Jack Palance (1919-2006)
- Lock Martin, The Day The Earth Stood Still, 1951. Instead of Fox chief Darryl Zanuck's notion about Jack, the robot Gort was played by the doorman at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in his third of seven movies. He sure was tall enough at 7ft 7ins (2.31m), just not strong enough to carry either Patricia Neal or his master, Michael Rennie... without wires or lightweight dummies.
- Dana Andrews, The Frogmen, 1951. “I’d already made three films with Richard Widmark. Nothing against him. I like him but he did much better without me. Because I didn’t do it, I was dropped by Fox - but by then the contract system was pretty much coming to an end.”
- Anthony Quinn, Viva Zapata, 1952. Quinn won an Oscar. Palance had to wait another 39 years for his... Jack had understudied Tony in the Chicago production of A Streetcar Named Desire and succeeded Brando on Broadway. Director Elia Kazan said Quinn became “dangerously sulky” when feeling more attention was being paid to Brando - who then set out to diffuse the tension by offering to “go in the bushes.” For pissing contests!
- Richard Conte, The Big Combo, 1954. After rowing with the suits, Palance simply quit and suggested his substitute as the vicious gangster, Mr Brown - say what, Tarantino? Palance wanted his wife, Virginia Baker, to have a rôle. This did not sit well with the associate producer and star, Cornel Wilde - already co-starring with his wife, Jean Wallace!
- James Dean, Giant, 1955.
- Sterling Hayden, The Killing, 1955. Kubrick #2… UA wanted A Star. Such as Mature. Stanley Kubrick’s producer partner, James B Harris, tried Palance and d Hayden. Film flopped but it made Kubrick. Kirk Douglas immediately hired him to helm Paths of Glory, 1956, and Spartacus, 19590. Stanley had arrived!
- Kirk Douglas, Paths of Glory, 1957. Producer James B Harris’ left a script in Palance’s dressingroom when he was Shakespearing in Connecticut - and expected a passionate reply the next day. Silence. Harris eventually phoned Palance, whose voice - and interest - had all the passion of “a cold flounder.”
- Ricky Nelson, Rio Bravo, 1958.
- John Ireland, The Fall of the Roman Empire, 1964. He rejected Ballomar and so, aptly enough, Ireland worked on the biggest ever exterior set - the 1,312 by 745ft Roman Forum. John knew all about being biggest.
- Lee Marvin, Cat Ballou, 1964. Palance pushed hard but did not even make the list: Kirk Douglas, José Ferrer, Burt Lancaster, etc. “Lee was the seventh guy after six turned it down,” reported Dan Gurler from the office of Marvin’s agent Meyer Mishkin. ”He worked it for $30,000, something like that.” And won the support Oscar on April 18, 1966. It took Palance 28 years to find another Kid Sheleen - Curly in Billy Crystal’s City Slickers - and the support Oscar on March 30, 1992.
- Lee Van Cleef, Per qualche dollario in piu/A For A Few Dollars More, Italy-Germany-Spain, 1965. Italian super-director Sergio Leone’s first reserve when Henry Fonda passed. Jack, said critic Richard Schickel, “was perhaps as wrong for the role as Fonda was right.” Van Cleef’s career was re-born - “and,” as he said, “not a moment too soon.”
- Telly Savalas, The Dirty Dozen, 1966. Palance refused to be Magott. Not because he was a racist rapist. But because he was a cliche-ridden racist rapist. Palance wanted to try a different tack. Director Robert Aldrich did not agree - a great surprise for the actor after their fruitful 1954-1958 collaboration on The Big Knife, Attack and Ten Seconds To Hell.
- Tony Musante, A Professional Gun, Italy-Spain, 1968. When director Sergio Corbucci (the other great Sergio of spaghetti Westerns) took over Gillo Pontecorvo’s tortilla Western, he immediately switched Palance from The Mexcan to Curly, gay and, in one scene, very naked. Corbucci was less delighted with Musante, a Method disciple and very much an American Gian Maria Volonte... as in over the top!! Corbucci kept Franco Nero and Palance but replaced Musante with Tomas Milian in his 1970 re-make, Compañeros. Palance’s Oscar-winning role in Billy Crystal’s City Slickers, 1991, was also called Curly.
- Al Lettieri, The Getaway, 1972. Sued over an alleged oral agreement which, as producer Samuel Goldwyn could have told him, was not worth the paper it was written on... Jinxed role! Next actor booked (Richard Bright) was dropped by Steve McQueen for being too small to run from! And Lettieri was heavily edited - by McQueen, not his director, Sam Peckinpah.
- Christopher Lee, The Man With The Golden Gun, 1974.
- Volker Prechtel, Der Name der Rose/The Name of the Rose, 1986. Prechtel took over Malachia from Palance when Germany joined the budget. The Bavarian was a solid character actor from 1974 to his 1996 death in Bavaria.
- Herbert Lom, Masque of the Red Death, 1990. Originally signed for Ludwig in London helmer Alan Birkenshaw’s awful re-hash. Jack must have read the script again - because he fled.
- John Schuck, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, 1990. Otherwise engaged in Colorado and New Mexico - earning his 1991 support Oscar for stealing City Slickers from Billy Crystal. This was last Trek for for the original squad - and for creator Gene Roddeberry. He saw a rough-cut 48 hours before his fatal heart attack at age 70. VI was dedicated to him, although he had made it clear he hated it. The British Warner is the only actor to make consecutive Treks - in different roles. St John Talbot in Trek V: The Final Frontier, and Chancellor Gorkon here.
- Tommy Lee Jones, Natural Born Killers, 1994. Auteur Oliver Stone was shocked to hear that Palance was shocked by the script's violence. “But Jack, said Stone, "you did Shane. You played Atilla The Hun.” "Well," said Palance, “I go around the country talking against violence all the time. I symbolise peace.” “Gee, Jack,” thought Stone, “I must’ve missed that one.”