Jack Palance

  1. 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.
  2. 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.”
  3. 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!
  4. 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!

  5. Edward G Robinson, The Ten Commandments, 1954.     
  6. John Derek, The Ten Commandments, 1954.

  7. James Dean, Giant, 1955.
  8. Sterling Hayden, The Killing, 1955.     Insisting on a star, United Artists  suggested Mature but Stanley  Kubrick, making his second  feature, was adamant. No way. His producer. James B  Harris did, though, tried to interest Jack Palance. But, Hayden remained as Johnny Clay in the superb heist movie, then complained that the “unconventional structure reduced the impact of my performance.”  Fearing a lawsuit from Jack, , Kubrick re-cut everything, lost all the  suspense, and quickly put it all  back together again. And called Hayden back to be General Jack D Ripper – protecting bodily fluids – in  Dr Strangelove, 1964. 
  9. Kirk Douglas, Paths of Glory, 1957.   Kubrick #2…  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.” 
  10. Kirk Douglas, Lust For Life, 1955.   Before Kirk Douglas got interested,  Irving Stone’s biography of the painter Vincent Van Goh had been set for Spencer Tracy in 1946, Yul Brynner in 1953 and Jack Palance  in 1954.  

  11. Ricky Nelson, Rio Bravo, 1958.
  12. Anthony Quinn, The Guns of Navarone, 1960.   Writer-producer Carl Foreman (the Oscar-winning scenarist of The Bridge on the River Kwai) aimed high for  his Allied saboteurs in WWII Greece – starting with Cary Grant and Marlon Brando!    Foreman often said that Quinn was his one and only choice for the Greek  Colonel Andrea Stavros.  However, according to my spies, Stavros had been rejected by both Brando and Palance – the original Stanley Kowalski and his successor  in Broadway’s Streetcar Named Desire.
  13. Yul Brynner, Tarus Bulba, 1962.    Been there, done that… Palance had already been  Revek The Rebel, 1959, Alboino in Sword of the Conqueror, 1960, and  Ogatai in  The Mongols,  in 1960.    Enough  with barbarians!   Particularly if (like Brynner(, he had to lose top  billing to his son. Tony Curtis.
  14. John Ireland, The Fall of the Roman Empire, 1964.    Before making epics, Anthony Mann directed many a Western  – and looked at Ireland and Palance, two gunslingers he’d never been able to work with for his Marcomanni leader, Ballomar… on the biggest ever exterior set , the 1,312 by 745ft Roman Forum.  John knew all about being biggest. 
  15. 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. 
  16. 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.”
  17. 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.
  18. Murray Hamilton, The Graduate, 1967. 
  19. 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.
  20. Al Lettieri, The Getaway, 1972.    Not director Sam Peckinpah’s best experience. He wasn’t allowed any of his selections for Steve McQueen’s wife – Dyan Cannon, Angie Dickinson, Stella Stevens.  Nor Palance as tough guy Rudy Butler; Paramount wouldn’t pay his hefty salary. (He ued over an alleged oral agreement which, as producer Samuel Goldwyn could have told him, was not worth the paper it was written on). Furthermore,  McQueen’s final cut  deal meant he only accepted his “pretty boy” takes… and cut Al to the bone.
  21. Christopher Lee, The Man With The Golden Gun, 1974.
  22. Chuck Connors, Tourist Trap, 1978. Polar opposites, Palance and Gig Young, had been better (but pricier) choices for Mr Slausen, turned by Chuck into a Chuck-type character. He was game but  miscast, said Stephen King, my guest critic via his Danse Macabre book. He praised the  SFX and the creepy, ghostly quality of the murders. The B’s director David Schmoeller said Connors was trying to swop his TV Rifleman image for a horror villain in the 1980s. Didn’t work.
  23. 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. 
  24. 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.
  25. 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.
  26. David Warner, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,1991.
  27. 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.”



 Birth year: 1919Death year: 2006Other name: Casting Calls:  27