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Friday, November 10, 2006

Jack Palance dies at 87

From AP reports

Jack Palance, the craggy-faced menace in "Shane," "Sudden Fear" and other films who turned successfully to comedy in his 70s with his Oscar-winning self-parody in "City Slickers," died Friday.

Palance died of natural causes at his home in Montecito, Calif., surrounded by family, said spokesman Dick Guttman. He was 87.

When Palance accepted his Oscar for best supporting actor he delighted viewers of the 1992 Academy Awards by dropping to the stage and performing one-armed push-ups to demonstrate his physical prowess.

"That's nothing, really," he said slyly. "As far as two-handed push-ups, you can do that all night, and it doesn't make a difference whether she's there or not." That year's Oscar host, Billy Crystal, turned the moment into a running joke, making increasingly outlandish remarks about Palance's accomplishments throughout the show. It was a magic moment that epitomized the actor's 40 years in films.

Always the iconoclast, Palance had scorned most of his movie roles. "Most of the stuff I do is garbage," he once told a reporter, adding that most of the directors he worked with were incompetent, too. "Most of them shouldn't even be directing traffic," he said. Movie audiences, though, were electrified by the actor's chiseled face, hulking presence and the calm, low voice that made his screen presence all the more intimidating.

His film debut came in 1950, playing a murderer named Blackie in "Panic in the Streets." After a war picture, "Halls of Montezuma," he portrayed the ardent lover who stalks the terrified Joan Crawford in 1952's "Sudden Fear." The role earned him his first Academy Award nomination for supporting actor.

The following year brought his second nomination when he portrayed Jack Wilson, the swaggering gunslinger who bullies peace-loving Alan Ladd into a barroom duel in the Western classic "Shane." That role cemented Palance's reputation as Hollywood's favorite menace, and he went on to appear in such films as "Arrowhead" (as a renegade Apache), "Man in the Attic" (as Jack the Ripper), "Sign of the Pagan" (as Attila the Hun) and "The Silver Chalice" (as a fictional challenger to Jesus).

Forty-one years after his auspicious film debut, Palance played against type, to a degree. His "City Slickers" character, Curly, was still a menacing figure to dude ranch visitors Crystal, Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby, but with a comic twist. And Palance delivered his one-liners with surgeon-like precision.

A strapping 6-feet-4 and 210 pounds, Palance excelled at sports and won a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina. He left after two years, disgusted by commercialization of the sport. He decided to use his size and strength as a prizefighter, but after two hapless years that resulted in little more than a broken nose that would serve him well as a screen villain. "I had always wanted to express myself through words," he said in a 1957 interview. "But I always thought I was too big to be an actor. I could see myself knocking over tables. I thought acting was for little ... guys."


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3 Comments:

Blogger Tim Zank said...

Palance was an American treasure. Great great actor and a really good guy.

title="comment permalink">November 10, 2006 9:50 PM  
Blogger sumo said...

I always liked him. I was watching when he won his oscar...it was wonderful.

title="comment permalink">November 10, 2006 10:53 PM  
Blogger Robert Rouse said...

And no one could convey the words, "Believe it . . . or not", as well as Jack.

title="comment permalink">November 11, 2006 6:54 PM  

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