Prolific stage and screen actor Eli Wallach died on Tuesday, June 24. The Tony and Honorary Academy Award winner was 98. His death was confirmed to The New York Times by his daughter, Katherine.
Born on December 7, 1915 in Red Hook, Brooklyn, Wallach studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse following receiving a master’s degree in education at City College, until enlisting in the army during World War II. He served for five years, rising to captain. Even while serving, his theatrical talent was noticed—a senior officer asked him to create a show for hospital patients based on Irving Berlin’s This Is the Army, titled Is This the Army?.
Wallach appeared on the Broadway stage in a total of 26 productions; he starred opposite his wife in half of those, Anne Jackson. The two met in 1946 while working on a production of This Property is Condemned at the Equity Library Theater. They went on to become part of the first group of artists to study at The Actors Studio and were wed in 1948. Among their many costarring credits on stage are The Flowering Peach, Promenade, All! Rhinoceros, Major Barbara and, most recently, King Henry VIII.
Wallach also had a successful career on screen, though he always credited the stage as his true home. In an interview with The New York Times in 1973, the actor said, “Movies are a means to an end. I go and get on a horse in Spain for ten weeks, and I have enough cushion to come back and do a play.” While he is perhaps most known for his performance in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and The Godfather: Part III, he also starred in numerous films alongside Jackson, including The Typists, The Tiger Makes Out and The Angel Levine.
Wallach received a Tony Award in 1951 for his performance in The Rose Tattoo. While he was never nominated for an Oscar, he was the recipient of an Honorary Academy Award in 2011 for “a lifetime’s worth of indelible screen characters.” He also took home an Emmy Award in 1967 for Poppies Are Also Flowers, and received four nominations thereafter.
In addition to Jackson and his daughter Katherine, Wallach is survived by his daughter Roberta and son Peter.