Classic Hollywood actor Eli Wallach, who was a big presence in film, on stage and on television for more than 60 years, died on Tuesday at his home in Manhattan. He was 98. His death was confirmed by his daughter Katherine.
He appeared alongside such giants as Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe in ‘The Misfits’, Clint Eastwood in ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ and Al Pacino in ‘The Godfather: Part III’. He appeared on the big screen well into his 90s in Roman Polanski’s ‘The Ghost Writer’ and Oliver Stone’s ‘Wall Street’ sequel and other films.
Eli Herschel Wallach was born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 7, 1915. Wallach attended the University of Texas — among his classmates was Walter Cronkite — and served in the Army during World War II. After the war, he attended the Actors Studio and became a leading devotee of the Method, the approach to acting that asks performers to draw on their own experiences and emotions for an interior understanding of the part.
Wallach made a name on Broadway with roles in two Tennessee Williams’ works, ‘Camino Real’ and ‘The Rose Tattoo,’ for which he won a Tony in 1951, as well as a two-year run in ‘Mr. Roberts.’ His first movie was another Williams work, ‘Baby Doll’ in 1956. Other major films included ‘How the West Was Won’, ‘Mystic River’, ‘The Holiday’, and ‘Lord Jim’.
He had a sense of humor about his fame. He titled his memoir ‘The Good, the Bad and Me,’ since his role in ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ was ‘the Ugly’ — Tuco, the sometimes buffoonish bandit. In November 2010 he accepted an Honorary Academy Award at the second annual Governors Awards, becoming the oldest Oscar recipient.
At a tribute in 2008 Kate Winslet, who had worked with him, said: “He’s always smiling, always chatting, always concentrating, and always telling stories. … He could go take after take after take.” And he never seemed to quit. “There were days, I must confess, when I’d worry about him getting tired. But not Eli,” said Winslet. “I’d say to him, ‘Eli, please, would you go home now … We’ve been here for 20 hours and it’s nearly midnight and you’ve done your close-up!’ But he’d look at me, almost offended, and say, ‘Oh no … I’m not going home. Not when I’m playing with you!’ ”
Wallach is survived by his wife, actress Anne Jackson, to whom he was married for 66 years; three children and many grandchildren.