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Eli Wallach: The Actor Who Did Not Need Movies.

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Movie Poster
Warner Brothers

“What do I need a movie for? The stage is on a higher level in every way, and a more satisfying medium. Movies, by comparison, are like calendar art next to great paintings. You can't really do very much in movies or in television, but the stage is such an anarchistic medium.” –Eli Wallach

The legendary character actor Eli Herschel Wallach died Tuesday in this Los Angeles Home; he was 98. Eli Wallach the actor’s actor who preferred the stage but is best remembered for creating two iconic screen characters. He was a constant presence for over 70 years on the American stage as well film and television. Trained on the stage, he became "one of the greatest 'character actors' ever to appear on stage and screen," according to Turner Classic Movies. On stage, he often co-starred with his wife, Anne Jackson, becoming one of the best-known acting couples in the American theater.

Wallach initially studied acting under Sanford Meisner, and later became a founding member of the Actors Studio, where he studied under Lee Strasberg. His versatility gave him the ability to play a wide variety of different roles throughout his career, primarily as a supporting actor. He took classes in Method acting under Sanford Meisner, And also at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School in New York with the influential German director Erwin Piscator. He later became a founding member of the Actors Studio, taught by Lee Strasberg. There, he studied more Method acting technique with founding member Robert Lewis, and with other students including Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, Herbert Berghof, and Sidney Lumet, and his soon-to-be wife, Anne Jackson. Wallach became Marilyn Monroe's first new friend when she became a student at the Actors Studio, once insisting on watching him perform in The Teahouse of the August Moon from the backstage wings, simply to see up close how experienced actors perform a two-hour play. She also became friends with his wife, Anne Jackson, also studying at the Studio, and would visit the couple at their home and sometimes babysit their new child.

In 1945 Wallach made his Broadway debut and he won a Tony Award in 1951 for his performance alongside Maureen Stapleton in the Tennessee Williams play The Rose Tattoo. His other theater credits include Mister Roberts, The Teahouse of the August Moon, Camino Real, Major Barbara (in which director Charles Laughton discouraged Wallach's established Method style), Luv, and Staircase, co-starring Milo O'Shea, which was a serious depiction of an aging homosexual couple. He also played a role in a tour of Antony and Cleopatra, produced by the actress Katharine Cornell in 1946. He exposed Americans to the work of playwright Eugène Ionesco in plays like The Chairs and The Lesson in 1958, and in 1961 Rhinoceros opposite Zero Mostel. He last starred on stage as the title character in Visiting Mr. Green.

The stage was where Wallach focused his early career. From 1945 to 1950 he and his wife, Anne Jackson, worked together acting in various plays by Tennessee Williams. The five years following, he continued only working on stage, not becoming involved in film work until 1956. During those years, however, they were generally having a hard time making ends meet. He recalls they were getting along on unemployment insurance and living in a one-room, $35 a month apartment on lower Fifth Avenue in the Village.

Wallach’s first screen performance in Baby Doll, won him a BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer as well as a Golden Globe nomination. He played other memorable characters including Guido in The Misfits (1961), Don Altobello in The Godfather Part III, Cotton Weinberger in The Two Jakes (both 1990), and Arthur Abbott in The Holiday (2006). Wallach remained active until recently, with roles in 2010 in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and The Ghost Writer.

Wallach received Tony and Emmy Awards for his work, and received an Honorary Academy Award at the 2nd Annual Governors Awards, presented on November 13, 2010. However he is best known for two of the greatest character parts in two epic Westerns: in John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven (1960) remake of Akira Kurosawa’s classic 1954 film The Seven Samurai, he plays the sadistic Mexican bandit Calvera, whose raids on a village of destitute farmers prompt the formation of "The Magnificent Seven" (1960), and the conniving, scene-stealing Tuco in Sergio Leone's groundbreaking spaghetti Western, The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (1967)

In The Magnificent Seven He was to share top billing with Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen; other notables in the cast included Charles Bronson, James Coburn and Robert Vaughn. The film's Oscar nominated musical score was one of the most memorable by the great Elmer Bernstein. In 2013 the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

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