Actor, Hamptonite Eli Wallach Dies at 98

Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson at the Bay Street Gala
Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson at the Bay Street Gala, Photo: David Gribin

Esteemed actor and Hamptonite Eli Wallach, of  The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and The Godfather Part III fame, died of natural causes at age 98 in his family’s New York City home late Tuesday afternoon.

Wallach, who delighted fans on stage and both the big and small screens for some six decades, was revered for his “bad guy” roles in a pair of westerns—as Mexican gangster Calvera in John Sturges’ 1960 film The Magnificent Seven and as Tuco Ramirez, a Mexican bandito, alongside Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s classic 1966 film The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. He will also be remembered for his turn as Guido, Clark Gable’s troubled sidekick in John Huston’s The Misfits (screenplay by Arthur Miller), also starring Marilyn Monroe, Wallach’s friend from studying at the Actors Studio, of which he was a founding member, in New York. And, of course, fans will always revere his parts as Don Altobello, alongside Al Pacino and Diane Keaton, in Francis Ford Coppola‘s 1990 sequel The Godfather Part III, and as Mr. Freeze in the much loved (and recently revived through a massive merchandising push) 1966 Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward.

Despite his long career of excellent film work, Wallach never won an Academy Award, until the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, citing his ability to inhabit any role and make it his own, bestowed him with an honorary Oscar in 2010. The actor did however earn a Tony Award in 1951 for Best Featured Actor in a Play in Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo. His very first film role was in the 1956, Williams-scribed movie Baby Doll, directed by Elia Kazan, and he won the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) title of “Most Promising Newcomer” for it.

Wallach, who joined the Army during World War II, made his Broadway debut after the war in the 1945’s Skydrift, and he returned to the stage, his first love, again and again during his long career.

On the East End, he and wife of more than 65 years Anne Jackson, also an actor, were great supporters of local theater. The couple donated to Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor since its inception in 1992, and the theater’s second stage was dedicated in their names in 2010.

Jackson and Wallach’s union was considered one of Hollywood’s greatest love stories and the pair had three children together, including Peter in 1951, Roberta in 1955 and Katherine in 1958. Wallach is survived by Jackson and his three children, along with five grandchildren and a number of great-grandchildren.

The actor wrote in detail about his life and many roles in his 2005 autobiography The Good, the Bad and Me: In My Anecdotage.

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