Oscar, Tony, and Emmy-winner Eli Wallach has passed away at the age of 98. Wallach, a Method actor who was an original member of the Actor’s Studio, was perhaps best known for his role as Tuco, aka ‘The ugly’, in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Sergio Leone‘s 1966 spaghetti western is one of my all-time favorite films, and Wallach is unforgettable in it. He’s filthy, crass, unrefined, and absolutely charming. His character has one of the best pieces of advice of any chatty killer: “When you have to shoot, shoot. Don’t talk.” It’s a line that perfectly sums up his character in the span of less than ten seconds. He’s ruthless, unfair, and funny, and Wallach made the character feel real rather than contrived or exaggerated.
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During his 65-year career, Wallach appeared in more than 80 films, numerous Broadway productions (he won a Tony for Tennessee Williams‘ The Rose Tattoo), and TV shows. He earned an Emmy for his role in the TV film Poppies Are Also Flowers, and for our comic book fans, he also played Mr. Freeze in two episodes of the 1960s Batman series. Finally, he received an Honorary Oscar in 2010 for “a lifetime’s worth of indelible screen characters.” His last feature role was in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and even though it’s an odd performance, it’s a memorable one in a movie that is mostly forgettable.
Wallach may not be one of the most famous actors of all-time, and if you mention his name to a casual moviegoer, they might give you a blank stare. But that doesn’t change the fact that he was a tremendous actor, and most people in his profession would love to have his longevity, drive, and recognition among peers.
Our deepest condolences go out to Mr. Wallach’s family and friends.
[Above photo credit: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times]