Category: Jack Palance

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* February 18, 1919
- November 10, 2006 (see Forum discussion)

Jack Palance

Jack Palance made a career out of playing villians and heavies in many westerns. He was born Volodymyr Palahniuk in Hazle Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, the son of Ukrainian immigrants.

His father was a coal miner, and he followed his father into the mines for awhile until taking up professional boxing in the 1930s. During World War II, he served in the U.S. Army Air Force. After the war, he made his way to California and got a bachelor of arts degree from Stanford University.

Palance's acting break came as Marlon Brando's understudy in A Streetcar Named Desire and he eventually replaced Brando on stage. He made his Broaway debut in 1947 and went to Hollywood in 1950, making his debut in Panic in the Streets.

He received the first of three Academy Award supporting actor nominations for his third film, Sudden Fear, and his second came in 1953 for his turn as the cold-blooded gunfighter in Shane.

Other film roles include Attila the Hung in Sign of the Pagan (1954), a Mexican revolutionary turned bandit and kidnapper in The Professionals (1966), Fidel Castro in Che! (1969) and the leader of a posse pursuing Charles Bronson in Chato's Land.

It was another western for which he finally won an Academy Award, in 1992 for his turn as the leather-skinned cattle-drive boss in the comedy City Slickers. Accepting his award, the intimidatingly fit 6' 4" (1.93 m) actor looked down at 5' 7" (1.70 m) Oscar host Billy Crystal (also his co-star in the movie), and mimicking one of his lines from the film, "Billy Crystal... I crap bigger than him." He then dropped to the floor and performed one-handed push-ups. He was 73 years old and still going strong.

Good to know

  • In Hollywood, the story went around that Palance's rugged face was the result of a fire aboard B-24 bomber on a training mission during World War II. But upon his death in 2006 at age 87, obituaries quoted him as saying the story was just a story. "Studio press agents make up anything they want to, and reporters go along with it. One flack created the legend that I had been blown up in an air crash during the war, and my face had to be put back together by way of plastic surgery. If it is a 'bionic face,' why didn't they do a better job of it?"


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