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WTVC NewsChannel 9 :: News - Top Stories - Prolific Actor Eli Wallach Dead at 98
Updated:
Wednesday, June 25 2014, 07:37 AM EDT
Prolific Actor Eli Wallach Dead at 98
American character actor Eli Wallach, who made a lasting impression as the scuzzy bandit Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, has died at the age of 98.

Wallach's death was confirmed by his daughter Katherine, the New York Times reported.

The circumstances of his death were not immediately known.

Having grown up the son of Polish Jewish immigrants in an Italian-dominated neighbourhood in New York, Wallach might have seemed like an unlikely cowboy, but some of his best work was in Westerns.

Many critics thought his definitive role was Calvera, the flamboyant, sinister bandit chief in The Magnificent Seven.

Others preferred him as Tuco, who was "the ugly" opposite Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti Western.

Years later, Wallach said strangers would recognise him and start whistling the distinctive theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Wallach, who was still making movies into his 90s, graduated from the University of Texas, where he picked up the horseback-riding skills that would serve him well in later cowboy roles.

He also earned a degree from the City College of New York and studied acting at the Neighbourhood Playhouse and, after serving in the army during World War II, the Actors Studio.

His other notable roles include How the West Was Won, Mystic River, The Holiday, Lord Jim, The Godfather: Part III and The Misfits.

In The Misfits, he starred with Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, who both died before they could complete another movie.

Wallach was set to play Maggio in the 1953 film From Here to Eternity, but was replaced by Frank Sinatra, a break that resulted in Sinatra winning an Oscar and reviving his career.

There were rumours that Sinatra got the role after undue influence from mobsters forced Wallach's replacement, but Wallach said he rejected the part in order to appear in a Tennessee Williams play.

In 1948, Wallach married Anne Jackson, with whom he had been appearing on Broadway in This Property Is Condemned. The marriage produced three children.

Wallach said the role that generated the most fan mail was his portrayal of Mr Freeze, the comic villain he played briefly on the 1960s Batman television series.

Despite a critically acclaimed career spanning more than 60 years, Wallach was never nominated for an Academy Award.

However, he was awarded an honorary Oscar in 2010.

Wallach also did extensive work on stage and in television.

In the 1950s he won a Tony - stage drama's answer to the Oscars - for his role in Tennessee Williams's The Rose Tattoo. There he played a truck driver who courts and wins over an Italian widow. The female lead, Maureen Stapleton, also won a Tony for her work in the play.

Wallach leaves behind his wife Anne and three children.Prolific Actor Eli Wallach Dead at 98

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