Eli Wallach, star of The Magnificent Seven, dies at 98

Eli Wallach at 2011 Oscars ceremony in Hollywood, 27 February 2011 On screen, Wallach was frequently cast as "the bad guy"

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Eli Wallach, whose films included The Magnificent Seven and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, has died aged 98.

Character actor Wallach - who began his film career in 1956 after 10 years on stage - was admired for his wide range in a career spanning six decades.

His portrayal of bandit chief Calvera in The Magnificent Seven was regarded by many as his definitive role.

When he received an honorary Oscar in 2011, he was described as a "quintessential chameleon".

Eli Wallach with Carroll Baker in Baby Doll Eli Wallach with Carroll Baker in Baby Doll

Though he was never nominated for an Oscar during his 60-year career, the Academy rewarded him in 2011 for "effortlessly inhabiting a wide range of characters, while putting his inimitable stamp on every role".

His films included the classic westerns How the West Was Won and The Misfits.

Arguably best known for his villains, he made a lasting impression as Tuco opposite Clint Eastwood, in Sergio Leone's 1966 spaghetti western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Years later, Wallach said strangers would recognise him and start whistling the distinctive theme tune.

Eli Wallach in The Magnificent Seven. Clip courtesy MGM

"As an actor I've played more bandits, thieves, warlords, molesters and mafioso than you could shake a stick at," the Hollywood Reporter quoted him as saying.

He was also successful in light comedy and appeared in many TV shows, including playing Mr Freeze for a spell in the 1960s Batman TV series.

The veteran star continued making films into his 90s, making his last big screen appearance in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps in 2010.

His death was confirmed by his daughter Katherine in the New York Times.

Eli Wallach with Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Eli Wallach with Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Wallach was born on 7 December 1915 in Brooklyn to Polish Jewish immigrants.

He graduated from the University of Texas, initially intending to become a teacher.

But his focus shifted to acting, and after serving in World War II he studied at the Actors' Studio, where he became a practitioner of method acting.

Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson Wallach, with his wife Anne Jackson at the premiere of The Holiday in 2006

He first appeared on the New York stage in 1945, where he met his wife Anne Jackson, to whom he was married for 65 years.

Wallach made his London debut in 1954 with The Teahouse of the August Moon.

His screen debut came two years later, playing an unscrupulous seducer in Baby Doll.

The role earned him a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actor and a Bafta award for most promising newcomer.

But the theatre remained Wallach's first love. "For actors, movies are a means to an end,'' he told the New York Times in 1973.

''I go and get on a horse in Spain for 10 weeks, and I have enough cushion to come back and do a play.''

He became a household name as Calvera in 1960's The Magnificent Seven, alongside Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson and James Coburn.

He went on to earn an Emmy in 1967 for his supporting turn in the drama Poppies Are Also Flowers, and picked up four further nominations - most recently for his guest turns in Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2007) and Nurse Jackie (2010).

Other notable roles came in How the West Was Won, Mystic River, The Holiday, Lord Jim, and The Godfather: Part III, playing an ill-fated Mafioso.

Asked about possible retirement, he told the Times in 1997: ''What else am I going to do? I love to act."

Eli Wallach with (l to r) Anne Bancroft, Ben Stiller and Jenna Elfman in Keeping the Faith Eli Wallach with (l to r) Anne Bancroft, Ben Stiller and Jenna Elfman in Keeping the Faith

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