JACK PALANCE


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Jack Palance was born Volodymir Ivanovich Palahniuk (gee, I wonder why he changed his name when he became an actor?) in 1919 to Ukranian immigrants in Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania. His father was a coal miner, and so was Jack at first. But he won a football scholarship to the University of North Carolina, which got him out of the mines, and he dropped out to become a boxer. As "Jack Brazzo" he had a good record, but then World War II started. He joined the Army Air Force and became a bomber pilot, and was wounded. Some sources say he required extensive surgery (including on his face) which accounts for his unusual appearance. After the war, he returned to college and became a sportswriter for the San Francisco Chronicle, also worked for a radio station. He decided to become an actor, and his unusual looks made him perfect for "tough guy" roles. He got a part on Broadway, and then became the understudy to Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in Broadway's "A Streetcar Named Desire,"and he took over the role when Brando left. He made his movie debut in Elia Kazan's Panic in the Streets (Kazan had directed him on Broadway), as a criminal on the run who does not know he has bubonic plague (he thinks the police are trying to trick him!). He acted as "Walter Jack Palance" and made fine movie appearances in the 1950s, but none better than as Wilson, the evil hired gunfighter in Shane ("Prove it"!). He also was great in Sudden Fear (nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film), Robert Aldrich's The Big Knife in 1955, and again in Aldrich's Attack in 1956. After the spaghetti westerns started in the 1960s, Palance went to Europe, where he was in high demand. The movies weren't great, but they were entertaining, and they paid well. Palance acted steadily until the early 1980s. He took a few years off, and then returned, most notably in 1991's City Slickers, as Curly Washburn ("Hi Curly. Killed anyone today? Curly: The day ain't over yet..."), and for this role, Palance finally won an Oscar. He also made a memorable appearance at the Oscars the following year, doing one arm push-ups, to prove how tough he was, but anyone who had followed his career already knew that! He passed away in 2006 at the age of 87.
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