How much did you know about the ex-wrestler turned actor?
And, yes, your eyes do not deceive. That’s the big guy above with Bud ABBOTT and Lou COSTELLO. Mike Mazurki had so patented the stereotype of the big-lug bad guy that he was useful in such comedies as 1948’s The Noose Hangs High, which costarred Bud and Lou.
This versatility plus his patented towering — nearly 6 feet-five inch — frame kept Mazurki working for about a half century, usually playing the really dim-witted fellow you were not eager to come across.
Though inevitably as younger villains turned up, Mazurki’s career slowed in the 1970’s and 1980’s. But he kept at it right until 1990 when he passed at age 83. Ok, let’s get to the answers to our Mazurki Quiz. As usual, to refresh yourselves about the questions just scroll down to the blog below. Here we go:
1) Answer: b) False. Yes, Mazurki is superb in 1944’s Murder My Sweet with Dick Powell, but he was considered a tad too old for the 1975 edition of the Raymond Chandler novel, Farewell, My Lovely starring Robert Mitchum. Thus the role of Moose Malloy went to the slightly taller (six-foot-six-inch) ex-boxer Jack O’Halloran.
2) Answer: b) False. Mazurki despite appearances was a pretty bright guy. He was a college graduate (New York’s Manhattan College, class 1930) when that was less common than it is today. He was a multi-sport athlete, and an excellent pro wrestler. And don’t forget, you don’t get to exploit a long Hollywood career by being a dumbell.
3) Answer: As unlikely as it may see it was director Josef von Sternberg, the man who made Marlene Dietrich’s early career, who “discovered” Mazurki. The ex-wrestler was cast (as a Chinese “coolie”) in the director’s 1941 film noir, The Shanghai Gesture starring Gene Tierney.
4) Answer: c) Stanislaus Zbyszko, a Polish ex-wrestler turned actor for this one role as a veteran Greco-Roman wrestler decrying the fake state of the sport in London in Jules Dassin’s superb 1950 noir, Night and the City. Dassin actually had seen Zbyszko wrestle, and remembered him for the role in his film. Zbyszko and Mazurki (as “The Strangler”) engage in an extraordinarily lengthy and realistic wrestling scene that is certainly one of the most intense in movie history.
5) Answer: a) Some Like It Hot. Mazurki impersonates a tough sidekick to George Raft in this Billy Wilder comedy.