Eli Wallach: “I was hanged four times in that movie!”


Wallach, who received an honorary Academy Award for lifetime achievement in 2010, died early Tuesday in the family’s home in New York City, according to his daughter Katherine.

Wallach won a Tony award in 1951 for his performance opposite Maureen Stapleton in Williams’ “The Rose Tattoo” and also starred on Broadway in the playwright’s “Camino Real” and off Broadway in Williams’ “This Property Is Condemned.”

But, though he returned to the stage all of his long professional life, Wallach was more widely known for his films. Among his better-known roles were Carroll Baker’s sleazy lover in Williams’ “Baby Doll” (1956), directed by Elia Kazan; the roustabout Guido in John Huston’s “The Misfits” (1961), which was based on Arthur Miller’s screenplay and notable for being the last film of both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe; and art collector Davis Leland in 1966’s “How to Steal a Million,” in which he starred with Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole.

But he was probably most famous for his roles in two westerns: “The Magnificent Seven” (1960), the classic John Sturges western in which he played not one of the seven gunfighters holding off a gang of thieves but Calvera, the head of a Mexican gang; and “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly,” Sergio Leone’s 1966 western in which Clint Eastwood was “the good,” Lee Van Cleef was “the bad” and Wallach was “the ugly” Tuco.

Set during the American Civil War, Wallach plays a Mexican gunman who partners up with Eastwood’s amoral “Man With No Name” to con towns out of the bounties that are on Wallach’s head. Just as Wallach is about to be hung, Eastwood shoots the rope tied to his neck, and the two escape to repeat their scheme.

“I was hanged four times in that movie!” Wallach joked to NPR’s Scott Simon in 2004.

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