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 Post subject: Jack Palance
PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 9:02 pm 
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Prince Judah
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 Post subject: Re: Jack Palance
PostPosted: Thu Jun 19, 2014 9:06 pm 
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Prince Judah
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There's a key scene in the minor epic Barabbas (1961) when Palance - as a champion gladiator - is attempting to ride down Anthony Quinn with his chariot and he lets out this hideous laugh. It's an awfully gruesome laugh, combining bravado and insanity; no one else could let loose such disturbing laughter - only Jack Palance.

Supposedly, Palance was the beneficiary of plastic surgery before he became an actor - the story told was that he was burned in a mishap during a flight training incident in WWII. However, after he died, this story was said to be the creation of press agents. In any event, his unusual angular features - as if drawn from some EC crime comic book - suits his natural progression to film star, as if it were his destiny. In the late forties, he understudied Brando on stage for A Streetcar Named Desire. His start in film was at the same time as Brando and Heston, in 1950's Panic in the Streets. He played a killer-on-the-run who also carried a plague which threatened to wipe out the whole city.
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Palance was also part of an ensemble in the war film Halls of Montezuma (51), but he was mostly seen as bad guys or threatening figures in the next few years. Besides his facial features, he was very tall - 6' 4" - and lean muscled, so it was easy for him to be imposing and intimidating. Palance might have been typecast as killers and criminals for all his career - he was indeed a natural for such roles and excelled at them in the fifties. But, as it turned out, even in this early phase of his career for some reason, he ended up playing actors as characters, notably in Sudden Fear (52) and The Big Knife (55); casting directors may have thought he would do well playing people 'in the biz' as it were. That's not to say he still didn't play menacing characters; his failed actor in Sudden Fear plots to kill his wife (Joan Crawford) - why she fell so in love with him in the first place is the big mystery, but Palance was on his way to the big time even as he was creeping out audiences.
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After all this time, the role that most film fans identify with Palance is his hired gunman in Shane (53). Sure, Alan Ladd was the hero and it also had Van Heflin as the decent farmer, but ask most people - the scenes they recall most vividly are the ones with Palance: dressed in black, like an emissary from the realm of death, with a voice to freeze the soul. That was the thing with Palance - even if he wasn't playing the main character, it was still his scenes that most viewers remember best. He also played opposite Heston in Arrowhead, as a hostile Indian, and as a Jack the Ripper-type killer in the mystery Man in the Attic. Palance's characters also usually seemed at least a bit crazed - that's what set Palance apart - as in the small epics The Silver Chalice (54-as a demented magician) and Sign of the Pagan (as Attila the Hun).
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Even when Palance began to switch towards heroic characters, that hint of madness didn't go away: he was the heroic Lt. in the war film Attack! (56), up against Eddie Albert as a despicable captain, but Palance still came across as disturbing, bent. His confrontation with a tank in the final act gave me nightmares as a kid and when he returned almost from the dead in his final scenes, it reminded me of scenes from Night of the Living Dead (68). Palance also acted in the now-famous TV version of Rod Serling's Requiem For a Heavyweight in '56, which garnered him an Emmy. His career began to go a bit sideways as he took roles in European films, such as The Barbarians (1960) and The Mongols (61). He did end up in Jean-Luc Godard's acclaimed Contempt (63), as a movie producer opposite Brigitte Bardot. He did his first regular TV series role, in The Greatest Show on Earth (63-64; like a TV version of Heston's '52 film). He also seemed to mellow in the sixties; for example, rather than the brutal Mexican bandit which he appeared to be in The Professionals (66), he was instead a sympathetic character by the end.
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However, even though he tended to play more establishment figures as he got older, such as law officers (They Came to Rob Las Vegas '68), there was a predisposition towards horror and monsters as the career began to wind down. There were TV film versions of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (68) and Dracula (Marvel Comics artist Gene Colan based his illustrations of Dracula in the famous seventies comic book series Tomb of Dracula on Palance) and the anthology Torture Garden (67), Justine (69) and Craze (74). He played Castro in Che! (69). As he reached a certain age - 50 - and with the close of the sixties, Palance took 2nd lead roles supporting bigger stars, usually in westerns: Monte Walsh (70) as Lee Marvin's sidekick; as Omar Sharif's father in The Horsemen (71); attempting to capture Charles Bronson in Chato's Land (72); fighting Bud Spencer in It Can Be Done Amigo and in conflict with George C. Scott in Oklahoma Crude (73).
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ABOVE: in Craze (74) and, in the credits scene at the start of The Four Deuces, Palance is seen chuckling
_______ over a Batman comic strip, as if foreshadowing his other crime boss role of over a decade later...


In the latter half of the seventies, Palance was back to foreign-language films, taking roles in low budget European crime thrillers (The Four Deuces; Bloody Avenger; Mr. Scarface) and other exploitation fare (Sensuous Nurse; Black Cobra Woman; Safari Express). Also, there was the unusual sci-fi western Welcome to Blood City (77), a version of HG Wells' Shape of Things to Come (79) from Canada and the very unusual but tedious Cocaine Cowboys with Andy Warhol. He also did some TV - the series Bronk (75-76), a guest spot in Buck Rogers (79) and the cheesy telefilm The Ivory Ape (80). The eighties were nearly a wasteland for Palance; he began with hammy roles in low budget sci-fi/horror pics which eventually achieved some cult status: Without Warning (80), Hawk the Slayer and Alone in the Dark (82) and then there was a gap of 5 years while he hosted Ripley's Believe it or Not on TV, until some more small-time sci-fi: Gor (87) & Outlaw of Gor (88).
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But, at the same time, Palance reached the rarefied air of a living legend - there were now 4 decades of movie roles behind him and filmmakers wanted to cast him based on all those classic roles stretching back to the fifties.* The first was in the German comedy film Bagdad Café (87). Next, as a thuggish overlord in the Young Guns (88) western. Finally, he was picked for the crime boss role in Batman (89), as one of the few older actors who could make Jack Nicholson uneasy. Palance followed up with more special supporting roles in Tango & Cash and the sci-fi debacle Solar Crisis (90), which also featured Heston. His big comeback, for which he finally won the Oscar, was in the comedy-western City Slickers (91), as an old cowhand tolerating Billy Crystal. This resulted in him briefly returning to starring roles, in the comedy Cops and Robbersons (94) with Chevy Chase and the City Slickers sequel.

* a similar thing happened with Heston in the early nineties; filmmakers hired him for key supporting roles based on his many classic fifties & sixties movie roles.
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Perhaps fittingly, Palance upstaged his own career during the 1992 Oscars, insulting Crystal while accepting his award and doing one-handed push-ups on the stage (he was over 70). I remember this well, watching it back then as it happened, and probably many others do, as well; this was such a spellbinder that the 1993 Oscar ceremony featured Palance with Crystal in a return performance, like a sequel; as a result, the rest of his career was sort of an after-thought and forgettable, composed of various TV movies and another version of Treasure Island in 1999 (he played Long John Silver, Heston's role in his own version in 1990). He publicly pointed out at least once that he was Ukrainian, not Russian, to make sure everyone understood the distinction. I could relate.


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 Post subject: Re: Jack Palance
PostPosted: Mon Dec 01, 2014 12:04 am 
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Jack Palance has always, always intrigued me. As a huge fan of Bronson and Eastwood, it's hard not to be drawn to a guy like Palance, who is one of few tough guys in Hollywood who actually were tough, it's all written on his face. Without even realising it at first, Palance was very present during my childhood in the many roles he played in movies I grew up watching again and again. Tango and Cash, Batman, Young Guns, City Slickers and its sequel. I absolutely love his character of Curly in those movies, it's like all bad *** characters he'd played over the years rolled into one!

Did you know Bronson was almost cast in that part? Billy Crystal told the story in his memoir that came out last year. It's a pretty amusing story:

In his 2013 memoir, Still Foolin' Em, Billy Crystal writes of how the casting of City Slickers came about. Palance, he says, was the first choice from the beginning, but had a commitment to make another film. Crystal writes that he contacted Charles Bronson about the part, only to be rudely rebuffed because the character dies. Palance got out of his other obligation to join the cast. Rick Moranis, however, originally cast as Phil, had to leave the production due to his wife's illness. Daniel Stern was a late replacement in the role.

On the night Palance won the Academy Award, according to Crystal, the 73-year-old actor placed the Oscar on the comedian's shoulder and said, "Billy Crystal ... who thought it would be you?" Crystal added in his book: "We had a glass of champagne together, and I could only imagine what Charles Bronson was thinking as he went to sleep that night."


Some more on this:

He was very well read, smart, and, in a word, classy. He loved the script and wanted to do it, but he had a scheduling conflict with another film and wasn't sure it was going to work out. We were crushed, and since shooting was to begin shortly, we needed a backup. With a 24-hour window facing us, we secretly reached out to another icon, Charles Bronson. His agent assured us that he would read the script right away. The thought of Bronson in this role was in its own way very appealing. He was an intense actor—scary, of course—and would make a tough and hilarious Curly. The next day I was told to be at my office at a certain time as Mr. Bronson would be calling me. I sat by the phone, nervous about talking to him. The phone rang.

"Hello," I said cheerfully.

"F--- you," he replied. I waited for the punch line. There wasn't one.

"F--- you. I'm dead on page sixty-four! How dare you send this to me."

I wasn't sure if he was joking or not.

"You have a lot of nerve," he went on. "I don't die in my films." I was about to remind him that he died in The Magnificent Seven, but before I could, he said it again: "F--- you."

"Mr. Bronson, I'm sorry you feel this way. It's a great part."

"No, it's not—I'm dead on page sixty-f---ing-four." And he hung up.

I sat there, stunned, and then the phone rang and it was Jack's agent saying he'd blown off the other film because he wanted to do this one, and we were home safe.


What's funny is Bronson made another movie that year, Sean Penn's The Indian Runner, where he dies!

Oh well, enough about that. Jack Palance is an actor worth investing more time and money on, just checked and saw quite a few of his movies available on Blu-ray that I'll be looking into purchasing. Recently watched both Shane and The Professionals for the first time, so I need some more Palance.

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You know, McKay, you're a bigger fool than I thought you were. And to tell you the truth, that just didn't seem possible.


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 Post subject: Re: Jack Palance
PostPosted: Mon Jan 05, 2015 10:39 am 
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Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 3:34 pm
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recently I have seen, for the first time the movie Sudden Fear, very good movie


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