The subject of yesterday’s Monday Quiz, Eli Wallach — much like the late Ernest Borgnine — occupies that gray area between veteran character and star. Our question is: just how much DO you know about him?
Wallach’s career covers some 165 movie and TV credits over nearly 65 years including some fairly controversial films and what Frank believes is the finest western ever made. He is Jewish but has often played Italians. He is an experienced “method actor” — who can reliably act. (Eli, still with us, will be 99 in December.)
To review the questions posed in yesterday’s Wallach Quiz, just scroll down just a bit to our Monday blog. Here are the answers:
1) Answer: d) Harry Cohn, chief honcho of Columbia Pictures, brash even by the standards of Hollywood moguls. Wallach was being considered for the role of Maggio in 1953’s From Here To Eternity, and was brought in for Cohn’s inspection. Interrupting a phone conversation, the mogul blurted out, I don’t know. He looks like a Hebe, not Italian as Cohn felt the part demanded. Wallach, who is Jewish, was offended. Perhaps that’s one reason why he declined an eventual offer to play the part, famously taken over by Frank Sinatra, who won a best supporting actor Oscar for his performance. Instead of doing the film, Wallach starred in a stage version of Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real.
2) Answer: 1958’s The Lineup, directed by Don Siegel and based on a CBS television series. Wallach portrayed “Dancer,”a hardened hit man. Wallach’s wife of 66 years, actress Anne Jackson, was appalled by his performance, hissing to him at the movie’s premier, If you shoot that woman I’ll never talk to you again.
3) Answer: b) False. As Sinatra said years after From Here To Eternity came out, he fully credited Wallach for playing a big part in my career. The two were on friendly terms for as long as the former lived.
4) Answer: James Coburn, Horst Buchholz, Robert Vaughn and Brad Dexter. Said Wallach: The most difficult one to remember is Brad Dexter.
5) Answer: b) Baby Doll, Wallach’s first movie released in 1956. Any Catholic who sees this movie is in danger of being excommunicated, intoned New York’s Francis Cardinal Spellman. Many of the faithful apparently took that risk since the lines outside Broadway’s Capitol Theater box office snaked around the block.
6) Answer: b) False. Clint Eastwood and Wallach started a lifelong friendship during the shooting of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
7) Answer: c) Oh, you Jewish men. Wallach wrote years later that that was the last thing I recall her saying to me. Marilyn Monroe, making 1961’s The Misfits at the time, had gotten into a heated argument with her then husband, playwright Arthur Miller, who had written the movie script and who was Jewish.
8) Answer: a) and d). Wallach and Omar Shariff were making Gengis Khan in Yugoslavia in 1965, with Shariff playing the title character. Wallach mentioned that he was being paid $25,000 for a week’s work. Sharif shouted: That’s my salary for the whole damned picture. When Wallach joked that if the Egyptians enslaved the Jews, they are now getting their revenge. Sharif glared back: I’m not an Egyptian. I’m Lebanese.
9) Answer: a) True. Stripper and early porn favorite Candy Barr, was hired to coach Joan Collins in performing a sexy dance routine in 1960’s crime caper Seven Thieves. Candy’s specialty was her ability to run naked up a wall and do a back flip, wrote Wallach, who played a homosexual American saxophone player in the picture.
10) Answer: d) Wallach’s experience in playing bandits. Director Sergio Leone was impressed by Wallach’s performance as “Charlie Gant” in 1962’s How The West Was Won, in which I used my index figures to pretend to shoot the children of a local sheriff, played by George Peppard.