Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Remembering Jack Palance

Volodymyr Ivanovich Palahnyuk, Jr. was born on February 18, 1919 in Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania. He later changed his given name to Walter Jack and was best known as Jack Palance. A handsome youth with a passion for reading and poetry, Jack Palance used his athletic prowess to escape his meager surroundings, securing a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina. He left college to pursue a professional boxing career, however, when an injury forced him to quit, he joined the Army Air Force as a bomber pilot. In 1943, despite undergoing plastic surgery for severe injuries caused by a plane crash, Palance suffered permanent damage to his face.
While attending Stanford University on the GI Bill, Palance developed an interest in the dramatic arts. He moved to New York and was cast in a number of bit parts, including his first stage role in the Broadway production, “The Big Two” (1947). Later that year, he understudied Anthony Quinn in the Chicago production of “A Streetcar Named Desire”.
In 1950, director Elia Kazan casted Palance in his first studio film, “Panic in the Streets”, in which he appeared opposite Richard Widmark as the vicious street boss Blackie. The immediate success of Panic in the Streets influenced 20th Century Fox to offer Palance a long-term contract. He earned Oscar nods for his roles in “Sudden Fear” (1952) and “Shane” (1953) as well as an Emmy for ‘Requiem For a Heavyweight’ (1956). Two years later, Palance moved to Switzerland, where he starred in over a dozen foreign features, most notably The Man Inside (1958), The Mongols (1960) and Contempt (1963). While living in Europe Palance appeared in ten Euro-westerns from “The Mercenary” in 1968 to “Welcome to Blood City” in 1977
During the late 1970s, his credits included a handful of embarrassing foreign films like “Godzilla vs. The Cosmic Monster” (1974), “The Sensuous Nurse” (1976), and “Cocaine Cowboys” (1979).
Palance’s next prominent role was as a TV host for Ripley’s ‘Believe It Or Not’ (1982). He appeared in the hit films “Batman” (1989) and “City Slickers” (1991), the latter film having won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Jack Palance died on November 10, 2006 in Montecito, California at the age of 87. He was survived by his second wife, Elaine, and two children from his first marriage to actress Virginia Baker.
Today we remember Jack Palance on what would have been his 95th birthday.

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