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

40 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 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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        • Dixie Burge

          The Good, the Bad and the Ugly is not only my favorite Leone movie, it’s my favorite MOVIE. And Wallach as Tuco was inspired casting, and an inspired performance! Next is his Calvera in The Magnificent Seven.

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          • le0pard13

            Watched ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’ once again last weekend when it was on TCM. It just never gets old and Eli’s Tuco is just so damn great in it. Rewatched ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and his marvelous Calvera also last month. Great of you to join in on this calvacade of a great and unique actor, Dixie. Many thanks.

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    • Dixie Burge

      Oh, I could NEVER hate Eli in ANYTHING he did, even when he played characters at their most despicable! And believe me, he played more despicable characters than Calvera in The Magnificent Seven. If you can, watch Eli in the role of Dancer in the movie called The Lineup. Now THERE’S despicable!

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        • Dixie Burge

          le0pard13, if you have never seen The Lineup, you’re in for a jolt if you haven’t seen Eli as a baddie worse than Calvera! His character, Dancer, is a pure psychopath without a conscience, who thinks nothing of using and abusing a woman and her young daughter to further his aims as a drug runner. And what he does to a drug lord who is in a wheelchair made me nearly jump out of my seat! As Eli’s baddies go, Dancer makes them look like Casper Milquetoast by comparison!

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  3. jackdeth72

    Hi, Michael:

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

    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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    • Dixie Burge

      I just ordered The Naked City episode Eli was in called “A Death of Princes”. I had seen it before on Netflix (or was it Hulu Plus?), and he was riveting as a rogue cop, who kills Peter Falk, in an uncredited bit part, at the beginning. As an introduction to the type of character he played in it, Eli chases and corners Falk, a small-time criminal, in a car park, and shoots him down even though Falk tells him he is out of bullets. Oooooooh, despicable!! 😦 Lol!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  7. Rob

    How about his mesmerizing performance in Baby Doll. A movie from the early part of his career. I have to assume the author hasn’t seen it because it’s definately one of his best.

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    • le0pard13

      You are correct. ‘Baby Doll’ is one I haven’t seen by this actor extraordinaire. Appreciative the recommendation and will now look for it. Many thanks.🙂

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      • Dixie Burge

        Oh my, le0pard13, you must, you must, you MUST see Baby Doll! You don’t know everything Wallach is capable of until you see him as Silva Vaccaro seduce Carroll Baker as the titular character. As one online reviewer stated, “I watched an actor be reborn right in front of my eyes.” I had no idea he had it in him to play a role like that! Seduction never looked so sexy and riveting as what he pulled off in that movie. And the “hide and seek” scene between him and Baker in her old crumbling antebellum mansion is the most fun I have had watching a scene in whole life. It’s a movie every Eli Wallach fan needs to see at least once before they die!

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    • Dixie Burge

      Agree with you on that! I can’t say emough good about his performance Baby Doll. It’s definitely a must see. One of my favorites, along with The Magnificent Seven and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

      Liked by 1 person

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      • le0pard13

        Well, am planning on streaming it from Amazon to finally catch up to what you and Rob are gushing about. Thanks for the push, though.🙂

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  8. Dixie Burge

    I saw that you mentioned Wallach’s appearance in the TV show Naked City in the episode called “A Death of Princes”. I wasn’t sure if you knew he appeared in another episode called “A Run For the Money”? I just found out about it today. Also guest-starring Kenan Wynn. I’m now trying to find it on DVD to go along with the other one!

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