1953 publicity photo
February 18, 1919
Hazle Township, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||November 10, 2006
Montecito, California, U.S.
|Other names||Jack Brazzo
Walter J. Palance
Walter Jack Palance
|Alma mater||Stanford University|
|Occupation||Actor ; Singer|
|Spouse(s)||Virginia Baker (1949–68; divorced)
Elaine Rogers (1987–2006; his death)
|Children||Holly (b. 1950)
Brooke (b. 1952)
Jack Palance (born Volodymyr Palahniuk; February 18, 1919 – November 10, 2006) was an American actor. During half a century of film and television appearances, Palance was nominated for three Academy Awards, all for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, winning in 1991 for his role in City Slickers.
Palance was born Volodymyr Palahniuk on February 18, 1919 in the Lattimer Mines section of Hazle Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, to Anna ( Gramiak) and Ivan Palahniuk, an anthracite coal miner. Palance's parents were Ukrainian immigrants, his father a native of Ivane Zolote in southwestern Ukraine (modern Ternopil Oblast) and his mother from the Lviv Oblast.
One of six children, he worked in coal mines during his youth before becoming a professional boxer in the late 1930s. Fighting under the name Jack Brazzo, Palance reportedly compiled a record of 15 consecutive victories with 12 knockouts before losing a close decision to future heavyweight contender Joe Baksi in a "Pier-6" brawl. Years later he recounted: "Then, I thought, you must be nuts to get your head beat in for $200". Palance's athletic ability ranged away from the squared circle, as well. He was an outstanding high school football player and this skill was recognized by Raymond Wolf, the Head Coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Palance began his career at Carolina as a fullback, but Coach Wolf and the staff felt that he was best-suited to play in the line and, after some consideration, Palance left the game for good.
With the outbreak of World War II, Palance's athletic career ended and his military career began as a member of the United States Army Air Forces. Palance's rugged face, which took many beatings in the boxing ring, was said to have become disfigured while bailing out of a burning B-24 Liberator bomber during a training flight over southern Arizona (where Palance was a student pilot). His distinctive cheekbones and deep-set eyes were said to have been the result of reconstructive surgery. The story behind Palance's face was repeated numerous times (including in respected film reference works), but upon his death, several obituaries of Palance quoted him as saying that the entire story had been contrived: "Studio press agents make up anything they want to, and reporters go along with it. One flack created the legend that I had been blown up in an air crash during the war, and my face had to be put back together by way of plastic surgery. If it is a 'bionic face,' why didn't they do a better job of it?"
Palance was honorably discharged from the Army Air Corps in 1944. After the war he attended Stanford University, leaving one credit shy of graduating to pursue a career in the theatre. (A bachelor of arts degree in Drama was conferred to him, honorary Class of '49, in ’95) During his university years, to make ends meet he also worked as a short order cook, waiter, soda jerk, lifeguard at Jones Beach State Park, and photographer's model.
Palance's last name was actually a derivative of his original name. In an episode of "What's my line?" he describes how no one could pronounce his last name and it was suggested he be called Palanski. From that he decided to just use Palance instead.
In 1947, Palance made his Broadway debut. He debuted on television in 1949, and this was followed a year later by his screen debut in the movie Panic in the Streets (1950). The very same year he was featured in Halls of Montezuma about the U.S. Marines in World War II, where he was credited as "Walter (Jack) Palance." Palance was quickly recognized for his skill as a character actor, receiving an Oscar nomination for only his third film role, as Lester Blaine in Sudden Fear.
The following year, Palance was again nominated for an Oscar, this time for his role as the hired gunfighter Jack Wilson in Shane. Several other Western roles followed, but he also played such varied roles as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula and Attila the Hun. Three years before Palance played the part, comic book artist Gene Colan based his interpretation of Dracula for the acclaimed series The Tomb of Dracula on Palance, explaining, "He had that cadaverous look, a serpentine look on his face. I knew that Jack Palance would do the perfect Dracula."
Jean-Luc Godard persuaded Palance to take on the role of Hollywood producer Jeremy Prokosch in the 1963 nouvelle vague movie Le Mépris with Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli. Although the main dialogue was in French, Palance spoke mostly English.
In 1969, Palance recorded a country music album in Nashville, released on Warner Bros. Records. It featured Palance's self-penned song "The Meanest Guy That Ever Lived". The album was re-released on CD in 2003 by the Water label (Water 119).
In 1982, Palance began hosting a television revival of Ripley's Believe It or Not!. The weekly series ran from 1982 to 1986 on the American ABC network. The series also starred three different co-hosts from season to season, including Palance's daughter Holly Palance, actress Catherine Shirriff and singer Marie Osmond. Ripley's Believe It or Not! was in rerun syndication on the Sci-fi Channel (UK) and Sci-fi Channel (US) during the 1990s.
Palance's success on Ripley's Believe It or Not! resulted in a demand for his services. He made memorable appearances in Young Guns (1988), Tango & Cash (1989) and Tim Burton's Batman (1989), all of which served to reinvigorate his movie career. Palance would be involved in new projects each year right up to the start of the 21st century. He also performed on Roger Waters' first solo album release The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking in 1984.
Palance, at the time chairman of the Hollywood Trident Foundation, walked out of a Russian Film Festival in Hollywood in 2004. After being introduced, Palance said, "I feel like I walked into the wrong room by mistake. I think that Russian film is interesting, but I have nothing to do with Russia or Russian film. My parents were born in Ukraine: I'm Ukrainian. I'm not Russian. So, excuse me, but I don't belong here. It's best if we leave." Palance was awarded the title of "People's Artist" by the President Vladimir Putin on that occasion; however, Palance refused the title.
In 2002, he starred in the television movie Living with the Dead opposite Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen and Diane Ladd. In 2004, he starred in another television production, Back When We Were Grownups opposite Blythe Danner; Palance played Poppy. This would be his final performance.
Four decades after his film debut, Palance won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor on March 30, 1992, for his performance as cowboy Curly Washburn in the 1991 comedy City Slickers. Stepping onstage to accept the award, the intimidatingly fit 6' 4" (1.93 m) actor looked down at 5' 7" (1.70 m) Oscar host Billy Crystal (who was also his co-star in the movie), and joked – mimicking one of his lines from the film – "Billy Crystal... I crap bigger than him." He then dropped to the floor and demonstrated his ability, at age 73, to perform one-handed push-ups.
Crystal turned this into a running gag. At first, he quipped, "I told Jack before the ceremony, 'Decaf, Jack, decaf'" then at various points in the broadcast he announced that Palance had done the following:
At the end of the broadcast, Crystal told everyone he would like to see them again, "But, I've just been informed Jack Palance will be hosting next year."
Years later, Billy Crystal appeared on Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton and fondly recalled that after the Oscar ceremony Palance approached him during the reception, "He stopped me and put his arms out and went, 'Billy Crystal, who thought it would be you?.' It was his really funny way of saying thank you to a little New York Jewy guy who got him the Oscars".
In 1993, during the opening of the Oscars, a spoof of that Oscar highlight featured Palance appearing to drag in an enormous Academy Award statuette with Crystal again hosting, riding on the rear end of it. Half way across the stage, Palance dropped to the ground as if exhausted, but then performed several one-armed push-ups before regaining his feet and dragging the giant Oscar the rest of the way across the stage.
On November 10, 2006, Palance died of natural causes at age 87 at his daughter Holly's home in Montecito in Santa Barbara County. His remains were cremated, his ashes retained by family and friends. Jack Palance lived for a number of years around Tehachapi, near Bakersfield, in southern California.
Palance has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6608 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1992, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Palance was married to his first wife, Virginia Baker, from 1949 to 1968, they had three children: Holly (born in 1950), an actress, Brooke (born in 1952) and Cody (1955–1998). On New Year's Day 2003, Palance's first wife Virginia Baker, (July 7, 1922 – January 1, 2003) was struck and killed by a car in Los Angeles.
Cody Palance, an actor himself, appeared alongside his father in the film Young Guns. Cody would die from malignant melanoma at age 42 on July 16, 1998. Palance had hosted The Cody Palance Memorial Golf Classic to raise awareness and funds for a cancer center in Los Angeles. Aside from acting Cody was also a musician.
In May 1987, Palance married his second wife, Elaine Rogers. Palance painted and sold landscape art, with a poem included on the back of each picture. He was also the author of The Forest of Love, a book of poems published in 1996 by Summerhouse Press.
Palance acknowledged a lifelong attachment to his Pennsylvania heritage and visited there when able. Shortly before his death he placed his Butler Township, Pennsylvania, Holly-Brooke farm up for sale and his personal art collection up for auction.
|1950||Panic in the Streets|
|Halls of Montezuma|
|1952||Sudden Fear||Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|Man in the Attic|
|Flight to Tangier|
|1954||The Silver Chalice|
|Sign of the Pagan||as 'Attila, the Hun'|
|1955||The Big Knife|
|I Died a Thousand Times|
|Kiss of Fire|
|Playhouse 90: Requiem for a Heavyweight||(TV)|
|1957||House of Numbers|
|1957||The Lonely Man|
|1958||The Man Inside|
|1959||Flor De Mayo|
|1959||Ten Seconds to Hell|
|1961||Sword of the Conqueror|
|1962||Night Train to Milan|
|1965||Once a Thief|
|1966||Alice Through the Looking Glass|
|1967||Kill a Dragon|
|1968||The Mercenary||as Curly|
|Legion of the Damned|
|The Desperados||as Parson Josiah Galt|
|Che!||as Fidel Castro|
|It Can Be Done Amigo|
|1973||Father Jackleg (Originally Tedeum)|
|1975||The Great Adventure|
|The Cop in Blue Jeans|
|Black Cobra Woman|
|1977||Portrait of a Hitman|
|Welcome To Blood City|
|1978||The One Man Jury|
|Cocaine Cowboys||lead role|
|1980||Hawk the Slayer||(as Voltan)|
|1989||Batman||as Carl Grissom|
|Outlaw of Gor|
|Tango & Cash|
|1991||City Slickers||Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
|1994||City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold|
|The Swan Princess||voice|
|Cops & Robbersons|
|1999||Treasure Island||(as Long John Silver)|
|2002||Talking to Heaven|
|2003||Between Hitler and Stalin||narrator|
|1968||Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde||Henry Jekyll and Edward Hyde|
|1973||Bram Stoker's Dracula||Count Dracula|
|1975||The Hatfields and the McCoys||Devil Anse Hatfield|
|1979||The Last Ride of the Dalton Gang||Will Smith|
|1980||The Ivory Ape||Marc Kazarian|
|The Golden Moment: An Olympic Love Story||Whitey Robinson|
|1981||Evil Stalks This House||Stokes|
|1992||Keep the Change||Overstreet|
|1994||The Twilight Zone: Rod Serling's Lost Classics||Dr. Jeremy Wheaton (segment "Where the Dead Are")|
|1995||Buffalo Girls||Bartle Bone|
|1997||I'll Be Home for Christmas||Bob|
|1998||The Incredible Adventures of Marco Polo||Beelzebub|
|1999||Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's End||John Witting|
|2001||Living With the Dead||Allan Van Praagh|
|2004||Back When We Were Grownups||Paul 'Poppy' Davitch|
|1950||Lights Out||Episode "The Man Who Couldn't Remember"|
|1952||Westinghouse Studio One||Episode "The King in Yellow"|
|Curtain Call||Episode "Azaya"|
|Westinghouse Studio One||Episode "Little Man, Big World"|
|The Gulf Playhouse||Episode "Necktie Party"|
|1953||Danger||Episode "Said the Spider to the Fly"|
|The Web||Episode "The Last Chance"|
|Suspense||Tom Walker||Episode "The Kiss-Off"|
|The Motorola Television Hour||Scott Malone/Kurt Bauman||Episode "Brandenburg Gate"|
|Suspense||Episode "Cagliostro and the Chess Player"|
|1955||What's My Line||Himself||Mystery guest|
|1956||Playhouse 90||Harlan "Mountain" McClintock||"Requiem for a Heavyweight"
Emmy Award for Best Single Performance by an Actor
|Zane Grey Theatre||Dan Morgan||Episode "The Lariat"|
|1957||Playhouse 90||Monroe Stahr||"The Last Tycoon"|
|Playhouse 90||Manolete||"The Death of Manolete"|
|1963||The Greatest Show on Earth||Circus manager Johnny Slate||Series – top billing|
|1964||What's My Line||Himself||Mystery guest|
|1965||Convoy||Harvey Bell||Episode "The Many Colors of Courage"|
|1966||Run for Your Life||Julian Hays||Episode "I Am the Late Diana Hays"|
|Alice Through the Looking Glass||Jabberwock||(Live Theatre)|
|The Man from U.N.C.L.E.||Louis Strago||2 episodes "The Concrete Overcoat Affair: Parts I and II"|
|1968||They Came to Rob Las Vegas|
|1971||Net Playhouse||President Jackson||"Trail of Tears"|
|1973||The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour||Himself|
|1975||Bronk||Det. Lt. Alex 'Bronk' Bronkov||Series|
|1979||Buck Rogers in the 25th Century||Kaleel||Episode "Planet of the Slave Girls"|
|1981||Tales of the Haunted||Stokes||Episode "Evil Stalks This House"|
|1982–1986||Ripley's Believe It or Not!||Himself – Host||Series|
|2001||Night Visions||Jake Jennings||Episode "Bitter Harvest"|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Jack Palance.|
|Wikinews has related news: "City Slickers" actor, Jack Palance, dies|