Today saw the passing of a Hollywood giant, Eli Wallach. Reaching the ripe age of 98, he had a considerably good run and a career that saw him as a highly regarded and noted character actor. Starting out in television in the early 50’s, he made his screen debut in Elia Kazan’s controversial Baby Doll. Right up to his last big screen performance in Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps in 2010, Wallach still could command screen attention. In tribute, here is my selection of his finest hours.
10. Batman (1966)
I know I don’t normally add TV series but this was my first encounter with Wallach as the super villain Mr Freeze, the diabolical baddie who loved it cold. Wallach fitted in perfectly but is often forgotten.
9. The Holiday (2006)
As aging screen writer Arthur Abbott, Wallach brought a touch of well needed class to an otherwise mundane romantic comedy, although his scenes with Kate Winslet are sweet and a delight.
8. The Godfather Part III (1990)
While the tale of psycho cousins and daughters with very little acting skills may have been heightened, there was some masterful twists and turns courtesy of Mr Wallach’s Don Altobello.
7. Winter Kills (1979)
Massively overlooked and underrated conspiracy thriller about the assassination of a President. Jeff Bridges plays the brother desperate to get to the truth and comes across a host of slimey characters including Eli Wallach’s nightclub owner, Joe Diamond.
6. The Misfits (1961)
This might be remembered as the last film for both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe but Wallach’s Guido is still a stand-out character in an otherwise complex drama about life in the new west with a strong script from Arthur Miller.
5. The Hunter (1980)
While this was Steve McQueen’s last film and was critically panned, this light-hearted action thriller has Wallach as McQueen’s modern day bounty hunter’s boss, the money driven, bail bonder, Ritchie Blumenthal and is a real guilty pleasure for me.
4. How The West Was Won (1962)
It would have been quite easy to get lost in this epic western but as a major part of the section, The Outlaws, Wallach is back playing the villain from the past who comes into Karl Malden’s life, looking for revenge.
3. Baby Doll (1956)
Wallach’s first film role, as Sicilian Silva Vacarro, who is the second man after the attention of Carroll Baker’s Baby Doll Meighan while battling Karl Malden’s cotton-gin owner.
2. The Magnificent Seven (1960)
This western remake of The Seven Samurai needed a strong villain with the glittering cast of good guys and so enter Wallach as the Mexican bandit, Calvera, who wants to rule the village who need help from the gunslingers.
1. The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (1966)
You remember the theme tune. You remember the Man With No Name and you remember Wallach’s barn-storming performance as Tuco, the Mexican bandit who is after the same gold as Clint Eastwood’s Blondie and Lee Van Cleef’s Angel Eyes. Wallach’s finest hour.