Wallach's first public performance came at the age of 15 in an amateur production. After graduating with a BA degree from the University of Texas in Austin and earning his MA from the City College of New York, he received a scholarship to New York's Neighborhood Playhouse. He graduated in 1940 and acted in minor roles on stage before enlisting in the Army in 1941.
Wallach served in the Army's Medical Administrative Corps during World War II, and reached the rank of Captain. After he left the service, he resumed acting, making his Broadway debut in Skydrift in 1945. In 1946, he appeared in the Equity Library Theater's production of This Property Is Condemned in New York.
Wallach was one of the earliest members of the Actor's Studio and he spent two seasons with Eva LaGallienne's fledging American Repertory Theater before landing Broadway starring roles in Tennessee Williams The Rose Tattoo (1951), for which he won a Tony Award, and Camino Real (1952). In the 1950s, he emerged as one of the American theater's most respected actors proving to be a versatile performer of considerable range. Among his other theatrical credits are Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros (1961) opposite Zero Mostel, the double bill The Tiger and The Typist (1963) with wife Anne Jackson, The Waltz of the Toreadors (1973-74) with Jackson and daughter Roberta Wallach and Tom Stoppard's Every Good Boy Deserves Favour (1979). In the late 1990s, Wallach enjoyed success in the Off-Broadway hit Visiting Mr. Green.
Beginning in the late 1940s, Wallach also started appearing on the small screen. He was memorable as the Dauphin opposite Julie Harris' Joan of Arc in The Lark (NBC, 1977), and also appeared in Skokie (CBS, 1981), Anatomy of an Illness (CBS, 1984), Legacy of Lies (USA Network, 1992) and the ABC drama series Our Family Honor, as the patriarch of a mob family (1985-86).
On the big screen, Wallach first came into prominence in Baby Doll (1956), the controversial film adaptation of the Tennessee Williams short story. He went on to portray numerous, often hot-headed characters, from the Mexican bandit leader in John Sturges' The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966), to Clark Gable's buddy in The Misfits (1961). He gradually mellowed into more sober, avuncular roles, like the psychiatrist evaluating Barbra Streisand's character in Nuts (1987), but he could still play unsavory types, including a shortsighted hit man in Tough Guys (1986) and mafioso Don Altobello in The Godfather III (1990). Other movies include Lord Jim, The Moon-Spinners, How to Steal a Million, The Brain, The Deep, Cinderella Liberty, Movie, Movie, The Hunter, Girlfriends, Sam's Son, The Two Jakes, Article 99, Hollywood Mistress and Night and the City.
For much of the 1990s, he lent his distinctive vocal talents to narrations and character voices on such acclaimed series and specials as The Donner Party (PBS, 1992), Lincoln (ABC, 1992), Ken Burns' documentary mini-series Baseball (PBS, 1994) and The West (PBS, 1996). He has also remained active on the big screen in such diverse roles as a Wall Street businessman in The Associate (1996) and a rabbi in Edward Norton's feature directorial debut Keeping the Faith (2000).
Wallach most recently worked with his long-time friend, director Clint Eastwood on Mystic River (2003), The Hoax (2006) starring Richard Gere and Alfred Molina and Mama's Boy (2006) starring Diane Keaton and Jon Heder, and he will make an appearance in an episode of the breakout series Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip in a role that Aaron Sorkin wrote specifically for him.
Wallach and wife Anne have three children, one of whom, Peter, is a special-effects director. They have three grandsons.
Read earlier biographies on this page.
Eli Wallach Facts
|Birthday||December 7, 1915 (103)|
|Birthplace||Brooklyn, New York, USA|
|The Magnificent Seven|
|The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly|
|The Godfather Part III|
|The Ghost Writer|
|Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps|
|The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration|
|Long Live Your Death|
|How the West Was Won|