Jul 1, 2009

Karl Malden, 1912-2009

Goodbye to Karl Malden, a deeply respected and respectable actor who had a legendary career on the silver screen, television and the stage. A whole generation knew him as the long-time pitchman for American Express, but he started his career in New York, onstage. Though he had a small role in They Knew What They Wanted (1940), Malden didn’t find screen success until after his service in World War II. His breakout role was in Elia Kazan’s A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), a performance which won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Kazan also directed him in his other Oscar-nominated performance in On the Waterfront (1954). Though he had an overall aura of solid decency, Malden was a diverse actor. He could play that good guy role better than anyone, as he showed in Streetcar, Waterfront and the Bette Davis thriller Dead Ringer (1964), but he could also play sleazy, as he did in Baby Doll (1957) and he was downright despicable in the Troy Donahue potboiler Parrish (1961). Later in his career, he had a five year run as Detective Lt. Mike Stone on the television police drama The Streets of San Francisco, a role which earned him four Emmy nominations (he finally won in 1984 for the television miniseries Fatal Vision). Malden was married to Mona Greenburg for over 70 years. They had two daughters together, one of whom co-authored his 1997 autobiography, Where Do I Start?. His unique presence, visage and intelligent intensity have contributed to so many great, enduring screen moments. May he rest in peace.

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