Friday, July 3, 2009

R.I.P. Karl Malden

Academy Award, Emmy Award, and SAG Award winning actor Karl Malden passed away in his Brentwood home at the age of 97 on July 1.

Malden was a tremendous talent and made an extraordinarily successful film career for himself despite his plain looks. Beginning his film career in the early 1940s, his dedicated and memorable work quickly earned him large roles in what would become some of the most iconic films of the 20th century.

His resumé, consisting of 70 roles in films and television shows, included such classics as A Streetcar Named Desire (for which he won the Oscar), On the Waterfront (another Oscar nomination), One-Eyed Jacks, How the West Was Won, Patton, and the highly controversial Baby Doll which was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency for what was termed its “carnal suggestiveness.”

Malden was awarded an Emmy for what is probably his most widely memorable work as Detective Lt. Mike Stone on the hit series "The Streets of San Francisco" in which he starred with a young Michael Douglas.

Douglas said of him, "Karl ‘The Mentor’ Malden was a great actor, father and husband. I admired and loved him deeply."

Malden also appeared in 21 Broadway plays, was President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences from 1989-1992, was given a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Screen Actors Guild, was the spokesperson for American Express (being the first person to utter the famous slogan "Don't leave home without it"), and served on the United States Postal Service advisory committee on which he helped create the "Hollywood Legends" commemorative stamps.

I personally first became aware of Malden growing up watching the Disney film Pollyanna. This may seem inconsequential work compared to some of his other credits, but I still admire and love his performance as the over-zealous, fear-instilling, and conflicted reverend of the town Pollyanna comes to. His work in that film is genuinely one of a kind.

Malden and his wife, Mona, a fellow acting student of Chicago's Goodman Theater, had one of Hollywood’s longest marriages, having celebrated their 70th anniversary in December 2008.

“That was sort of the last goodbye,” said friend and actress Eva Marie Saint, who attended a party in the couple’s honor. “His wish was, ‘After I die, I don’t want you to do anything but have a party.’ So another party is coming up.”

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