Jack Palance


Actor
Jack Palance

About

Also Known As
Walter Palanskie, Vladimir Palahnuik, Walter Palance, Walter Jack Palance, Walter "Jack" Palance
Birth Place
Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania
Born
February 18, 1918
Died
November 10, 2006

Biography

Possessing a face seemingly carved out of granite and a voice filled with equal parts gravel and menace, actor Jack Palance was an easy choice to play the heavy, but it was his underutilized intelligence and humor that allowed him to occasionally break free from Hollywood typecasting, with wonderfully unpredictable results. Following an auspicious Broadway debut, the young actor burst on...

Family & Companions

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

Bibliography

"The Forest of Love"
Jack Palance, Summerhouse Press (1996)

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.

Biography

Possessing a face seemingly carved out of granite and a voice filled with equal parts gravel and menace, actor Jack Palance was an easy choice to play the heavy, but it was his underutilized intelligence and humor that allowed him to occasionally break free from Hollywood typecasting, with wonderfully unpredictable results. Following an auspicious Broadway debut, the young actor burst onto the screen with deliciously nasty performances in "Panic in the Streets" (1950), "Sudden Fear" (1952) and "Shane" (1953). However, despite having already garnered a pair of Academy Award nominations, Palance soon found himself being pigeon-holed as either a crook or a killer. Well regarded projects like "The Big Knife" (1955) and "Requiem for a Heavyweight" (CBS, 1956) gave audiences a glimpse of Palance’s versatility. Seeking out work in Europe, the ex-pat actor took part in such diverse efforts as the cut-rate adventure "Sword of the Conqueror" (1961) and the French New Wave drama "Le Mepris" ("Contempt") (1963). With rewarding film roles becoming sparse, Palance found a modicum of success on television with endeavors such as a chilling adaptation of "Dracula" (CBS, 1974) and as the host of "Ripley’s Believe It or Not" (ABC, 1982-86). Palance bookended his expansive résumé with a late-career comeback when he parodied his own villainous persona in the comedy feature "City Slickers" (1991), a performance that won the veteran actor his only Academy Award. Long regarded as the quintessential movie bad guy, Palance had the last laugh when his impromptu, one-handed push-up demonstration during his Oscar acceptance became one of the most iconic and hilarious moments in the televised ceremony’s broadcast history.

Born Volodymyr Palahniuk on Feb. 18, 1919 in Lattimer Pines, PA, "Jack" was the son of Ukrainian immigrant parents, Vladmir and Anna. As a boy, he worked alongside his father in the local coalmines, only to find escape from the risky work via his athletic prowess. In the 1930s, under the nom de guerre of Jack Brazzo, he enjoyed a short, successful career as a boxer. Palance – a name he would later adopt upon deciding to become an actor – had already begun to doubt the wisdom of taking beatings for money, when the outbreak of World War II brought his stint in the ring to an abrupt end. In 1942, he enrolled in the U.S. Army Air Corps., where he underwent pilot’s training until a serious accident led to hospitalization and his eventual discharge. On the G.I. Bill, Palance attended Stanford University, and after flirting with the idea of studying journalism, he opted for drama, a field he hoped might prove more lucrative. Upon earning his bachelors degree in 1947, the aspiring actor returned to the East Coast, where his distinctive looks and resonant voice paved the way for his Broadway debut that same year in "The Big Two." More stage roles followed, including one as Anthony Quinn’s understudy as Stanley Kowalski in the touring production of Tennessee Williams’ "A Streetcar Named Desire" in 1948. Later, Palance replaced Marlon Brando for the same role in the Broadway version of the production, directed by Elia Kazan. When Kazan began casting for his next feature film, a gritty noir to be shot on location in New Orleans, he specifically sought out lesser known actors with believably rough-hewn characteristics. He found what he was looking for in Palance.

Billed has Walter "Jack" Palance, he made his film debut in the thriller "Panic in the Streets" (1950), as a killer unwittingly infected with pneumonic plague who is being tracked by a health service officer (Richard Widmark) to prevent a citywide epidemic. Although the film met with mixed reviews, nearly all critics gave favorable notices to newcomer Palance. After another appearance alongside Widmark in the war story "Halls of Montezuma" (1950), he followed with two more impressive film roles, both of which earned the young star Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor. In the first, Palance played Joan Crawford’s duplicitous husband harboring deadly intentions in the thriller "Sudden Fear" (1952), followed by a career-defining turn as a cold-blooded gunslinger out to take down Alan Ladd in the classic Western "Shane" (1953). Leading roles soon followed, beginning with his fictionalized characterization of Jack the Ripper in the modest period thriller "Man in the Attic" (1953), and an ill-advised attempt to fill Bogie’s shoes in "I Died a Thousand Times" (1955), an unnecessary remake of "High Sierra." (1941). Although quickly identified as a movie heavy, he also managed to play more sympathetic characters. Most notable was his highly charged portrayal of a blackmailed movie star in Robert Aldrich's adaptation of Clifford Odets' blistering portrait of Hollywood, "The Big Knife" (1955), followed by an Emmy-winning turn as a washed-up boxer in Rod Serling's landmark teleplay, "Requiem for a Heavyweight" (CBS, 1956).

Palance reteamed with director Aldrich for the grim and unflinching World War II action-drama "Attack!" (1956), and once more for Aldrich’s post-WWII tale of a German bomb squad in "Ten Seconds to Hell" (1959). With the dawn of the 1960s, the actor found himself taking on more film work abroad, particularly in Italy, where he began churning out lackluster actioners, such as "The Barbarians" (1960) and "Sword of the Conqueror" (1961). Nonetheless, Palance continued to turn in respectable performances in such films as the religious epic "Barabbas" (1962) and a convincing appearance as a vulgar American movie producer in French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard's "Le Mepris" ("Contempt") (1963). Returning stateside, he gave episodic television a try for the first time with the big top-themed melodrama "The Greatest Show on Earth" (ABC, 1963-64), on which Palance played circus manager Johnny Slate. After the demise of the short-lived series, the actor took a supporting role opposite French leading man Alain Delon and Hollywood sex kitten Ann-Margret in the crime thriller "Once a Thief" (1965). Over the next two decades, Palance would keep busy with a combination of supporting roles in main stream adventures, such as the Burt Lancaster Western "The Professionals" (1966), and decidedly more "B-grade" material like the Hong Kong mercenary adventure "Kill a Dragon" (1967).

Palance’s work on television increased during this time as well, and the scenery-chewing actor clearly enjoyed the wider latitude allowed to him in such projects as the Dan Curtis-produced "The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" (ABC, 1968). In addition to turns in easily forgotten shoot-‘em-ups like "The Mercenary" (1968) and "The Desperados" (1969), he played Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro in the biopic "Che!" (1969), opposite Omar Sharif in the title role, then reteamed with his "I Died a Thousand Times" co-star Lee Marvin for the Western requiem "Monte Walsh" (1970). There was more work in the wide open spaces of the Western genre, opposite Charles Bronson in "Chato’s Land" (1972) and George C. Scott in "Oklahoma Crude" (1973), prior to his seething portrayal of Bram Stoker’s titular count in "Dracula" (CBS, 1974). Buoyed by that success, Palance decided to give a weekly TV series one more try when he signed to star on the police drama "Bronk" (1975-76), in which he played a tough, yet contemplative cop who takes on corruption in a fictional California burgh called Ocean City. The show, however, was another single season effort for Palance, who quickly returned to such subpar fare as "The Shape of Things to Come" (1979), a schlocky sci-fi movie that had very little to do with the original H.G. Wells source material. Dreck like the Italian-produced sword and sorcery adventure "Hawk the Slayer" (1981) and the thriller "Alone in the Dark" (1982) kept the actor employed, if not creatively satisfied.

While not necessarily career-boosting, at least the hours were better and the work steady for Palance when he accepted hosting duties on the historical oddities documentary program "Ripley's Believe It or Not" (ABC, 1982-86). Palance’s campy delivery of the famous catchphrase, "Believe it... or not" was possibly the most consistently entertaining aspect of the guilty pleasure series, which he co-hosted for a time with his daughter, Holly. After endearing himself to a new generation of audiences with an offbeat performance as a courtly, aging artist in Percy Adlon's cult hit, "Bagdad Cafe" (1987), Palance’s career experienced a much-needed resurgence. He embraced his villainous side with despicable turns in the Brat Pack Western "Young Guns" (1988), and an appearance as the crime boss of Gotham City in director Tim Burton’s "Batman" (1989). Neither of these roles, however, would match the impact that his performance as tough-as-nails trail boss Curly Washburn in the Billy Crystal comedy "City Slickers" (1991) would have on his waning film career. The hit movie won the obviously tickled veteran an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and led to another sprightly and unexpected performance at the Academy Awards ceremony. As Palance strode onto the stage to accept his statuette, he gave an impromptu one-handed push-up demonstration as a commentary on his late-life virility, much to the delight of the audience and host Crystal, who turned the display into a series of well-received running jokes throughout the remainder of the 1992 broadcast.

Palance tried to keep the momentum going with a starring turn opposite funnyman Chevy Chase in the criminally unfunny "Cops and Robbersons" (1994), prior to the inevitable sequel, "City Slickers II: The Search for Curly's Gold" (1994), playing the deceased Curly’s brother, Duke, in the latter film. Couched amidst several television efforts, Palance later played Long John Silver in a reinterpretation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s "Treasure Island" (2001). It would be his final role in a feature film before his death of natural causes at his home in Montecito, CA on Nov. 10, 2006. Jack Palance was 87 years old.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

Back When We Were Grownups (2004)
Treasure Island (2001)
Marco Polo (2000)
Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End (1999)
John Witting
Ebenezer (1998)
Ebenezer; Future Scrooge
I'll Be Home For Christmas (1997)
Bob Greiser
Cops And Robbersons (1994)
The Swan Princess (1994)
Voice
City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold (1994)
Twilight Zone: Rod Serling's Lost Classics (1994)
Cyborg II: Glass Shadows (1993)
Solar Crisis (1992)
Keep the Change (1992)
City Slickers (1991)
Batman (1989)
Carl Grissom
Tango & Cash (1989)
Young Guns (1988)
L G Murphy
Bagdad Cafe (1987)
Gor (1987)
Outlaw of Gor (1987)
Alone in the Dark (1982)
Angels Brigade (1980)
The Ivory Ape (1980)
Marc Kazarian
Hawk The Slayer (1980)
Without Warning (1980)
Taylor
The Shape of Things to Come (1979)
Cocaine Cowboys (1979)
The Last Ride of the Dalton Gang (1979)
One Man Jury (1978)
Welcome to Blood City (1977)
Frendlander
Portrait of a Hitman (1977)
The Disappearance of Aimee (1976)
Squadra antiscippo (1976)
Richard J Russo--
The Four Deuces (1976)
Eva Nera (1976)
Judas
The Hatfields and the Mccoys (1975)
The Godchild (1974)
Rourke
Dracula (1974)
Count Dracula
Oklahoma Crude (1973)
Craze (1973)
Neal Mottram
Chato's Land (1972)
Quincey Whitmore
The Horsemen (1971)
Tursen
The McMasters (1970)
Kolby
Monte Walsh (1970)
Chet Rollins
The Mercenary (1970)
Ricciolo
Che! (1969)
Fidel Castro
The Desperados (1969)
Parson Josiah Galt
They Came To Rob Las Vegas (1969)
Douglas
Torture Garden (1968)
Ronald Wyatt
Kill a Dragon (1967)
Rick
The Mongols (1966)
Ogotai
The Professionals (1966)
Capt. Jesús Raza
The Spy in the Green Hat (1966)
Once a Thief (1965)
Walter Pedak
Contempt (1964)
Jeremy Prokosch
Barabbas (1962)
Torvald
Warriors 5 (1962)
Jack
Sword of the Conqueror (1962)
Alboino
Beyond All Limits (1961)
Gatsby
Austerlitz (1960)
Ten Seconds to Hell (1959)
Eric Koertner
The Man Inside (1958)
Milo March
The Lonely Man (1957)
Jacob Wade
House of Numbers (1957)
Bill Judlow/Arnie Judlow
Attack (1956)
Lt. Joe Costa
Kiss of Fire (1955)
El Tigre
The Silver Chalice (1955)
Simon
The Big Knife (1955)
Charles Castle
I Died a Thousand Times (1955)
Roy Earle, also known as Roy Collins
Sign of the Pagan (1954)
Attila
Man in the Attic (1953)
Mr. Slade
Second Chance (1953)
Cappy Gordon, also known as Cappy Walters
Arrowhead (1953)
Toriano
Flight to Tangier (1953)
Gil L. Walker
Shane (1953)
Jack Wilson
Sudden Fear (1952)
Lester Blaine
Halls of Montezuma (1951)
Pigeon Lane
Panic in the Streets (1950)
Blackie

Cast (Special)

The Omen Legacy (2001)
Narrator
The 70th Annual Academy Awards (1998)
Performer
Monster Mania (1997)
Narrator
Rod Serling: Submitted For Your Approval (1995)
The 65th Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1993)
Presenter
The 7th Annual American Comedy Awards (1993)
Performer
The 6th Annual American Comedy Awards (1992)
Performer
When It Was a Game II (1992)
Voice
Legends of the West With Jack Palance (1992)
Host
Dame Edna's Hollywood (1991)
The Night of 100 Stars II (1985)
George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey (1984)
Himself
Tales of the Haunted (1981)
Rickles (1975)
Rivak, The Barbarian (1960)
Rivak

Producer (Special)

Legends of the West With Jack Palance (1992)
Executive Producer

Misc. Crew (Special)

George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey (1984)
Other

Cast (TV Mini-Series)

Living With The Dead (2002)
Buffalo Girls (1995)

Life Events

1938

Became a professional boxer at age 20; reportedly won 18 out of 20 bouts (date approximate)

1942

Joined US Army Air Force; involved in plane crash during training

1944

Left military service; returned to work in the coal mines

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"

1950

Film debut in "Panic in the Streets", directed by Kazan

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"

1952

Received first Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for "Sudden Fear"

1953

Received top billing in a feature film for the first time in the Jack the Ripper Gothic thriller, "Man in the Attic"

1953

Cast as the hired gunman in "Shane"; although filmed before "Sudden Fear", "Shane" was not released until the following year

1953

First color film, "Second Chance"

1954

Co-starred in "Sign of the Pagan"

1955

Portrayed a movie idol in "The Big Knife"

1955

Spent a summer season at the American Shakespeare Festival in Straford, Connecticut

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"

1963

Directed by Jean-Luc Godard in "Contempt"

1965

Returned to the stage as the King of Siam opposite Celeste Holm's Anna Leonowens in "The King and I" in Anaheim, California

1965

Began playing primarily supporting parts in features with his role in "Once a Thief"

1966

Co-starred in "The Professionals"

1966

Played the Jabberwock in a one-hour NBC-TV musical adaptation, "Alice Through the Looking Glass"

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

TV-movie debut, "Dracula"

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!"

1987

Returned to features with his leading role in the adult action-fantasy, "Gor"

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

Hosted four syndicated historical documentary specials, "Legends of the West with Jack Palance"

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

Provided the voice for the sinister villain Rothbert in the animated "The Swan Princess"

1994

Appeared as Curly's twin brother in "City Slickers II: The Secret of Curly's Gold"

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"

Photo Collections

Second Chance - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from RKO's Second Chance (1953), starring Robert Mitchum and Linda Darnell. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.

Videos

Movie Clip

Once A Thief (1965) - I Don't Need You San Francisco ex-con Eddie (Alain Delon), who we know is committing armed robberies on his own, nonetheless pushes back when his gangster brother Walter (Jack Palance), with his hoodlum sidekick (John Davis Chandler), offers him a job, pleasing Eddie’s wife (Ann-Margret), in Once A Thief, 1965.
Contempt (1963) - A Story Of That World Ever unorthodox Jean-Luc Godard narrates his own credits, the opening to his 1963 movie-business tale Contempt, starring Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli and Jack Palance, from a novel by Alberto Moravia.
Contempt (1963) - I'll Take A Taxi Big-shot Prokosch (Jack Palance) insists that Camille (Brigitte Bardot) ride with him and husband Paul (Michel Piccoli) is happy to grab a cab, in a key moment in Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt, 1963.
Contempt (1963) - I Like Gods Unhappy producer Prokosch (Jack Palance) and writer Paul (Michel Piccoli) drop in on Fritz Lang (playing himself) and screening his fictional "Odysseus," in Jean-Luc Godard's movie-business commentary Contempt, 1963.
Professionals, The (1966) - Who Are The Good Guys? Revolutionary and bandit Raza (Jack Palance) finishing off his job, his ex-compadres turned enemies Fardan (Lee Marvin) and Dolworth (Burt Lancaster) observing, explaining to their new guy Ehrengard (Robert Ryan), in The Professionals, 1966.
Panic In The Streets (1950) - You Can't Quit Now The title but not this opening scene would suggest the topic, of a contagious disease outbreak in a port city, as clearly ill and probably-immigrant Kochak (Lewis Charles) tries to leave a poker game run by Blackie (Jack Palance), Fitch and Poldi (Zero Mostel, Guy Thomajan) his henchmen, in Elia Kazan’s Panic In The Streets, 1950.
Alone In The Dark (1982) - I Want That! Word has not yet gotten around this nameless idyllic town (actually Ridgewood, N.J.) about the big escape at the asylum, especially to the mailman, stalked by resourceful escapees Erland van Lidth, Jack Palance and Martin Landau, in Alone In The Dark, 1982, directed by Jack Sholder.
Alone In The Dark (1982) - I'll Have The Usual Outlandish enough opening from director Jack Sholder (now a professor at Western Carolina University), has Martin Landau dropping in at a diner, meeting the proprietor (Dorothy James) and a customer (Robert Pastner), then Donald Pleasence, before some resolution, in the cult-horror favorite Alone In The Dark, 1982.
Alone In The Dark (1982) - That's The Bleeder? Dr. Potter (Dwight Schultz) is the new doctor at the institute run by Dr. Bain (Donald Pleasence), meeting orderly Ray (Brent Jennings), then the convict-inmates of the 3rd floor, Ronald (Erland van Lidth), “Preacher” (Martin Landau) and Hawkes (Jack Palance), in Alone In The Dark, 1982.
Sudden Fear (1952) - Make Me The Heavy Tight opening from director David Miller, Jack Palance is actor Lester Blaine, impressing everyone in rehearsal except Joan Crawford, as playwright and financier Myra, persuading her lieutenants (Taylor Holmes, Lewis Martin) to let him go, from Sudden Fear, also starring Gloria Grahame.
Sudden Fear (1952) - Junior Is More Impressionable Actor Lester (Jack Palance), now happily married after some turmoil to San Francisco socialite playwright Myra (Joan Crawford), isn’t expecting Irene (Gloria Grahame), who’s not been mentioned as yet, to appear on the arm of one of their lawyers (Touch a.k.a “Mike” Connors), in Sudden Fear, 1952.
Sudden Fear (1952) - I'm Entitled To A Cut Wealthy acclaimed playwright Myra (Joan Crawford) on the train from New York is surprised to meet actor Lester (Jack Palance), whom she fired a month before from her now-hit play, by genuine chance, then impressed with his attitude and charm, in Sudden Fear, 1952, from a novel by Edna Sherry.

Trailer

Family

John Palahnuik
Father
Coal miner. Ukranian.
Anna Palahnuik
Mother
Leon Palahniuk
Brother
Made appearances in films like "Chato's Land" and "Te Deum".
Holly Palance
Daughter
Actor, screenwriter. Born on August 6, 1950; was one of Palance's co-hosts on TV's "Ripley's Believe It or Not".
Brooke Palance
Daughter
Born on February 9, 1952.
Cody John Palance
Son
Born in 1955; died of melanoma in 1999 at the age of 43.

Companions

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

Bibliography

"The Forest of Love"
Jack Palance, Summerhouse Press (1996)

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.