Eli Wallach, 98, Passed Away

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For the last few years, the man credited as “The Oldest Living Actor” Eli Wallach, born December 7, 1915, died today of natural causes. He’s most notable for his roles in films such as The Magnificent Seven, and The Godfather: Part III as well as one other that hardly even needs to be said.

For me and many others, he’s always held a distinct place in cinematic history due to his role as Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez or rather “The Ugly” in Sergio Leone’s 1966 Spaghetti Western, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

For many, the above scene is considered Wallach’s best performance throughout the movie although it’s all subjective. I was introduced to the film when I was about fifteen and it’s been my number one ever since. Major reasons include the reasons the film is regarded as highly as it is by fans and critics alike, but Wallach’s portrayal as Tuco left a lasting impression me that I still think about whenever I write a character that never shuts up but always has something happening beneath the surface.

Wallach as Tuco had a huge impact on me in part because most of the best characters seemed to be valued for their ability to speak the least out of the anyone in the room; making everyone else look like idiots in the process, while Tuco also lived in the grey area of life and his role in the story made me realize that a main character didn’t even need to be a good guy for you to care about them. Notice that Wallach’s character is the only character is the movie with any back story.

He also had more dialogue than the other titular characters combined.

He also had more dialogue than the other titular characters combined.

And while we could talk about how great the film is, so much of what makes it great was Wallach’s performance itself. Roles like Tuco can easily be portrayed as rambling idiots that happen to get lucky but Wallach gave us the impression that there was something else going in his head, something that allowed the character to survive not only in the film, but through cinema history as well.

And while there’s much interesting trivia that took place throughout the film (including several near death experiences for Wallach), the role that he evidently received the most fan mail for was his portrayal of Mr. Freeze in the 60s Batman show.

batman

All in all, Wallach had a good run with over 160 titles under his belt. His last film was 2010’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

I didn’t want this to be some vague obituary of sorts but a very brief look back at how I thought of Wallach. I didn’t know him of course and his personal life was his (save for what he released in his memoirs) but I do know how he affected me.

As one commenter put it, “So long Tuco. It’s only seventy miles back into town.”

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2 Responses to “Eli Wallach, 98, Passed Away”

  1. Skinny Pete Says:

    There are two kinds of spurs, my friend. Those that come in by the door; those that come in by the window.

  2. fatalfuryguy Says:

    Eli touched you huh

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