 Cause of Death: Respiratory failure
Birth Place: Chihuahua, MX Profession: Cast ... actor artist writer producer musician boxer director foreman (in a mattress factory) taxi driver fruit picker cement worker
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BIOGRAPHY

The tempestuous screen image of two-time Academy Award winner and Renaissance man Anthony Quinn at times seemed to mirror the prolific actor's much publicized, unquenchable thirst for life. His exotic background enabled him to play a nearly limitless variety of ethnic characters, ranging from Crazy Horse in "They Died with Their Boots On" (1942), to the marauding Mongol warrior in "Attila" (1955), to an Eskimo in "The Savage Innocents" (1961). An accomplished artist and painter in his own right, it came as no surprise when he embraced the role of impressionist Paul Gauguin in "Lust for Life" (1956), a role that won him his second Oscar. It was, however, for his embodiment of the garrulous "Zorba the Greek" (1964) that Quinn would be forever remembered, so perfectly did he capture the free-spirited, unrestrained nature of the irascible character. Incredibly prolific, he continued to work steadily over the decades, appearing in such films as "The Greek Tycoon" (1978) and the telepic adaptation of "Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea" (NBC, 1990). A man of deep appetites and diverse passions, both in film and in his own life, Anthony Quinn became one of cinema's most beloved and respected actors in a career that spanned nearly 70 years and more than a 150 memorable performances.

Born Antonio Rodolfo Oaxaca Quinn on April 21, 1915 in Chihuahua, Mexico to parents Manuela and Francisco, he was brought to El Paso, TX as an infant, and later moved with the family to the Echo Park area of Los Angeles. Quinn's father, "Frank," who was of Irish-Mexican decent and had ridden with Pancho Villa during the revolution, eventually found work as a cameraman at the Selig motion picture studio prior to his death in 1926. As a youngster, Quinn was irresistibly drawn to the arts, playing saxophone in evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson's orchestra and studying under famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright after winning a design competition. Quinn left high school before graduating in order to help support his family, going to work in a mattress factory and picking up fights as a boxer to earn money, but it was Wright who insisted that the teenager take acting lessons and undergo surgery to cure him of his speech impediment. After studying acting and public speaking as a part of his post-operative speech therapy, Quinn landed his first role in the play "Hay Fever" in 1933. In 1936 he appeared in the theatrical production of "Clean Beds," produced under the auspices of Mae West, and struck up friendships with the likes of John Barrymore and W.C. Fields. Later that same year Quinn was cast in his first credited screen role in the Universal Pictures crime drama "Parole" (1936).

Never a shy one, Quinn made a lasting impression when he had the nerve to stand up to Hollywood icon Cecil B. DeMille after being given his first speaking part as a Cheyenne Indian in "The Plainsman" (1937). As cast and crew looked on in disbelief, the 22-year-old Quinn responded to the most recent of a series of abusive outbursts from the director by telling him how he should shoot the problematic scene and what he could do with his $75 a day salary, if he did not like it. After staring back at the young actor for some time, DeMille announced, "The boy's right. We'll change the set-up," and later said admiringly, "It was one of the most auspicious beginnings for an actor I've ever seen." Quinn would act in two more movies for the directing legend - the seafaring historical epic "The Buccaneer" (1938) and "Union Pacific" (1939), a railroad thriller starring Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea. Not only did Quinn strike up a long-lasting professional relationship with DeMille, but in short order he soon met, courted and married DeMille's daughter, Katherine, with whom he would go on to have five children. Tragically, a sixth child died at the age of two when he drowned in the pool of next door neighbor W.C. Fields.

With the help of Paramount's highest-paid star at the time, Carole Lombard, who provided the novice with advice on how to handle the front office after he had impressed her with a bit part in her hit drama, "Swing High, Swing Low" (1937), Quinn was soon picking up steady work, albeit mostly as Indians or assorted ethnic heavies in productions like "Road to Singapore" (1940) amidst the shenanigans of Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. He impressed with a role in the Tyrone Power vehicle "Blood and Sand" (1941), introducing co-star Rita Hayworth to her future husband, Orson Welles, during the shoot. More strong notices for supporting roles followed in films such as "They Died with Their Boots On" (1941), "The Ox-Bow Incident" (1943), and "Back to Bataan" (1945). However, it would take a return to the stage to raise Quinn's Hollywood stock. He made his Broadway debut in "The Gentleman from Athens" (1947) before director Elia Kazan tapped him as Stanley Kowalski for a lengthy U.S. tour of "A Streetcar Named Desire" (1948-49). Kazan then cast him as Marlon Brando's brother in "Viva Zapata" (1952), for which he earned his first Oscar as Best Supporting Actor. After making the romantic adventure "City Beneath the Sea" (1953), one of three films shot that year with director Budd Boetticher, Quinn traveled to Spain to play Antinous in the epic adaptation of Homer's "Ulysses" (1955), with Kirk Douglas in the title role. He went on to portray an aging bullfighter opposite Maureen O'Hara in Boetticher's "The Magnificent Matador" (1955) before winning his second Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for his embodiment of larger-than-life artist Paul Gauguin in "Lust for Life" (1956), once again starring with Douglas, who played the tortured impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh.

In the mid-1950s, Quinn moved his family to Italy where he played the brutish, conflicted strongman Zampanò in Frederico Fellini's "La Strada" (1956), the first picture to win the Academy's Best Foreign Language Film award. Finally, after 20 years in the business, he had become a full-fledged box-office star, and the next year would see him garner a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his turn opposite Anna Magnani in "Wild Is the Wind" (1957), as well as following in the prestigious footsteps of Lon Chaney and Charles Laughton as Quasimodo in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1957). Actually shot years earlier, U.S. audiences were finally able to see Quinn portray the continent-conquering Hun in the epic biopic "Attila" (1958). That same year saw the release of Quinn's first, and only, directorial effort, a remake of "The Buccaneer" (1958). Executive produced by De Mille, it would be the studio titan's last project before his death. With his career nearing its zenith, Quinn continued to rack up diverse and challenging roles. He was splendid as an Eskimo hunter in Nicholas Ray's underappreciated docudrama "The Savage Innocents" (1961). In the blockbuster adaptation of Alistair MacLean's action adventure "The Guns of Navarone" (1961), Quinn was suitably stoic as Greek patriot Colonel Andrea Stavros on a deadly mission with Gregory Peck and David Niven.

Quinn gave one of his finest performances in the heart-breaking "Requiem for a Heavyweight" (1962), starring as Mountain Rivera, a retired boxer who enters the humiliating world of staged wrestling in order to save his debt-ridden manager (Jackie Gleason). He was also a standout as the opportunistic Bedouin Auda Abu Tayi in David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" (1962) opposite Peter O'Toole in the title role. Quinn next brought humanity to his portrayal of the thief whose life was spared at Christ's crucifixion in the biblical epic "Barabbas" (1962). Then came what would arguably be Quinn's most memorable portrayal, that of the lustful peasant, "Zorba the Greek" (1964). He also served as producer on the film, which told the story of an uptight Englishman (Alan Bates), newly arrived at a village on the island of Crete, who is befriended by Zorba, a gregarious, life-loving everyman. The film was an unqualified success with both audiences and critics, earning Quinn yet another Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Other projects and roles included Kublai Khan in "Marco the Magnificent" (1965), a French officer in "The Lost Command" (1966), a boozy Italian mayor in "The Secret of Santa Vittoria" (1969), and a Native-American fed up with life on the reservation in "Flap" (1970).

Quinn dabbled in episodic TV as the star of "The Man and the City" (ABC, 1971-72), playing the ruggedly independent mayor of a fictional city in the Southwest. He essayed multi-millionaire Theo Tomasis, a fictionalized version of Aristotle Onassis in "The Greek Tycoon" (1978), alongside Jacqueline Bisset as a stand-in for Jackie-O. Quinn revisited "Lawrence of Arabia" territory in "Lion of the Desert" (1981) and led a rag-tag group of revolutionaries-turned-bandits in the action-comedy "High Risk" (1981). Nearly 20 years after the premiere of the film, he reprised "Zorba!" - this time in a 1983 revival of the Broadway musical which reunited him with the film's writer-director Michael Cacoyannis. He earned a Tony nomination for his efforts before touring the U.S. for three years, indelibly imprinting himself as Zorba in the eyes of the public. Later, Quinn portrayed the father of the real world tycoon in "The Richest Man in the World: The Aristotle Onassis Story" (ABC, 1988), for which he received an Emmy nomination. Continuing to work with Hollywood's biggest stars, he appeared opposite Kevin Costner in the melodramatic thriller "Revenge" (1990), in addition to bringing "Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea" (NBC, 1990) to life in the title role.

Quinn worked alongside fellow screen legend Maureen O'Hara in director Chris Columbus' romantic comedy "Only the Lonely" (1991), starring funnyman John Candy. He had a brief turn in the big-budget action-adventure bomb "Last Action Hero" (1993), starring Arnold Schwarzenegger in a parody of his own screen persona. On TV he was teamed with another icon of cinema, Katharine Hepburn, in the late-bloomer romance "This Can't Be Love" (CBS, 1994). The sheer weight of his legendary presence threatened to overshadow many of the roles being offered to Quinn in his later years. This might have explained his casting as the father of the Greek gods, Zeus, in the made-for-TV movie "Hercules and the Amazon Women" (syndicated, 1994), along with its four sequels over the course of a year. He played a proud and domineering patriarch in the post-WWII romantic drama "A Walk in the Clouds" (1995), in addition to real-life Mafioso Neil Dellacroce in the crime biopic "Gotti" (HBO, 1996) opposite Armand Assante as the "Teflon Don." Quinn's final role before his passing in 2001 was that of murdered mob chieftain Angelo Allieghieri in the Sylvester Stallone thriller "Avenging Angelo" (2002).

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