TRIBUTE: Jack Palance, Up From The Mines Of Pennsyltucky To Best of The Bad Guys Oscar Immortality, RIP ‘Curly’

When reporters asked him what he thought about most of his films, he tended to dismiss themjackpalance.jpg as “garbage.” Still, his part as a homicidal husband stalking Joan Crawford in “Sudden Fear” (1952) also won him an Oscar nomination, and his role as a robber with a heart in “I Died a Thousand Times” (1955), a remake of Humphrey Bogart’s “High Sierra,” earned Mr. Palance better reviews than the movie received.

Walter Jack Palance was born Feb. 18, 1920 or 1918, in Lattimer Mines, Pa., the third child of Vladimir Palahnuik, a coal miner, and the former Anna Gramiak, both of them immigrants from Ukraine. The family lived in a rough-and-tumble company town and traded in a company store. The town, Mr. Palance said years later, was where he “learned how to hate,” even though he said he loved the Pennsylvania countryside and owned property there.

Jack Palance worked in the mines himself before he escaped into acting by way of professional boxing, modeling, short-order cooking, waiting on tables, repairing radios, selling and working as a lifeguard.

During World War II, in 1942, he joined the Army Air Corps, only to be discharged a year later after he was knocked unconscious when his B-24 bomber lost power on takeoff. After the service he used the G.I. Bill of Rights to attend the University of North Carolina and later Stanford University, where he considered becoming a journalist. But journalists’ wages were so poor then, he recalled, that he was drawn to acting, which he saw as potentially more lucrative, and joined the university drama club.

Producers and casting directors were taken with his unusual looks and rich voice, and he got parts in the Broadway productions of “The Big Two” (1947), “Temporary Island” (1948), and “The Vigil,” also 1948. That same year he also played Anthony Quinn’s understudy as Stanley Kowalski in the touring company of the Tennessee Williams play “A Streetcar Named Desire.” He later replaced Marlon Brando in the role on Broadway.

suddenfear_.jpgHis first movie role came in 1950, playing Blackie, an antisocial carrier of pneumonic plague in “Panic in the Streets,” which starred Richard Widmark. Then came a war picture, “Halls of Montezuma,” and after that, in 1952, his Oscar-nominated performance in “Sudden Fear.”

His second nomination came the following year, for his portrayal of Jack Wilson, the menacing gunslinger in “Shane.” The acclaim from those roles brought him parts in “Arrowhead” (as a renegade Apache), “Man in the Attic” (as Jack the Ripper), “Sign of the Pagan” (as Attila the Hun) and “The Silver Chalice” (a fictional challenger to Jesus).Among his other films were “Kiss of Fire,” “The Big Knife,” “Attack!” “The Lonely Man,” “House of Numbers” and “Oklahoma Crude.”

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Related: The Lattimer Mines Massacre

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