A former pro wrestler standing nearly 6-feet-5-inches, Mike Mazurki physically towered over his fellow character actors. He also stood his ground among his peers as an outstanding supporting player who registered with audiences.
He appears pretty mild-mannered in the photo above. He was a bit more imposing as Moose Malloy manhandling a seemingly pint-sized Dick Powell in the 1944 film noir, Murder, My Sweet. Or, as one half of an extraordinarily intense fight scene in 1950’s Night and the City, which Turner Classic Movie’s Eddie Muller correctly characterizes as one of the most evocative and grueling fight scenes in movie history.
Born Mikhail Mazurki in 1907 in what is now the Ukraine, Mazurki emigrated to the U.S. at the age of six. In the early Thirties he embarked on a wrestling career that thrilled fans who dubbed him “Iron Mike” long before a boxer by the name of Tyson surfaced.
Mazurki’s distinctive presence was tailor made for movie roles as strongarm men, gangsters and bullies, which he found himself playing in the 1940’s. During that decade alone he appeared in about 50 movies.
Over the course of his nearly 60-year career, Mazurki logged more than 150 film and tv credits, working right up until his death in 1990 at age 83.
Ok, let’s see how much you known about this distinctive actor. As usual, questions today and answers tomorrow. Here we go:
1) Question: Mazurki was so impressive in 1944’s Murder, My Sweet that he was brought back to play Moose Malloy again in the 1975 version — Farewell, My Lovely starring Robert Mitchum — of the Raymond Chandler novel. a) True; or b) False?
2) Question: Although he liked to pretend otherwise, Mazurki was really as boneheaded offscreen as were the many none-too-bright characters he portrayed. a) True; or b) False?
3) Question: Which one of the following directors is credited with “discovering” Mazurki and casting him in a small role in a 1941 film noir starring Gene Tierney? a) Michael Powell; b) Otto Preminger; c) Josef von Sternberg or d) Frank Capra.
4) Question: As mentioned, Mazurki put in a grueling performance playing a wrestler named “the Strangler” in Jules Dassin’s Night and the City. Can you name the fellow pro wrestler-turned-actor he fought against? a) Gorgeous George; b) Hulk Hogan; c) Stanislaus Zbyszko; or d) Giant Haystacks.
5) Question: Director Billy Wilder took a fancy to Mazurki, and cast him in which one of his films? a) 1959’s Some Like It Hot; b) 1944’s Double Indemnity c) 1953’s Stalag 17; or d) 1964’s Kiss Me, Stupid.