Jack Palance died on November 10, 2006 at the age of 87, he was an American actor.
Born Volodymyr Palahniuk on February 18, 1919 in the Lattimer Mines section of Hazle Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, to Anna (née Gramiak) and Ivan Palahniuk, an anthracite coal miner.
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.
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.
He stood out among a powerhouse cast (Richard Widmark, Paul Douglas’) in his movie debut in Elia Kazan’s Panic in the Streets (1950), as a plague-carrying fugitive.
He was soon on his way.
Initially billed as Walter Jack Palance, the actor made fine use of his former boxing skills and war experience for the film Halls of Montezuma (1950) as a boxing Marine in Richard Widmark’s platoon.
Palance followed this with the first of his back-to-back Oscar nods.
In Sudden Fear (1952), only his third film, he played rich-and-famous playwright Joan Crawford’s struggling actor husband who plots to murder her and run off with gorgeous Gloria Grahame.
Finding the right menace and intensity to pretty much steal the proceedings, he followed this with arguably his finest villain of the decade, that of creepy, sadistic gunslinger Jack Wilson who becomes Alan Ladd’s biggest nightmare (not to mention others) in the classic western Shane (1953).
Their climactic showdown alone is text book.
Throughout the 1950s Palance earned some very good film roles such as those in Man in the Attic (1953) (his first lead), The Big Knife (1955) and the war classic Attack (1956).
Mixed in were a few routine to highly mediocre parts in Flight to Tangier (1953), Sign of the Pagan (1954), in which he played Attila the Hun, and the biblical bomb The Silver Chalice (1954).
While he was making films he hosted a series of powerful TV roles, in the production called in the Playhouse 90: Requiem for a Heavyweight (1956), a rare role that earned him an Emmy award.
Overseas in the 1960s, Palance made a killing in biblical and war epics and in “spaghetti — The Barbarians (1960), Barabbas (1961) [Barabbas], and A Bullet for Rommel (1969) [A Bullet for Rommel].
In 1982, Palance’s career received an improbable resurgence when Columbia Studios contracted him as the TV host of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
He also starred in the quirky 1987 comedy Bagdad Cafe.
Over the next few years, he appeared in a variety of high-profile films, including the blockbuster Batman (1989) and the rollicking comedy-adventure City Slickers (1991), for which he won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.