Still more lazy thoughts from this one…

My Favorite Films of a Master Character Actor: Eli Wallach

eli wallach._V1_SX214_CR0,0,214,317_AL_Yesterday, with passing of one of the true master character actors TV and film has ever known, Eli Wallach, I had to put something together. For the man who became an intrinsic part of my viewing pleasure. Part of the family really. Spotting him everywhere, always in the midst of some moving image. He melding into the role as only Eli Wallach could. Becoming the scene-stealing villain, the wily sage, or the face in a crowd, with ease. Integral in everything he did.

Many times, the best thing in the whole damn movie.

The very first time I ever saw him, I was just was a kid. His masterful Calvera, in The Magnificent Seven. On the big screen, gathering my eyes every time he showed up. In a film filled with colorful actors, many hamming it up for the camera to steal it away from others there, it was the supporting actor Wallach who took it all. In the least minutes possible onscreen, among a boatload of acting professionals. Now that’s saying something.

Of course, and rightly, many are convinced his Tuco, from The Good The Bad & The Ugly, was his finest role. I can’t argue against it. In a film where no one was pure, in the virtuous sense, Wallach as Tuco Benedicto Pacífico Juan María Ramírez, the wanted, fast-talking Mexican bandit, became more than the stereotypical cad Hollywood was guilty of propagating. The Ugly was as ruthless and deadly as his compadre title characters, but through his humor, oafishness, and his unmitigated enduring personality, he came to represent what the other two could not onscreen.

He was us.

Suffering as the audience did, with a gleam in his eye, as to who would survive it all. Bless him for that. For a lifetime’s work, and considerable talent in the supporting roles made so memorable, may he rest in peace. These then are my favorites of the master character actor who made movie-watching so special.

Magnificent Seven

calvera - magnificent seven

Calvera

the misfits

Eli Wallach The Misfits

Guido

the naked city

naked-wallach2

Detective Bain – A Death of Princes

Lord Jim

The General

The General

genghis khan

The Shah of Khwarezm

The Shah of Khwarezm

the good the bad & the ugly

Tuco

Tuco

Batman_TV_Series-898081393-large

Mr. Freeze

Mr. Freeze

mackenna's gold

Ben Baker

Ben Baker

Acoldnightsdeath

Frank Enari

Frank Enari

the sentinel

Detective Gatz

Detective Gatz

l_78975_863f0148

Man-in-Oil

Man-in-Oil

the hunter

Ritchie Blumenthal

Ritchie Blumenthal

executionerssongr1art1

Uncle Vern Damico

Uncle Vern Damico

tough guys

Leon B. Little

Leon B. Little

the two jakes

Cotton Weinberger

Cotton Weinberger

the godfather III

Don Altobello

Don Altobello

l_327056_5108b008

Mr. Loonie - Liquor Store Owner (uncredited, but unmissable)

Mr. Loonie – Liquor Store Owner (uncredited, but unmistakable)

studio-60-on-the-sunset-strip-movie-poster-2006-1020379683

Eli Weinraub

Eli Weinraub

the ghost writer

Old Man

Old Man

wall street money never sleeps

Julie Steinhardt

Julie Steinhardt

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26 Responses to “My Favorite Films of a Master Character Actor: Eli Wallach”

  1. ruth

    Fantastic tribute Michael! I only knew him from the later films he did, no doubt he left a big mark in Hollywood. RIP Mr. Wallach.

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  2. garylee828

    Very nice piece. I never intended to watch “The Holiday” but caught it on TV one night I was flipping channels and I ended up watching half of the movie – simply b/c of his character and watching his acting. As the movie progressed his character was less involved, and so I eventually turned away b/c I didn’t care about any of the other characters, but to make me watch even a fraction of that film speaks volumes.

    Such a great actor and to be doing it so well into his 90’s; him and Betty White are awesome!

    The first film I saw of him was also “The Magnificent Seven”. The only thing I slightly disagree with you about is that he was the best on that film; Yul Brynner was equally as good. :) They both gave memorable performances. I hated Eli in that movie. So, he did what he was supposed to do. :)

    I actually have not watched “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”. I think I need to change that soon. :)

    Tyson over at “Head in a Vice” retweeted this piece, which is how I stumbled across it. Good looking out, Tyson. :) Great list there, Leopard.

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    • le0pard13

      Welcome, Gary! :-) I’ve only caught some of The Holiday. Unfortunately, it likely was those parts without Eli you’ve mentioned. I didn’t finish it. I will now that you and some friends have talked about it for him.

      Can’t go wrong with Yul Brynner. Especially in The Magnificent Seven. No wonderful Michael Crichton had Yul reprise that iconic role in Westworld. Eli’s Calvera was somethin’, though. And I very much recommend The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly. Mr. Wallach was simply awesome in it.

      My thanks for Tyson for sending you my way, and to you for the kind words and wonderful comment. Much appreciated. :-)

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    • Kevin

      The Good, The Bad and The Ugly – everyone’s role was perfect and the movie is the sum of the parts.

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        • Kevin

          The rougher edge of Leone’s Westerns are my favourite followed by Peckinpah and some of John Wayne’s. Not that I have seen too much of Westerns.

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  3. jackdeth72

    Hi, Michael:

    A wonderful homage to one of the great “Sweaty Men in Film”! :D

    A superb character in ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and ‘The Good. The Bad And The Ugly’!

    Remember. “When you are going to shoot… Shoot.. Don’t talk!”

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  4. John Greco

    A masterful actor who enhanced whatever his was in. Nicely done, Michael!

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  5. girlsdofilm

    Wonderful tribute! I love Wallach’s role in The Misfits, they way he plays off Gable and Clift. One thing that always surprises me: how prolific he was. I can’t believe he was still appearing in films until 2010.

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    • le0pard13

      Thank you very kindly :-) Yeah, his work in The Misfits was indeed something. Wallach seemed to work right up to the end. Catching him in the small support roles late in life always brought a smile to my face. He did what he always managed to do. He still stood out.

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  6. Victor De Leon

    Awesome tribute! Loved Eli. He could play just about anyone and do it well. Such incredible dedication to his craft. Loved seeing “A Cold Night’s Death” get some love! My favorites are definitely The Naked City, The Godfather Part III, Good Bad Ugly, M7. Some of his latter films, I still need to catch. I have never seen Wall Street 2 or Ghost Writer. Need to check those out.

    Great post!

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    • le0pard13

      Of course, I had to include “A Cold Night’s Death” in this. A TV movie where his acting, along with Robert Culp’s, was so superb, and crucial. You named some great ones of his, Vic. Hard to believe there won’t be a chance to catch this actor again in something new. Many thanks, my friend :-)

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