10 November 2006

RIP Jack Palance

Jack Palance, the great character actor who enjoyed a career resurgence in the late 80s and early 90s with Tim Burton's "Batman" and Billy Crystal's "City Slickers' (for which he won an Academy Award for "Best Supporting Actor"), died today in Montecito, CA at the age of 85 (although according to his family, his age was actually 87).

A heavyweight boxer (born "Vladimir Palaniuk") before turning to acting (and on this Remembrance Day, let's not forget his Purple Heart and Victory Medal), Palance was cast as villains for most of his career, due to his beady eyes, craggy features, and hushed, halted delivery (years before Walken, Palance perfected the art of "unusual punctuation") . His most famous heavy was Jack Wilson in "Shane", of course. Despite a long career, Palance hated most of his roles: "Most of the stuff I do is garbage", he once scoffed, and most directors "shouldn't be directing traffic". Painting and poetry provided him with more satisfying creative outlets.

I remember him best as the title role in Dan Curtis' live television adaptation of "Dracula" (written by Richard Matheson) in the early 70s, and as Omus in the dreadful Canadian tax shelter clunker "The Shape Of Things To Come", in which he presides over a moon-based army of killer robots. He was also a lot of fun in Jack Sholder's "Alone In The Dark", in which he was the leader of a trio of escaped psychos (along with Martin Landau and Erland van Lith) who terrified Donald Pleasance.

Hard to believe he's not gonna be around...