He is still with us as of this writing, approaching the century mark (he’ll hit 99 in December). He has a malfunctioning eye and two hip implants. Yet Eli Wallach is still working.
Like the late Ernest Borgnine Wallach occupies that gray area between veteran character and star. His 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.
Wallach’s first love is the stage. He played Japanese in 1954’s Teahouse of the August Moon and Italian in 1951’s The Rose Tattoo. At full stride he worked steadily on TV during the medium’s “golden age” in the early 1950’s before plunging into movies as an experienced “method actor” — who could reliably act. (His first big screen director was Elia Kazan.)
Wallach is distinctive for remaining married the same woman for well over a half century — his one and only wife. How much do you know about Eli Wallach? Not as much, perhaps, as you should. Inspired by the actor’s 2005 memoir, The Good, the Bad, and Me: In My Anecdotage, we put together today’s quiz. (Answers tomorrow.)
1) Question: Which Hollywood studio mogul, appraising Wallach for a role as an Italian-American in a major film, infuriated the actor by cracking: I don’t know. He looks like a Hebe”? a) Howard Hughes; b) Darryl Zanuck; c) Louis B. Mayer; or d) Harry Cohn.
2) Question: In Wallach’s second movie, he plays a psychopathic hit man who guns down as many as five victims in a day. Can you name the picture and its director?
3) Question: Wallach is famously known as the first actor to be offered the role in 1953’s From Here To Eternity that won Frank Sinatra an Oscar and rejuvenated his flagging career. Sinatra never forgave Wallach for forcing him to play runner-up. a) True; or b) False.
4) Question: Wallach is also famously known as the greedy bandit in 1960’s The Magnificent Seven. Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen and Charles Bronson played three of the hired gunslinger-heroes of the movie’s title. Can you name the actors who played the other four?
5) Question: Can you identify the Wallach movie that was was roundly condemned by the Catholic Church when it was first released? a) Seven Thieves; b) Baby Doll; c) The Victors; or d) Where Is Thy Brother?
6) Question: Despite publicity to the contrary, Wallach did NOT get along with Clint Eastwood, his costar in 1967’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. a) True; or b) False.
7) Question: Wallach was generally sympathetic to Marilyn Monroe, his costar in 1961’s The Misfits, but was turned off by her parting remark to him. What did she say? a) You think you are so good but you’re a lousy actor.; b) Please pay me the money that you owe me. ; c) Oh, you Jewish men.; or d) I despise New York actors.
8) Question: Wallach crossed swords with Omar Sharif on the production of 1965’s Genghis Khan. What was the dispute about? a) Their respective salaries for making the picture; b) Differences on how to read lines; c) They personally couldn’t get along; d) Wallach’s confusion about Sharif’s nationality.
9) Question: Wallach once worked together with a pioneering stripper/porn star in a major studio movie? a) True; or b) False.
10) Question: Director Sergio Leone had to overcome his intense dislike of “method” actors to cast Wallach in his pivotal role of “Tuco” in 1967’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. What changed the director’s mind? a) Leone’s admiration of Wallach as a man of family values; b) His admiration of Wallach’s wife; c) Wallach came on the cheap; or d) Wallach’s experience at playing bandits.