Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Remembering Jack Palance
Jack Palance was born Volodymyr Ivanovich Palahnyuk Jr. on February 18, 1919 in Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania. The son of Ukrainian immigrants he worked as a miner, following in his father’s footsteps, before becoming a boxer and escaping the brutal work. He fought under the name Jack Brazzo and won 15 straight bouts, 12 by knockout. He lost a close decision to heavyweight contender Joe Baksi and abandoned the profession. With the outbreak of World War II he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps. During a training mission he had to bail out of a burning B-24. Surgeons reconstructed his disfigured face which left him with his distinctive gaunt, leathery appearance. He was discharged from the Army in 1944 and then attended Stanford University graduating in 1947. During his studies he became an actor was an understudy to Marlon Brando in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and making his Broadway debut in 1947. He turned to films in 1950 and received an Oscar nomination in only his third film “Sudden Fear”. He garnered another nomination the following year for his performance as Jack Wilson in “Shane”. He would continue his film career and finally appeared in a Spaghetti Western in 1968’s “The Mercenary”. He would continue to make appearances in this genre for the next 15 years in such films as “Companeros”, “Chato’s Land”, “It Can Be Done Amigo”, “God’s Gun” and “Welcome to Blood City”. He would finally garner a ‘Best Supporting Actor’ Academy Award for his portrayal of Curly Washburn in the 1991 film “City Slickers”. In one of the great moments in Academy history Jack showed his virility by dropping to the floor and doing one-hand push-ups. Jack was the father of three children Holly, Brooke and Cody from his marriage to actress Virginia Baker. In later life he became a painter, poet and author. Just before the end of his life (2006) he auctioned off his lifetime collection of art and memorabilia at his Pennsylvania farm. He died on November 10, 2006 at his Montecito, California home. We remember Jack Palance today on what would have been his 90th birthday.