One of the greatest American actors, stars, and icons of all times was Jack Palance. To say he was a man of mystery, would be an understatement.
Jack Palance struggled through his life to become a successful actor but his journey was a wild ride and he took everything in his stride. His personality on and off the screen was larger than life and it’s why he’s still remembered over a decade since his passing.
He came from an unlikely background and managed to become one of the biggest stars of his time. Even today, his life and career serves as an inspiration to many aspiring actors.
Join FactsVerse to learn about Jack Palance’s life and career, the struggles throughout his journey, and how some still believe this lie about him after his death…
JACK PALANCE’S EARLY LIFE AND CAREER
Volodymyr Palahniuk was born on February 18, 1919, in Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania. Both his parents were Ukranian immigrants and naturally, the family had a hard life during much of Volodymyr’s childhood.
As a result, he had to work many odd jobs to make a living. He spent much of his youth and early life working in a coal mine. Owing to his natural strength he decided to pursue an athletic career. Under the professional name, Jack Brazzo,
He became rather successful as a boxer and was able to sustain himself. In fact, one of the highlights of his early career was that he punched Marlon Brando while fighting him and ended up putting him in the hospital! But this wasn’t in the boxing ring. It was on the set of a production that the two of them would work on later.
Little did he know that Marlon Brando would one day become a huge star and so would he.
While he enjoyed his boxing career he looked back at it during a later stage in his life and felt that it wasn’t the wisest decision. Nevertheless, Jack’s life was full of adventure and risks.
As the Second World War broke out, he enlisted in the United States Air Forces. It was rumored that he was injured during this war and that his face became disfigured. Rumor has it that he had to get surgery later to fix his appearance so that he could be prepared for an eventual acting career.
After finishing his military service he attended Stanford University and pursued a career in Theatre – though he dropped out one semester before completing his degree. Nevertheless, he seemed to have learned all that was needed and he was ready to embark upon this next journey in his life.
During his university years he worked a variety of odd jobs such as being a soda jerk, a lifeguard, a cook, and even a model. He began his acting career in theater and landed his first major role in an adaption of A Streetcar Named Desire. In fact, he was actually chosen to play Stanley Kowalski in the play after Marlon Brando dropped out. Although, Marlon Brando still landed the role in the film adaptation of the play and Jack had to find other opportunities to break into the film industry.
JACK PALANCE’S CAREER
Jack Palance’s film debut was in the 1950 film Panic in the Streets. The film was directed by Elia Kazan and in the film, he had a supporting role and was credited as Walter (Jack) Palance. Presumably, Walter is a nickname he received due to the larger society not being able to pronounce Volodymyr.
As for his new surname, it was once thought that Palahniuk should be pronounced as Palanski. Eventually, this became Palance and he would soon become known as Jack Palance.
The following year he landed a role in the now hit film Halls of Montezuma. He occasionally returned to theater as well but with the release of Halls of Montezuma it seemed that Jack Palance’s film career was now set in stone – and he was still an amateur entering the industry in his 30s.
His first major lead role that made him a star was in the 1952 film Sudden Fear. He starred alongside Joan Crawford in this noir mystery film. He played a dark character who tried to romance a woman – perhaps with ulterior motives. This was a rather risky role to take in the rather conservative 1950s and especially a challenging role for someone who was trying to establish himself as a leading man. Nevertheless, the risk proved to be worthwhile, and it further catapulted Jack Palance to stardom.
His other great films in the 1950s include Man in the Attic, Sign of the Pagan, The Silver Chalice, Flight to Tangier, and Arrowhead. He had a small but memorable role in the Western film Shane – considered to be one of the best films in the genre and one of his best films.
In the 1960s, he made a few great films in Europe including Night Train to Milan and Contempt – the latter for which he was personally selected by Jean-Luc Godard. In the 1960s, he also had his first major TV role in the series The Greatest Show on Earth.
His other great films throughout this decade were Once a Thief, The Professionals, Torture Garden, and Kill A Dragon. His film career continued in the 1970s though sadly many of his films made in America were flops.
Nevertheless, he didn’t lose hope. He moved to Italy and began a successful career there. He appeared in hit films such as Africa Express, L’Infemiera, God’s Sun, Black Cobra Woman, Mister Scarface, and Welcome to Blood City.
His career in the US became big again when he appeared in Ripley’s Believe it Or Not as well as the hit film Bagdad Café. Perhaps his biggest successful role toward the end of his career was in the film City Slickers. For this film, he won an Oscar for best supporting actor.
THE LEGEND OF JACK PALANCE
For many younger audiences, they knew Jack Palance most from his role in City Slickers. A funny story about City Slickers is that Jack Palance tried to get his co-star Billy Crystal to shut up when they first met. The character that Jack Palance was written specifically for him and Billy Crystal – a big fan of Jack Palance’s – was nervous to meet his hero. He mentioned that the role was written for Palance. Jack Palance, noticing how nervous Billy Crystal was told him that it was fine and that he would be pleased to take on the role.
His career continued after City Slickers though he worked less as he was getting older. Jack Palance’s final credit was in the 2004 TV movie Back When We Were Grownups.
According to the Internet Movie Database, Jack Palance accumulated 126 credits – mostly in film with a few notable television roles. He was arguably one of the most versatile actors of his time and somehow managed to balance being a leading man, a supporting character actor, as well as a villain all at once – an extremely rare feat for any actor.
Jack Palance clearly loved acting but he didn’t care much for his own work and often never saw any of his films. In fact, he once stated that he’d watch as few as 7 or 8 films per year.
Even after his passing many believed that, due to his stardom, he must have had a high opinion of his work but he was often rather critical of his own work and even once remarked that most of his work was “garbage.”
Nevertheless, we are glad he gave us so many memorable performances.
Jack Palance had a reputation for playing tough roles and perhaps his actual hardships helped him prepare for such roles. But he also had a reputation for being a bit difficult to work with and for sometimes having a short temper on film sets. Many actors claimed that they were intimidated by him and perhaps this also helped craft his on-screen presence.
He eventually changed his named to Walter Jack Palance – finally removing any differentiation between who he was and who he was as an actor. It’s also rumored that his appearance and commanding presence was the inspiration of the Superman villain Darkseid – though this has also not been confirmed and many still believe this about him after his death!
We also know Phil Wire, from the Lucky Luke comic book series was inspired by Jack Palance’s character in the film Shane.
He was also the original consideration to play Jack Torrance in The Shining – according to Stephen King who wrote the novel on which the book was adapted on. He was also originally considered to play the villain Francisco Scaramanga in The Man With The Golden Gun which eventually was given to Sir Christopher Lee.
As one can see, he was an actor who was high in demand and though his career had its ups and downs – he never stopped working and he never stopped persisting.
He had 3 children with his first wife Virginia. His son Cody, sadly passed away in 1998 and he is survived by his two daughters and his second wife Elaine Rogers. He died from pancreatic cancer on November 10, 2006, in California. He was 87 years old.
Jack Palance is remembered as an icon of American cinema and there are many “lies” that some still believe after his death. There are many other things, that are likely to remain a mystery.
So, now let’s hear from you:
Are you a fan of Jack Palance? Did you know about this lie regarding Jack Palance that came about after his death?
In fact, here’s what we want to know from you:
Do you think that there is a contemporary actor who has the same enigma and mystery as Jack Palance had?
Or is it unlikely that we’ll see another star of his ilk anytime soon?