Let’s be thankful Eli Wallach, quite a character

Eli Wallach had his method. (From syracusenewtimes.com)

Eli Wallach had his method. (From syracusenewtimes.com)

Eli Wallach died Tuesday, and the actor was 98 years old.

He got to work alongside the greats of many generations, in movies that your grandparents and parents and you, yourself, may indeed have loved. Clint Eastwood and Steve McQueen and Al Pacino and Cameron Diaz. “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “The Magnificent Seven and “The Godfather Part III” and “The Holiday.”

But you couldn’t quite exactly call him the biggest star, even though he won a Tony and an Emmy.

The news stories about his passing used the cherished Hollywood term character actor. In fact, they said he was a master of Method Acting.

I read and looked at pictures and clips and thought back.

Damn, I liked the work of Eli Wallach. I remember when he was honored at the Oscars a couple years ago, a champion of character actors.

Also in my movie news blog for the Syracuse New Times site today, I shuffle a written victory dance for a report that an actual chef calls “Chef” the best kitchen movie ever made.

I loved the Jon Favreau movie and told the world so in my review.

Yay, me.

If you’d like to read the Movie News installment of my weekly blogging duties for the Syracuse New Times, click the link below.


Who do you consider your favorite character actors in film or TV, and why? When you heard that Eli Wallach died, did you know any of his roles right away? Right now, are you feeling good, bad, or ugly? Please explain.

24 thoughts on “Let’s be thankful Eli Wallach, quite a character

  1. I loved him, in so many ways, Mark! I found his character to be true and honest portrayals. I love comedies, so “The Holiday” with the switch of Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz’s houses, one in England and the other, in U.S. is still in one of my youngest daughter’s and mine ‘stack’ of Christmas favorites.


  2. Eli was such a fantastic actor with quite the resume, including being a front running with “Method” acting. I heard an interview on WRVO this afternoon, dating back to 1990, and around the time Godfather, Part III (yeeeeesh) was released. What an interesting and passionate guy. When asked what he preferred, what preference of acting that he wished he could restrain himself to perform, he answered stage. It was a reassuring 45 minutes.

    Hope you have a great weekend ahead.


  3. OK Mark,
    I am ashamed to confess this, but the first movie of his that came to mind was “The Deep”. Which, aside from the wonderful performance by the Erstwhile Quint (From Jaws–Robert Shaw), was a mediocre movie.
    But, it had Jacqueline Bisset in a wet T-Shirt. How could it fail?

    Now, of course I know he did some better movies, many of which I have seen. But that was my first thought.
    As far as my favorite ‘character actor’.
    That would be Walter Brennan.
    Especially his performance in ‘To Have and Have Not’.
    And… there is this:
    I did not know Eli Wallach had died.
    This saddens me.


  4. I first heard he died right here, right now. I knew his name and my sister assures me I’d know some of his work, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head. I’m wondering if he’s like Burt Mustin…. someone who was in everything, yet no one really knows the character right off. 🙂


  5. yes, he was one of those actors who was a steady presence in all he did. i didn’t think about him often as a stand alone actor, but when i look back at his diverse body of work, it was quite amazing. mr. freeze from the batman show to a spaghetti western – what a mix ) rip eli


  6. I was a huge fan – and a fan of his wife Jessica Tandy too. He is deserving of such praise – what a body of work. And I always got the feeling that he was a lovely man too.


  7. He was a marvel. Do you remember “Cinderella Liberty?” It was one of the first movies my husband and I saw together when we started dating. Eli Wallach played a small part in that movie which for some reason is the role I remember best of his. I’m happy you posted about Eli Wallach, Mark, he should be remembered.


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