Saturday, September 18, 2010
Remembering Jack Warden
John H. Lebzelter (German for honey-cake baker) was born September 18, 1920 in Newark, New Jersey. His father was an engineer and technician and Jack was raised in Louisville, Kentucky. Expelled from school for fighting he took up the sport as a professional under the name Johnny Costello. He became a nightclub bouncer a deckhand on a tugboat and a lifeguard before joining the U.S. Navy in 1938. Jack was stationed in China for three years before joining the U.S. Merchant Marine and then the U.S. Army in 1942 and becoming a paratrooper. He severely broke his leg the night before D-Day during a practice jump. He spent almost a year recovering and at that time read a Clifford Odets play and decided to try acting after participating in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944. Leaving the army as a sergeant he moved to New York City. Under the G.I Bill he joined the Dallas Alley Theater and acted on stage for five years. He made his TV debut in 1948 on the 'Philco Playhouse' and 'Studio One'. In 1951 he appeared in his first film in an uncredited role in “You're in the Navy Now”. In 1953 he appeared in “From Here to Eternity” and in 1957 “12 Angry Men”. He received an Emmy for his portrayal of George Hallas the owner of the Chicago Bears in “Brian's Song” and twice more for the TV series “Crazy Like a Fox”. Warden was then nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in both “Shampoo” (1975) and “Heaven Can Wait” (1978). Jack would go on to make over 100 films among them his only Euro-western “Billy Two Hats” (1973) with Gregory Peck. Warden married French actress Vanda Dupre in 1958 and they had one son Christopher. Warden died on July 19, 2006 of heart and kidney failure in New York City. Today we remember Jack Warden on what would have been his 90th birthday.