The Rose Tattoo
“When I'm gone, I hope there's a theater in the next world where I can work.” Eli Wallach
Tony and Emmy Award winning American actor Eli Wallach has been in show business for over six decades. Making his Broadway debut right after being discharged from the U.S. Army, where he served as a captain in the Medical Corps, Wallach was shot to fame in the early 1950s thanks to his performances in the Tennessee Williams plays “The Rose Tattoo” (1951), from which he won his Tony Award, and “Camino Real” (1953). Other theater highlights include “The Teahouse of the August Moon” (1955), “Rhinoceros” (1961), “Staircase” (1968), “Saturday Sunday Monday” (1978), “Cafe Crown” (1989), “The Price” (1992) and “The Flowering Peach” (1994).
With Elia Kazan's controversial “Baby Doll” (1956), his first motion picture, Wallach broadened his popularity outside of America. Cast as Carroll Baker's Sicilian lover, he nabbed a BAFTA Award and his first and only Golden Globe nomination. He has since tirelessly worked in a number of films, including “The Magnificent Seven” (1960), “The Misfits” (1961), “How the West Was Won” (1962), “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” (1966), “The Adventures of Gerard” (1970), “Cinderella Liberty” (1973), “Independence” (1976), “Circle of Iron” (1978), “Tough Guys” (1986), “Nuts” (1987), “The Godfather: Part III” (1990), “Mistress” (1992), “Two Much” (1995), “The Associate” (1996), “Keeping the Faith” (2000), “Mystic River” (2003), “King of the Corner” (2004, won a Newport International Film Festival award), “The Hoax” (2006), “The Holiday” (2006) and “New York, I Love You” (2008).
One of the most respected actors in Hollywood, Wallach has also been recognized for his television work. He was awarded an Emmy Award for his scene-stealing performance in the Ian Fleming-written television movie “The Poppy Is Also a Flower” (1966) and collected Emmy nominations for the “CBS Playhouse” episode “Dear Friends” (1967) and the TV film “Something in Common” (1986). After being absent for two decades, he earned his next Emmy nomination for his guest role in “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” (2006).
Wallach will soon appear in the film “Tickling Leo” (2009).
Wallach has been married to actress Anne Jackson since 1948. They have worked together in several projects, including the movies “The Tiger Makes Out” (1967) and “Sam's Son” (1984), and the plays “The Tiger and The Typists” (1963) and “The Waltz of the Toreadors” (1973-1974).
In 2005, Wallach released an autobiography titled “The Good, the Bad and Me: In My Anecdotage.”
King of Brooklyn
Childhood and Family:
Eli Herschel Wallach was born on December 7, 1915, in Brooklyn, New York, to Bertha and Abraham Wallach. The Wallachs were the only Jewish family in the predominately Italian neighborhood where they lived. Eli attended The University of Texas in Austin and received his BA in 1936. As part of a student organization called The Curtain Club, whose members also included future Governor of Texas John Connally, he appeared in a number of student plays during college. After gaining a Master's degree in education from The City College of New York, Eli won a scholarship to the reputable Neighborhood Playhouse in New York. In 1941, a year after graduating, he served with the U.S. Army as a medical administrative officer, a duty that sent him to various locations like Hawaii, Casablanca and France. It was in France that he began showing his acting talent by performing in a show to entertain the recovering troops. Eli left the military after five years as a captain. He later joined New York's Actors Studio.
On March 5, 1948, Eli married actress Anne Jackson (born on September 3, 1926). They had three children: Katherine, Peter and Roberta. In 1998, Eli was named “King of Brooklyn” at the Welcome Back to Brooklyn Festival. His wife was named “Queen of Brooklyn” at the same festival.
During a five year tenure with the U.S. Army in World War II, Neighborhood Playhouse graduate Eli Wallach wrote and performed “Is This the Army,” a show inspired by Irving Berlin's “This is the Army.” In the satirical revue, he played Hitler, which would become the first of numerous villains he would play during his long career. After leaving the Army, Wallach debuted on Broadway in Harry Kleiner's “Skydrift.” He also joined the Actor's Studio and spent two seasons with Eva LeGallienne's American Repertory Theatre.
In 1951, Wallach enjoyed major recognition thanks to his portrayal of Alvaro Mangiaco in the Tennessee Williams play “The Rose Tattoo,” opposite Maureen Stapleton as Serafina. He was handed a Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Play and a Theatre World Award. He enjoyed further notice on Broadway with his starring role as Kilroy in Williams' “Camino Real” (1953). His subsequent Broadway credits include “The Teahouse of the August Moon” (1955, as Sakini), “Mademoiselle Colombe” (1954, as Julien), the revival “Major Barbara” (1956-1957, as Bill Walker), “The Chairs and The Lesson” (1958) and “The Cold Wind and the Warm” (1958-1959, as Willie). With such an impressive resume, Wallach emerged as one of the most famous actors of the American theater in the 1950s.
Already popular on stage, Wallach tried his hand in the world of cinema and scored a major success with his debut, “Baby Doll” (1956), a controversial movie directed by Elia Kazan and written by Tennessee Williams. Playing Silva Vacarro, the Sicilian love interest of Baby Doll Meighan (played by Carroll Baker), he won a BAFTA for Most Promising Newcomer to Film and was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Supporting Actor. The victory, combined with the buzz produced by the movie, which was kicked out by the Catholic Legion of Decency and several international markets, helped increase Wallach's profile in Hollywood and abroad. The next year, Wallach, who had appeared as a frequent guest star on television since the early 1950s, teamed up with Julie Harris to costar in the Hallmark Television Playhouse production of “The Lark,” where he notably portrayed Dauphin.
Wallach soon found himself flooded with film offers. He was cast as the insane hit man in the cult favorite “Lineup” (1958), directed by Don Siegel, costarred as Calvera, opposite Yul Brynner as Chris Adams, Steve McQueen as Vin, and Charles Bronson as Bernardo O'Reilly, in John Sturges' “The Magnificent Seven” (1960), and played the sidekick of Clark Gable, Guido, in John Huston's cowboy movie “The Misfits” (1961), which also starred Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift and Thelma Ritter. He also supported Edward G. Robinson, Rod Steiger and Joan Collins in the Oscar nominated “Seven Thieves” (1960), was reunited with Carroll Baker for the acclaimed adventure “How the West Was Won” (1962) and portrayed Sergeant Craig in the based-on-novel “The Victors” (1963), which also starred Albert Finney, George Hamilton and Peter Fonda. He also appeared in “Act One” (1963), “The Moon-Spinners” (1964), “Kisses for My President” (1964), the Peter O'Toole starring vehicle “Lord Jim” (1965), and “Genghis Khan” (1965).
In 1966, Wallach made his television movie debut in the star-studded “The Poppy Is Also a Flower,” which was directed by Terence Young and written by Ian Fleming. Produced in part by the United Nations, the drama, about the international drug trade, brought the actor an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Drama for his portrayal of 'Happy' Locarno. Wallach next picked up a 1968 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Single Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Drama for his performance in the “CBS Playhouse” episode “Dear Friends,” broadcasted on December 6, 1967. He also appeared in Sergio Leone's “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” (1966), opposite Clint Eastwood, and “The Tiger Makes Out” (1967), his first feature onscreen collaboration with wife Anne Jackson.
Despite his hectic film scheduled, Wallach managed to continue his stage career. He played Berrenger in the Broadway play “Rhinoceros” (1961), opposite Zero Mostel, and starred as Milt Manville in the comedy “Luv,” a role he played from November 1964 to January 1967. He also acted with his wife in the one act plays “The Tiger and The Typists” and “Staircase.”
During the 1970s, Wallach portrayed Napoleon in Jerzy Skolimowski's “The Adventures of Gerard” (1970), supported James Caan, Marsha Mason and Kirk Calloway in Mark Rydell's “Cinderella Liberty” (1973), rejoined his wife for John Huston's “Independence” (1976), worked with George C. Scott in the comedy “Movie Movie” (1978) and appeared in Richard Moore's “Circle of Iron” (also 1978). He also acted in a string of television films, including “The Typists” (1971), “A Cold Night's Death” (1973, with Robert Culp), “Paradise Lost” (1974) and “The Pirate” (1978) and was seen in the NBC miniseries “Seventh Avenue” (1977), starring Steven Keats and Dori Brenner. On stage, he performed in “Promenade, All” (1972), “The Waltz of the Toreadors” (1973-74), with his wife and his daughter Roberta, “Saturday Sunday Monday” (1978) and Tom Stoppard's “Every Good Boy Deserves Favor” (1979).
The following decade found Wallach taking roles in such movies as “The Hunter” (1980, with Steve McQueen), Michael Landon's “Sam's Son” (1984, reunited with wife Anne Jackson), “Tough Guys” (1986, starred Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas), and the Barbra Streisand and Richard Dreyfuss vehicle “Nuts” (1987, as Dr. Herbert A. Morrison). On the small screen, he appeared in the made-for-TV films “Fugitive Family” (1980), “The Pride of Jesse Hallam” (1981), “Skokie” (1981), “The Executioner's Song” (1982), “Anatomy of an Illness” (1984), “Embassy” (1985), and “Rocket to the Moon” (1986), and in the TV series “Tales of the Unexpected” (1981), “Highway to Heaven” (1986-1987), “Murder, She Wrote” (1988) and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1988). In Glenn Jordan's moving comedy “Something in Common” (1986), he portrayed Norman Voss and received an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Special for his work in the television movie. He also made his debut as a regular character in the 1985 series “Our Family Honor,” playing the patriarch Vincent Danzig. In the late 1980s, Wallach starred as David Cole in the Broadway revival of “Cafe Crown.”
Opening the 1990s, Wallach landed a memorable supporting role as a rival gangster in Francis Ford Coppola's highly praised “The Godfather, Part III” (1990). It was followed by performances in Barry Primus' “Mistress” (1992, starred Robert Wuhl and Martin Landau), the comedy “Two Much” (1995, with Antonio Banderas, Melanie Griffith and Daryl Hannah), and Donald Petrie's “The Associate” (1996, opposite Whoopi Goldberg and Dianne Wiest). He also played the supporting role of Strasser in Carlo Gabriel Nero's thriller “Uninvited” (1999). On the TV front, he made a memorable guest appearance as Simon Vilanis in a 1992 episode of “Law & Order” called “The Working Stiff.”
Still a brilliant stage performer, Wallach gained rave reviews for his performance of Gregory Solomon in a revival of Arthur Miller's “The Price” (1992). He then played Noah in the National Actors Theater production of “The Flowering Peach” (1994) and again appeared with his wife and their daughter Roberta in the world premiere of Anne Meara's play “Down the Garden Paths” at the George Street Theater in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He also scored triumph in the off-Broadway hit “Visiting Mr. Green” (1996).
In 2000, Wallach had the significant part of Rabbi Ben Lewis in “Keeping the Faith,” a comedy feature starring Edward Norton, who also directed the film. He then played the recurring role of Jay Bickford on three episodes of the CBS short-lived series “The Education of Max Bickford,” which starred Richard Dreyfuss, appeared as Mr. Langston in an episode of the long-running medical series “ER” (2003), and had an unaccredited part in the Clint Eastwood-directed film “Mystic River” (2003). He then played the father of Peter Riegert in Riegert's “King of the Corner” (2004, aka “The Pursuit of Happiness”), from which he netted the Jury Award for Best Actor at the 2004 Newport International Film Festival, and provided the voice of The Father in the animated short “The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation” (2005), which also starred John Turturro in the voice role of The Son. Also in 2005, Wallach hosted the TV series “Character Studies.”
“I enjoyed it because his crew adores him. They do anything he says. There's no pressure or tension on the set. He just walked over to me and said, ‘Eli, whenever you're ready.’ That was the only direction he gave me.” Eli Wallach (on Clint Eastwood)
In 2006, Wallach made a guest appearance as Eli Weinraub, an ex-writer who was blacklisted in the 1950s, in an episode of “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” named “The Wrap Party.” The role brought him a 2007 Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, his first Emmy nomination in twenty years. Also in 2006, Wallach gave impressive performances in Lasse Hallström's “The Hoax” (as Noah Dietrich) and Nancy Meyers' “The Holiday” (as Arthur Abbott). His more recent film credits include Tim Hamilton's “Mama's Boy” (2007, with Diane Keaton, Jeff Daniels and Anna Faris), “Vote and Die: Liszt for President” (2008, starred Stephen C. Bradbury), Emily Hubley's “The Toe Tactic” (2008) and “New York, I Love You” (2008, opposite Shia LaBeouf, Natalie Portman, Christina Ricci, Orlando Bloom and Kevin Bacon).
The 94-year-old actor will play Emil Pikler in the upcoming movie “Tickling Leo” (2009), which is directed and written by Jeremy Davidson.
Almería International Short Film Festival: Special Tribute Award, 2006
National Board of Review: Career Achievement Award, 2006
Newport International Film Festival: Jury Award, Best Actor, “King of the Corner,” 2004
Golden Boot: 2001
Emmy: Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Drama, “Poppies Are Also Flowers,” 1967
BAFTA: Most Promising Newcomer to Film, “Baby Doll,” 1957
Tony: Best Featured Actor in a Play, “The Rose Tattoo,” 1951
Theatre World Award: “The Rose Tattoo,” 1951