Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Karl Malden (RIP)

<--- Marlon Brando, Nick Dennis, Rudy Bond and Karl Malden in Broadway's original production of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1947 [via]

This past week has been very rough on the entertainment industry and our cultural history. Today, with Karl Malden's death, we've lost the last remaining principal cast member of Tennessee William's legendary play turned movie A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). Now, Malden's career was much larger than mama's boy Harold "Mitch" Mitchel but that classic role, which he originated and owned, is a vital part of his legacy.

Strangely, Jessica Tandy's TONY honor (the original "Blanche DuBois") was the show's only attention from 'Broadway's Oscars' if you will. All the principles transferred to the movie except Tandy who was replaced by the cinema's most legendary southern belle (even though she was British) Vivien Leigh. When it came to the Oscars, three of the four actors (including Malden) collected statues. In typical Oscar fashion the performance most often regarded as game changing for the entire art of acting (Brando's) was the one snubbed on Oscar night. That's not a knock on the other indelible performances, don't misunderstand. It's a knock on Oscar. I'm getting off track but it's a sore spot for me as I'll never understand the instant or enduring love for The African Queen.

Malden was very prolific in the 50s and 60s and his second most treasured performance is probably his man of the cloth role in another Elia Kazan / Marlon Brando film, On the Waterfront (1954). Other enduring features include Baby Doll (1956, pictured right), Pollyanna (1960) The Birdman of Alcatraz and Gypsy (1962), Patton (1970) and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979).

Goodbye Mitch.
Rest in peace.

Vivien Leigh (1913-1967)
Marlon Brando (1924-2004)
Kim Hunter (1922-2002)

Karl Malden (1912-2009)

10 comments:

Joe Shetina said...

It's sad. Not only is he dead, but he was one of many talented actors who have Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (that classic) forever inscribed on their filmographies.

Glenn said...

He looks like John C Reilly in that cast photo (what a shot!)

jayjay said...

may he rest in peace

www.skillon.com

Jose said...

May he rest in peace...
As for the Brando losing the Oscar thing to Bogey, remember that "The African Queen" was pretty much one of those "we owe you" Oscars. I LOVE Streetcar and I worship Brando's Stanley but Bogie had never won (AMPAS seems to think that's enough reason to act crazy), and had lost for some incredible iconic performances like "Casablanca", it's a shame he wasn't even nominated for "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" (looking up his awards he was actually pretty snubbed most of the time...).
So this was probably their last chance to make it right. He didn't really live that long after this.

John T said...

Yeah-Bogart clearly deserved an Oscar at some point, it should have just been 8 years earlier (or at the very least 3 years earlier). That said, this is the greatest ensemble in the history of the cinema, and it's sad to see it's last member join the rest of his cast. This was the first movie that made me fall in love with the cinema, and it still remains one of my three favorite movies, so I've always had a soft spot for Mr. Malden

brianmaru said...

Malden was always so good. A shame he's often ignored as such a strong character actor.

odienator said...

As much as people rave about Streetcar's Mitch, I've always been fonder of Malden's Archie Lee in Baby Doll. Hilarious, tragic, sad, clueless and uber-horny, Malden dives into that role with reckless abandon. His performance plays like a teenage sex comedy recast with a middle-aged man. Whenever I watch Baby Doll, I still crane my head, trying to look around that corner where Kazan stubbornly plants his camera, to see exactly what Archie Lee is attempting to do to Baby Doll in that bubble bath (I assumed it was oral sex, but that's just because I'm a pervert--and Malden's face is covered in suds).

I also remember watching Malden on Streets of San Francisco. When I got my American Express card, I looked in the mirror and said Malden's signature commercial line: "Do you know me?" Unfortunately, American Express DID know me. Damn bills.

R.I.P. Mr. Malden.

Brian said...

don't forget that Malden was also presenident of AMPAS and hosted the legendary (at least for me) video "Oscars Greatest Moments" released around 1990. My bf and I have watched that video over and over again, reveling in the clips from the 70s Oscar ceremonies broadcast before we came to awards-consciousness....

Thank you, Karl!

Cory Rivard said...

I agree. I am definitely mourning the loss of the hose of 'Oscars Greatest Moments' right now. :-(

MrW said...

Sad as the news is, he had a long, full life and died peacefully. What more can a man wish for...

Hoping you don't think it's too morbid jumping into Oscar trivia right away, it's notable that now not only 84-year-old George Kennedy is the oldest living Best Supporting Actor winner, but that the category has become even more exclusive: No other acting category has fewer living Oscar winners (27 by my count, compared to 31 living Best Actors, 40 living Best Supporting Actresses and 43 living Best Actresses - multiple winners counted only once per category).