Eli Wallach, prolific U.S. character actor, dies at 98

Wed Jun 25, 2014 4:11pm EDT
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(Reuters) - Eli Wallach, an early practitioner of "method acting" who made a lasting impression as the scuzzy bandit Tuco in the film "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," died on Tuesday at the age of 98.

Wallach appeared on the big screen well into his 90s in such films as Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer," and Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" sequel, as well as on the stage in more than two dozen Broadway shows.

"It's what I wanted to do all my life," Wallach said of his work in an interview in 2010.

Theater marquees on Broadway will be dimmed on Friday for one minute in memory of Wallach, whose first love was the stage.

"Eli Wallach was one of the great talents of our time whose prolific acting career spanned more than six decades. His notable presence on the stage and on screen was both memorable and moving, always," Charlotte St. Martin, the executive director of the Broadway League, which represents producers and theater owners, said in a statement.

"Through the expertise of his craft, he was a storyteller in the most specific yet subtle ways," she said, adding that Wallach was a founding member of The Actors Studio and had studied method acting with legendary teacher Lee Strasberg.

Having grown up the son of Polish Jewish immigrants in an Italian-dominated neighborhood in New York, Wallach might have seemed an unlikely cowboy, but some of his best work was in Westerns.

Many critics thought his definitive role was as Calvera, the flamboyant, sinister bandit chief in "The Magnificent Seven." Others preferred him opposite Clint Eastwood in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," in Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti Western.

Years later, Wallach said strangers would recognize him and start whistling the film's distinctive theme.   Continued...

Cast member Eli Wallach arrives for the premiere of the film "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps in New York" September 20, 2010.  REUTERS/Lucas Jackson