Jack Palance

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Jack Palance
Jack Palance - 1954.jpg
1953 publicity photo
BornVolodymyr Palahniuk
(1919-02-18)February 18, 1919
Hazle Township, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedNovember 10, 2006(2006-11-10) (aged 87)
Montecito, California, U.S.
ResidenceTehachapi, California
Other namesJack Brazzo
Walter Palance
Walter J. Palance
Walter Jack Palance
Alma materStanford University
Years active1947–2004
Political party
Spouse(s)Virginia Baker (1949–68; divorced)
Elaine Rogers (1987–2006; his death)
ChildrenHolly (b. 1950)
Brooke (b. 1952)
Cody (1955–1998)
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Jack Palance
Jack Palance - 1954.jpg
1953 publicity photo
BornVolodymyr Palahniuk
(1919-02-18)February 18, 1919
Hazle Township, Pennsylvania, U.S.
DiedNovember 10, 2006(2006-11-10) (aged 87)
Montecito, California, U.S.
ResidenceTehachapi, California
Other namesJack Brazzo
Walter Palance
Walter J. Palance
Walter Jack Palance
Alma materStanford University
Years active1947–2004
Political party
Spouse(s)Virginia Baker (1949–68; divorced)
Elaine Rogers (1987–2006; his death)
ChildrenHolly (b. 1950)
Brooke (b. 1952)
Cody (1955–1998)

Jack Palance (born Volodymyr Palahniuk; February 18, 1919 – November 10, 2006) was an American actor. During half a century of film and television appearances, Palance was nominated for three Academy Awards, all as Best Actor in a Supporting Role, winning in 1991 for his role in City Slickers.

Early life[edit]

Palance was born Volodymyr Palahniuk in the Lattimer Mines section of Hazle Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, to Anna (née Gramiak) and Ivan Palahniuk, an anthracite coal miner.[2] Palance's parents were Ukrainian immigrants,[3][4] his father a native of Ivane Zolote in southwestern Ukraine (modern Ternopil Oblast) and his mother from the Lviv Oblast.[5]

One of six children, he worked in coal mines during his youth before becoming a professional boxer in the late 1930s. Fighting under the name Jack Brazzo, Palance reportedly compiled a record of 15 consecutive victories with 12 knockouts before losing a close decision to future heavyweight contender Joe Baksi in a "Pier-6" brawl.[6][7][8] Years later he recounted: "Then, I thought, you must be nuts to get your head beat in for $200".[9] Palance's athletic ability ranged away from the squared circle, as well. He was an outstanding high school football player and this skill was recognized by Raymond Wolf, the Head Coach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Palance began his career at Carolina as a fullback, but Coach Wolf and the staff felt that he was best-suited to play in the line and, after some consideration, Palance left the game for good.[10]

With the outbreak of World War II, Palance's athletic career ended and his military career began as a member of the United States Army Air Forces. Palance's rugged face, which took many beatings in the boxing ring, was said to have become disfigured while bailing out of a burning B-24 Liberator bomber during a training flight over southern Arizona (where Palance was a student pilot). His distinctive cheekbones and deep-set eyes[11] were said to have been the result of reconstructive surgery. The story behind Palance's face was repeated numerous times (including in respected film reference works), but upon his death, several obituaries of Palance quoted him as saying that the entire story had been contrived: "Studio press agents make up anything they want to, and reporters go along with it. One flack created the legend that I had been blown up in an air crash during the war, and my face had to be put back together by way of plastic surgery. If it is a 'bionic face,' why didn't they do a better job of it?"

Palance was honorably discharged from the Army Air Corps in 1944. After the war he attended Stanford University, leaving one credit shy of graduating to pursue a career in the theatre. (A bachelor of arts degree in Drama was conferred to him, honorary Class of '49, in ’95)[12] During his university years, to make ends meet he also worked as a short order cook, waiter, soda jerk, lifeguard at Jones Beach State Park, and photographer's model.


Palance's acting break came as Marlon Brando's understudy in A Streetcar Named Desire, and he eventually replaced Brando on stage as Stanley Kowalski.

In 1947, Palance made his Broadway debut, and this was followed three years later by his screen debut in the movie Panic in the Streets (1950). The very same year he was featured in Halls of Montezuma about the U.S. Marines in World War II, where he was credited as "Walter (Jack) Palance." Palance was quickly recognized for his skill as a character actor, receiving an Oscar nomination for only his third film role, as Lester Blaine in Sudden Fear.

The following year, Palance was again nominated for an Oscar, this time for his role as the hired gunfighter Jack Wilson in Shane. Several other Western roles followed, but he also played such varied roles as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula and Attila the Hun. Three years before Palance played the part, comic book artist Gene Colan based his interpretation of Dracula for the acclaimed series The Tomb of Dracula on Palance, explaining, "He had that cadaverous look, a serpentine look on his face. I knew that Jack Palance would do the perfect Dracula."[13]

In 1957, Palance won an Emmy for best actor for his portrayal of Mountain McClintock in the Playhouse 90 production of Rod Serling's Requiem for a Heavyweight.

Jean-Luc Godard persuaded Palance to take on the role of Hollywood producer Jeremy Prokosch in the 1963 nouvelle vague movie Le Mépris with Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli. Although the main dialogue was in French, Palance spoke mostly English.

Later, in 1966, he appeared in the movie Alice Through the Looking Glass directed by Alan Handley in which he played the Jabberwock.

In 1969, Palance recorded a country music album in Nashville, released on Warner Bros. Records. It featured Palance's self-penned song "The Meanest Guy That Ever Lived". The album was re-released on CD in 2003 by the Water label (Water 119).

Palance starred in the television series Bronk between 1975 and 1976 for MGM Television.

In 1982, Palance began hosting a television revival of Ripley's Believe It or Not!. The weekly series ran from 1982 to 1986 on the American ABC network. The series also starred three different co-hosts from season to season, including Palance's daughter Holly Palance, actress Catherine Shirriff and singer Marie Osmond. Ripley's Believe It or Not! was in rerun syndication on the Sci-fi Channel (UK) and Sci-fi Channel (US) during the 1990s.

in The Godchild (1974)

Palance's success on Ripley's Believe It or Not! resulted in a demand for his services. He made memorable appearances in Young Guns (1988), Tango & Cash (1989) and Tim Burton's Batman (1989), all of which served to reinvigorate his movie career. Palance would be involved in new projects each year right up to the start of the 21st century. He also performed on Roger Waters' first solo album release The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking in 1984.

Palance, at the time chairman of the Hollywood Trident Foundation, walked out of a Russian Film Festival in Hollywood. After being introduced, Palance said, "I feel like I walked into the wrong room by mistake. I think that Russian film is interesting, but I have nothing to do with Russia or Russian film. My parents were born in Ukraine: I'm Ukrainian. I'm not Russian. So, excuse me, but I don't belong here. It's best if we leave."[14] Palance was awarded the title of "People's Artist" by the President Vladimir Putin on that occasion; however, Palance refused the title.[15]

In 2001, Palance returned to the recording studio as a special guest on friend Laurie Z's Heart of the Holidays album to narrate the famous classic poem "The Night Before Christmas."

In 2002, he starred in the television movie Living with the Dead opposite Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen and Diane Ladd. In 2004, he starred in another television production, Back When We Were Grownups opposite Blythe Danner; Palance played Poppy. This would be his final performance.

According to writer Mark Evanier, comic book creator Jack Kirby modeled his character Darkseid on the actor.[16]

Legendary advertising copywriter Eric Molina repeatedly states[17] the Palance's Skin Bracer commercial[18] is the reason he entered the profession.

Academy Award[edit]

Four decades after his film debut, Palance won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor on March 30, 1992, for his performance as cowboy Curly Washburn in the 1991 comedy City Slickers. Stepping onstage to accept the award, the intimidatingly fit 6' 4" (1.93 m) actor looked down at 5' 7" (1.70 m) Oscar host Billy Crystal (who was also his co-star in the movie), and joked – mimicking one of his lines from the film – "Billy Crystal... I crap bigger than him." He then dropped to the floor and demonstrated his ability, at age 73, to perform one-handed push-ups.

Crystal turned this into a running gag. At first, he quipped, "I told Jack before the ceremony, 'Decaf, Jack, decaf'" then at various points in the broadcast he announced that Palance had done the following:

At the end of the broadcast, Crystal told everyone he would like to see them again, "But, I've just been informed Jack Palance will be hosting next year."

Years later, Billy Crystal appeared on Inside the Actors Studio with James Lipton and fondly recalled that after the Oscar ceremony Palance approached him during the reception, "He stopped me and put his arms out and went, 'Billy Crystal, who thought it would be you?.' It was his really funny way of saying thank you to a little New York Jewy guy who got him the Oscars".[19]

In 1993, during the opening of the Oscars, a spoof of that Oscar highlight featured Palance appearing to drag in an enormous Academy Award statuette with Crystal again hosting, riding on the rear end of it. Half way across the stage, Palance dropped to the ground as if exhausted, but then performed several one-armed push-ups before regaining his feet and dragging the giant Oscar the rest of the way across the stage.

Death and legacy[edit]

On November 10, 2006, Palance died of natural causes at age 87 at his daughter Holly's home in Montecito in Santa Barbara County.[20] His remains were cremated, his ashes retained by family and friends.[21] Jack Palance lived for a number of years around Tehachapi, near Bakersfield, in southern California.

Palance has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6608 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1992, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Personal life[edit]

Jack Palance (left) visiting a VA Hospital in 2005

Palance was married to his first wife, Virginia Baker, from 1949 to 1968, they had three children: Holly (born in 1950), an actress, Brooke (born in 1952) and Cody (1955–1998). On New Year's Day 2003, Palance's first wife Virginia Baker, (July 7, 1922 – January 1, 2003) was struck and killed by a car in Los Angeles.

His daughter Brooke married Michael Wilding, son of Michael Wilding Sr. (1912–1979) and Elizabeth Taylor; they have three children.

Cody Palance, an actor himself, appeared alongside his father in the film Young Guns. Cody would die from malignant melanoma at age 42 on July 16, 1998. Palance had hosted The Cody Palance Memorial Golf Classic to raise awareness and funds for a cancer center in Los Angeles. Aside from acting Cody was also a musician.[22]

In May 1987, Palance married his second wife, Elaine Rogers. Palance painted and sold landscape art, with a poem included on the back of each picture. He was also the author of The Forest of Love, a book of poems published in 1996 by Summerhouse Press.[23]

Palance acknowledged a lifelong attachment to his Pennsylvania heritage and visited there when able. Shortly before his death he placed his Butler Township, Pennsylvania, Holly-Brooke farm up for sale and his personal art collection up for auction.[24]


1950Panic in the Streets
Halls of Montezuma
1952Sudden FearNominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Man in the Attic
Second Chance
Flight to Tangier
1954The Silver Chalice
Sign of the Paganas 'Attila, the Hun'
1955The Big Knife
I Died a Thousand Times
Playhouse 90: Requiem for a Heavyweight(TV)
1957House of Numbers
1958The Man Inside
1959Flor De Mayo
1959Ten Seconds to Hell
The Barbarians
Warriors Five
Sword of the Conqueror
1962Night Train to Milan
1965Once a Thief
1966The Professionals
1966Alice Through the Looking Glass
1967Kill a Dragon
1967Torture Garden
1968The Mercenaryas Curly
Legion of the Damned
The Desperadosas Parson Josiah Galt
Che!as Fidel Castro
Monte Walsh
1972Chato's Land
It Can Be Done Amigo
1973Father Jackleg (Originally Tedeum)
Oklahoma Crude
Brothers Blue
1975The Great Adventure
1976God's Gun
Mister Scarface
The Cop in Blue Jeans
Black Cobra Woman
1977Portrait of a Hitman
Welcome To Blood City
1978The One Man Jury
1979Angels' Brigade
Cocaine Cowboyslead role
1980Hawk the Slayer(as Voltan)
Without Warning
1987Bagdad Café
Young Guns
1989Batmanas Carl Grissom
Outlaw of Gor
Tango & Cash
1990Solar Crisis
1991City SlickersAcademy Award for Best Supporting Actor
American Comedy Award for Funniest Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Nominated – Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Supporting Actor
1993Cyborg 2
1994City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly's Gold
The Swan Princessvoice
Cops & Robbersons
1999Treasure Island(as Long John Silver)
2002Talking to Heaven
2003Between Hitler and Stalinnarrator

Television movies/mini-series[edit]

1968Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeHenry Jekyll and Edward Hyde
1973Bram Stoker's DraculaCount Dracula
1974The GodchildRourke
1975The Hatfields and the McCoysDevil Anse Hatfield
1979The Last Ride of the Dalton GangWill Smith
1980The Ivory ApeMarc Kazarian
The Golden Moment: An Olympic Love StoryWhitey Robinson
1981Evil Stalks This HouseStokes
1992Keep the ChangeOverstreet
1994The Twilight Zone: Rod Serling's Lost ClassicsDr. Jeremy Wheaton (segment "Where the Dead Are")
1995Buffalo GirlsBartle Bone
1997I'll Be Home for ChristmasBob
EbenezerEbenezer Scrooge
1998The Incredible Adventures of Marco PoloBeelzebub
1999Sarah, Plain and Tall: Winter's EndJohn Witting
2001Living With the DeadAllan Van Praagh
2004Back When We Were GrownupsPaul 'Poppy' Davitch

Television shows[edit]

1950Lights OutEpisode "The Man Who Couldn't Remember"
1952Westinghouse Studio OneEpisode "The King in Yellow"
Curtain CallEpisode "Azaya"
Westinghouse Studio OneEpisode "Little Man, Big World"
The Gulf PlayhouseEpisode "Necktie Party"
1953DangerEpisode "Said the Spider to the Fly"
The WebEpisode "The Last Chance"
SuspenseTom WalkerEpisode "The Kiss-Off"
The Motorola Television HourScott Malone/Kurt BaumanEpisode "Brandenburg Gate"
SuspenseEpisode "Cagliostro and the Chess Player"
1955What's My LineHimselfMystery guest
1956Playhouse 90Harlan "Mountain" McClintock"Requiem for a Heavyweight"
Emmy Award for Best Single Performance by an Actor
Zane Grey TheatreDan MorganEpisode "The Lariat"
1957Playhouse 90Monroe Stahr"The Last Tycoon"
Playhouse 90Manolete"The Death of Manolete"
1963The Greatest Show on EarthCircus manager Johnny SlateSeries – top billing
1964What's My LineHimselfMystery guest
1965ConvoyHarvey BellEpisode "The Many Colors of Courage"
1966Run for Your LifeJulian HaysEpisode "I Am the Late Diana Hays"
Alice Through the Looking GlassJabberwock(Live Theatre)
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Louis Strago2 episodes "The Concrete Overcoat Affair: Parts I and II"
1968They Came to Rob Las Vegas
1971Net PlayhousePresident Jackson"Trail of Tears"
1973The Sonny & Cher Comedy HourHimself
1975BronkDet. Lt. Alex 'Bronk' BronkovSeries
1979Buck Rogers in the 25th CenturyKaleelEpisode "Planet of the Slave Girls"
Unknown PowersPresenter/Narrator
1981Tales of the HauntedStokesEpisode "Evil Stalks This House"
1982–1986Ripley's Believe It or Not!Himself – HostSeries
2001Night VisionsJake JenningsEpisode "Bitter Harvest"


  1. ^ "The Republicans of Classic Hollywood". fan.tcm.com. Retrieved January 7, 2013. 
  2. ^ Jack Palance Biography (1920?-)
  3. ^ The Last Role of an American "City Slicker" with a Ukrainian Soul
  4. ^ BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Veteran western star Palance dies
  5. ^ OBITUARY: Academy Award-winning actor Jack Palance, 87 (11/19/06)
  6. ^ Boxing Records Official records only show Palance in one sanctioned fight. His other fights may have been club fights.
  7. ^ M. A. SCHMIDT, "PALANCE FROM PANIC TO PAGAN", The New York Times, March 14, 1954, Drama Section X5 In an early interview, Palance claimed to have fought Baksi to a draw
  8. ^ Enk, Bryan. "Real Life Tough Guys". Yahoo.com. Retrieved 27 July 2013. 
  9. ^ Lawrence Christon, "Home on the Range It's been a long, dusty journey since Panic in the Streets and Shane", The Los Angeles Times, April 30, 1995, Calendar Section In a later interview, Palance admits to have lost to Baksi
  10. ^ [1]Furman Bisher, a UNC-Chapel Hill alumnus recollected seeing Palance contemplating whether or not football was his future after being asked to switch positions.
  11. ^ http://www.stanfordalumni.org/news/magazine/2007/janfeb/dept/palance.html
  12. ^ http://humsci.stanford.edu/about/accomplished_alumni
  13. ^ Field, Tom (2005). Secrets in the Shadows: The Art & Life of Gene Colan. Raleigh, North Carolina: TwoMorrows Publishing. p. 99. 
  14. ^ Declaring 'I'm Ukrainian, not Russian', Palance walks out of the Russian Film Festival in Hollywood
  15. ^ http://www.ukemonde.com/palance/russianfilmfest.html
  16. ^ news from me - ARCHIVES
  17. ^ [2]
  18. ^ Video on YouTube
  19. ^ Video on YouTube
  20. ^ Oscar winner Jack Palance dead at 87, CNN.com. Retrieved on November 10, 2006.
  21. ^ FindAGrave.com
  22. ^ Pics of Cody Palance performing live
  23. ^ The Forest of Love. Summerhouse Press. 1996-01-01. Retrieved 2012-08-15. 
  24. ^ Learn-Andes, Jennifer. "Jump on Jack’s stash". TimesLeader.com. Archived from the original on 2006-10-19. Retrieved 2006-10-08. 

External links[edit]