Jack Palance, R.I.P.

17498__jackpalance_lJack Palance, who died of natural causes today at age 87, may have turned himself into a sly running joke in his later years, but for nearly five decades, he was one of the scariest men in movies. The rough-hewn virility so eminently on display when the 72-year-old did three one-armed push-ups at the 1992 Oscar ceremony was a hallmark of his lengthy gallery of movie villains, from the plague-infected thug he played in his first film, Elia Kazan’s Panic in the Streets (1950), to the crass movie producer he played in Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (1963), to the cool crime-lord he played in Batman (1989). He often played black-hatted gunslingers in Westerns, most unforgettably in Shane (1953), which earned him the second of his Oscar nominations. He spent 40 years as a top character actor, assaying variations on that role, until his comic twist on the archetype in 1991’s City Slickers finally won him the gold — and a chance to celebrate with his memorable feat of calisthenics. The rest of his career may have been spent in a similarly self-parodic mode in forgettable movies, but Palance didn’t seem to care; he’d made his point and become a beloved national institution. Besides, it’s not like he ever had an illusion about his body of work. "I don’t see the movies I make. Most of them stink. What do I want to watch those for?" he once told EW. "I probably won’t read this article either — unless it’s really sweet." You can still hear his menacing whisper, can’t you?

addCredit(“Jack Palance: Jim Smeal/WireImage.com”)


Comments (34 total) Add your comment
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  • shy

    I am sad to hear that Mr. Palance has passed away. But I am equally saddened that Gerald Levert has also passed on today. But EW, why didn’t I can’t find anything on your site about his death?

  • matt

    popwatch you do [[amazing]] tributes. =]

  • Can I Get A What What

    RIP Jack Palance

    Jack Palance died today at the young age of 87. He had a long life and career. My husband and I had our first date watching City Slickers – funny movie. We’ve been married 14 years now. RIP Jack and

  • Chris

    I too am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Jack Palance. My first exposure to him was when he was host of Ripley’s Believe it or not, and I still from time to time find myself responding to my friends with “Believe it…or not” in his signature voice. He will surely be misse.
    And I too am deeply saddened by not seeing anything about the passing of Gerald Levert on EW.com. As a regular visitor of this site, I was expecting coverage of his untimely death today, and am surprised not to see anything mentioned.

  • Ed

    awww, is all I oculd say when i found out this man died. I remember Jack by “…believe it, or not… and my mom getting near orgasm everytime she heard him.

  • Okwaho

    Jack Palance was a leader in the long line of movies vilain giants, but, in real life, he was the most awesome and pleasant character to talk with.
    He was so well known and admired that he had his character illustrated in Europe in a Lucky Luke Comic Album in his favorite role of a paid gunslinger. His fame went over lots of frontiers as the genuine and eternal bad guy.
    We sure gonna miss you, Jack!

  • Jakeem

    Jack Palance was great even while doing commercial pitches. I’ll never forget his 1980s spot for the Time Life series of books about the Old West and his priceless description of outlaw John Wesley Hardin as “a man so mean, he once killed a man for snoring.”

  • Ron

    Wow,Jack is gone he was super cool! I’ll never forget the one arm push up at the Oscars. He at that age was in better shape than people half his age. Sorry to hear that Gerald Levert passed on too.

  • susan desanzo

    A former airline employee at the Pittsburgh Int’l Airport, I once was lucky enough to assist in helping Mr. Palance locate a missing flight ticket. I will never forget that chance meeting with the man that was my cinematic hero. Imagine it was a nothing experience for him, but I was so supercharged at actually meeting and seeing him in person that I’m surprised I didn’t trip over my jaw, which was probably on the ground somewhere. God saw that he needed to rest…

  • Axel

    Much like Chris, Jack Palance was recognizable to me from the first iteration of “Ripley’s Believe It…or Not!” As I grew up, I saw more of his earlier movie roles. And despite his own opinion, Jack Palance was more than good. He may well have been the quintessential bada** of the silver screen, paving the way for actors like Christopher Walken and Gary Oldman who chew up the scenery for our amusement.
    With Jack Palance’s death, we’ve lost the last of Hollywood’s “tough guys,” an actor who stands in the same company as Burt Lancaster, Charles Bronson, and Lee Marvin.

  • Sigmund Freud

    hey “ED”,didn’t we see you and your Mom aka girlfriend on an episode of Springer? get some therapy son,kiddies aren’t supposed to know when their mommies are close to orgasms.

  • gene

    I’m surprised that noone talks about his gladiator role in Barabbas. If you’re a Palance fan, you’ve got to see this. He plays a professional gladiator who LOVES his job, and he pulls out all the stops. He is pure evil. He wasn’t on screen for long, but he stole the show. Pure Palance.

  • Nancy Walker

    Sorry to hear such sad news. I loved him in the movie Shane.

  • Ramesh

    Jack Palance was the type of American that people around the world imagined “good” Americans to be. A big, tough, rangy good guy you could count on to be on your side. Too bad you’re gone Jack…..

  • Honeybee

    My favorite Jack Palance performance was in a small, post-City Slickers indie called Bagdad Cafe. Great work. He’ll be missed.

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