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Overview for Joseph Calleia
Joseph Calleia

Joseph Calleia



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Also Known As: Joseph Spurin-Calleja,Joe Spurin Calleia Died: October 31, 1975
Born: August 14, 1897 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Malta Profession: Cast ... actor writer singer


A veteran theater performer and character actor so famous that Malta honored his death with commemorative stamps, Joseph Calleia went from touring Europe with a harmonica band to acting alongside some of the greatest Hollywood actors of his time. Calleia came to the United States in 1926 after traveling through post-World War I Europe, and he soon became a major presence on Broadway. He traded heavily on his dark features, and his 1931 contract signing with MGM found him playing mobsters, villains, and outlaws in numerous films, including the Jean Harlow/Spencer Tracy crime drama "Riff Raff" and the exotic mystery "Algiers." After establishing himself as a sought-after character actor in the '30s, Calleia became a heavyweight bad guy in the 1940s, using his ethnic looks to memorably portray a Spanish guerilla leader in the 1943 adaptation of the Ernest Hemingway novel "For Whom the Bell Tolls" and an Argentinian government agent in the classic noir film "Gilda." However, one of Calleia's greatest roles came in 1958 as American police officer Pete Menzies in Orson Welles's bewildering and beloved "Touch of Evil." The film, about a tangled web of blackmail, deception, and manipulation in a small Mexican town, was one of his last Hollywood appearances--after several more roles, including that of a heroic politician in 1960's "The Alamo," he left the United States and returned to Malta, where he lived for the rest of his life.

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