Thursday, July 2, 2009
Karl Malden 1912-2009 R.I.P.
Lost in the avalanche of celebrity deaths, Karl Malden, character actor extraordinaire, died on July 1st at the age of 97. As a movie lover from the time I was a kid growing up in the 50's and 60's it would have been impossible to miss the performances of this great actor. I doubt if Karl Malden ever had his name at the top of a theatre marquee, but he was the anchor in many of the great movies of that period. He could do good guys (Father Barry in "On the Waterfront" and Gen. Omar Bradley in "Patton") Heavies (Tom Fitch in "Nevada Smith") and in between (Harvey Shoemaker in "The Birdman of Alcatraz") He even managed to not be upstaged by Michael Douglas's hair in "The Streets of San Francisco" TV series. I caught him the other night as Shooter in "The Cincinnati Kid" and marveled how perfectly he nailed every scene with a cast of major stars (Steve McQueen, Edward G. Robinson, Joan Blondell and Ann Margaret). Karl Malden outlived his career by about a decade (IMDB has his last performance in "The West Wing" 2001), so to many people he'll be just another one of those old Hollywood guys who'll get 3 seconds of his picture and a smattering of applause by all the new Hollywood types at this years Oscar death montage. But for those of us who really love the movies, he'll be one of the irreplaceable ones. I can't remember him ever being involved in a scandal and I doubt if he ever shot his mouth off about what a horrible country he lived in. And for that and all the great performances the least we can do is give the man a standing ovation.