Actor Jack Palance Dies

Actor Jack Palance shown here in a scene from his Oscar-winning role as Curly in the 1991 feature film "City Slickers." AP Photo

Jack Palance, the dramatic actor who won raves when he turned to comedy in his 70s, has died of natural causes at his home in Montecito, Calif., surrounded by family, said spokesman Dick Guttman. He was 87.

When Palance accepted his Oscar for best supporting actor he delighted viewers of the 1992 Academy Awards by dropping to the stage and performing one-armed push-ups to demonstrate his physical prowess.

"That's nothing, really," he said slyly. "As far as two-handed push-ups, you can do that all night, and it doesn't make a difference whether she's there or not."

That year's Oscar host, Billy Crystal, turned the moment into a running joke, making increasingly outlandish remarks about Palance's accomplishments throughout the show.

It was a magic moment that epitomized the actor's 40 years in films. Always the iconoclast, Palance had scorned most of his movie roles.

"Most of the stuff I do is garbage," he once told a reporter, adding that most of the directors he worked with were incompetent, too.

"Most of them shouldn't even be directing traffic," he said.

Movie audiences, though, were electrified by the actor's chiseled face, hulking presence and the calm, low voice that made his screen presence all the more intimidating.

His film debut came in 1950, playing a murderer named Blackie in "Panic in the Streets."

After a war picture, "Halls of Montezuma," he portrayed the ardent lover who stalks the terrified Joan Crawford in 1952's "Sudden Fear." The role earned him his first Academy Award nomination for supporting actor.

The following year brought his second nomination when he portrayed Jack Wilson, the swaggering gunslinger who bullies peace-loving Alan Ladd into a barroom duel in the Western classic "Shane."


See photos of Jack Palance.

That role cemented Palance's reputation as Hollywood's favorite menace, and he went on to appear in such films as "Arrowhead" (as a renegade Apache), "Man in the Attic" (as Jack the Ripper), "Sign of the Pagan" (as Attila the Hun), and "The Silver Chalice" (as a fictional challenger to Jesus).

Other prominent films included "Kiss of Fire," "The Big Knife," "I Died a Thousand Deaths," "Attack!" "The Lonely Man" and "House of Numbers."

Weary of being typecast, Palance moved with his wife and three young children to Lausanne, Switzerland, at the height of his career.

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