Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Karl Malden was die

Karl Malden: 1912 - 2009

Karl Malden, the film actor who died today at 97, is being remembered in religionland for his Academy Award-nominated portrayal of a tough dockside priest, Father Pete Barry, in the 1954 film, "On the Waterfront''. He starred in Disney's POLLYANNA, with Natalie Wood in BOMBERS B-52 and GYPSY (both featured in her recent box set, along with the above deleted scene which should have remained in the film).

There was also John Frankenheimer's BIRDMAN OF ALCATRAZ, HOW THE WEST WAS WON, THE CINCINNATI KID, John Ford's CHEYENNE AUTUMN, Ken Russel's BILLION DOLLAR BRAIN and, a personal favorite from when I was a kid, PATTON.

He spent the latter part of his career on TV and in movies such as BEYOND THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, METEOR, STING II and FATAL VISION. His final role was that of a priest on THE WEST WING.

He was particularly memorable as the cruel father of baseball player Jim Piersall (played by Anthony Perkins) in "Fear Strikes Out" (1957); the fire-and-brimstone minister in Disney's "Pollyanna" (1960); a sheriff who whips outlaw Brando in "One-Eyed Jacks" (1961); and an inflexible warden in "The Birdman of Alcatraz" (1962), with Burt Lancaster as his famous prisoner.

In "Patton" (1970), Mr. Malden played Gen. Omar Bradley to George C. Scott's glory-seeking Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

With his bulbous nose and thinning hair, Mr. Malden was one of the most recognizable sights in movies and on television for five decades. In the 1970s, he became known to millions of viewers as a veteran police detective who partners with a young inspector, played by Michael Douglas, in the ABC drama series "The Streets of San Francisco."

The show led to Mr. Malden's 21-year role as the trench coat-wearing pitchman for American Express who urged customers not to leave home without traveler's checks. He joked that this became his best-known part, although he appeared in more than 70 feature films and television movies and achieved a reputation as one of Hollywood's most versatile actors.

Mr. Malden was a steelworker before winning important stage roles on Broadway. He made his greatest mark in Hollywood in the early 1950s as part of a group of New York theater stars -- headed by actor Marlon Brando and director Elia Kazan -- who were trying to bring an unpredictable, realistic style of acting to audiences.

Malden's role is one of the most famous depictions of a Catholic priest on film. The role was inspired by the real life of a Jesuit priest, the Rev. John Corridan, who died 25 years ago today.