Ο Αμερικανός ηθοποιός Καρλ Μόλντεν, βραβευμένος με Οσκαρ το 1951 για την ερμηνεία του ρόλου του Μιτς στο «Λεωφορείον ο Πόθος» του Ελία Καζάν πέθανε σήμερα σε ηλικία 97 ετών. Την είδηση ανακοίνωσε η Ακαδημία Τεχνών.
Karl Malden, the Academy Award-winning character actor who for more than 60 years brought an intelligent intensity and a homespun authenticity to roles in theater, film and television, from “A Streetcar Named Desire” to “The Streets of San Francisco,” died on Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 97.
His family announced his death to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which Mr. Malden served as president from 1989 to 1992. The announcement said family members were present when he died of natural causes in his home in the Brentwood section.
Mr. Malden was perhaps the ideal Everyman. He realized early on that he lacked the physical attributes of a leading man; he often joked about his blunt features, particularly his crooked, bulbous nose, which he had broken several times while playing basketball in school. But he was, he once said, determined “to be No. 1 in the No. 2 parts I was destined to get.”
On Broadway he appeared with Mr. Brando in a legendary production of Tennessee Williams’s “Streetcar Named Desire,” then repeated the role in a film version that brought him an Oscar. On film he won memorable parts in a host of other major productions, including “Ruby Gentry,” “Fear Strikes Out” and “Patton,” in which he played Gen. Omar Bradley.
On television, too, he found wide popularity — as the gruff Lt. Mike Stone in “The Streets of San Francisco” and as a long-running pitchman for American Express travelers’ checks in the 1970s. His signature line, “Don’t leave home without them” — delivered as he peered intently from under the brim of his “San Francisco” fedora — became a national catch phrase.
Mr. Malden’s Broadway career began in 1937 with a small part in “Golden Boy,” the Clifford Odets drama about a doomed prizefighter; it reached its peak a decade later, in 1947, when he appeared in two major plays, both directed by Elia Kazan.
He began the year in “All My Sons,” Arthur Miller’s searing drama about a profiteering manufacturer (played by Ed Begley) who sells faulty parts to the Army during World War II and then pins the blame on his partner. Mr. Malden played the partner’s disillusioned son. It was Mr. Miller’s first Broadway hit and a triumph for Mr. Kazan and the cast.
A few months later, Mr. Malden won a plum role in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” The production made a star of Mr. Brando, who created the role of the brooding, hard-drinking mechanic Stanley Kowalski. The cast also included Kim Hunter as Stella, Stanley’s long-suffering wife, and Jessica Tandy as Stella’s fragile, haunted sister, Blanche DuBois. Mr. Malden played Mitch, Blanche’s hopelessly inept suitor.
The production won rave reviews and Mr. Malden, Mr. Brando and Ms. Hunter repeated their roles in the 1951 film version, also directed by Mr. Kazan, with Vivien Leigh as Blanche. Mr. Malden’s performance brought him an Academy Award as best supporting actor.
Three years later, he received an Oscar nomination for his role as a militant priest in “On the Waterfront,” Budd Schulberg’s drama of dockside brutality. Again, Mr. Kazan directed and Mr. Brando starred, as a battered former prizefighter persuaded to oppose the venal leadership of the longshoremen’s union.
Mr. Malden continued performing on the stage in Broadway revivals of Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt,” with John Garfield and Mildred Dunnock, and Eugene O’Neill’s “Desire Under the Elms,” in which he starred as the flinty patriarch of a hardscrabble New England farm.
In 1957 he played the lead role in “The Egghead,” a drama by Mr. Kazan’s wife, Molly, about a liberal professor who defends a former student charged with Communist sympathies. Brooks Atkinson, writing in The New York Times, was cool to what he saw as a strained thesis play, but he lauded “one of those excellent Malden performances in which thoughtful timing, the poised stance, the inquiring look into the faces of other actors yield a winning impression of homeliness and sincerity.”
When “The Egghead” closed after only 21 performances, Mr. Malden turned to films. For a while he shuttled between New York and Hollywood, but finally, after co-starring with Mr. Brando in the 1961 western “One-Eyed Jacks,” he bought a house in Los Angeles and moved west with his wife, Mona, and two daughters, Mila and Carla.
In December, the couple celebrated their 70th anniversary. In addition to his wife, Mr. Malden is survived by his daughters as well as three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
He was born Mladen Sekulovich in Chicago on March 22, 1912. His father, Petar Sekulovich, was a Serbian immigrant who worked in a steel mill and later delivered milk; his mother, the former Minnie Sebera, came from Bohemia, later to become part of the Czech Republic. As a young man, Mladen helped his father deliver milk in Gary, Ind., and spent three years working in a steel mill.
At 22, having acquired a taste for the theater and determined to make his own life far from the mills, he set off for Chicago with a few hundred dollars in savings to study acting at the Goodman Theater. He earned tuition by building sets and eventually met the woman he would marry, an aspiring actress named Mona Greenberg.
He graduated from the Goodman in 1937 but found himself back in Gary driving a milk truck, much as his father had. Luck came along in a letter from Robert Ardrey, a playwright he had met at the Goodman. Mr. Ardrey invited him to New York to try out for a part in his latest play. That play was never produced, but Mr. Malden also auditioned for the director Harold Clurman and Mr. Kazan, who were casting “Golden Boy” for the Group Theater. He wound up with “four lines in the third act,” he later wrote, but it was a significant initiation.
The Group Theater and “Golden Boy” began an enduring friendship between Mr. Malden and Mr. Kazan. It was Mr. Kazan, in fact, who persuaded the young actor to change his name to something less daunting. So Mladen became Malden, and he took the name Karl from one of his grandfathers.
He also took classes with the Group Theater in the early 1940s and later with the Actors Studio, but he did not regard himself as one of the studio’s Method actors. “I do have a method, of course,” he wrote in his 1997 autobiography, “When Do I Start?” He said it was “any method that works.”
Mr. Malden had made a handful of movies before “Streetcar,” including “Kiss of Death” (1947), “The Gunfighter” (1950) and “Halls of Montezuma” (1950). But his Oscar-winning performance in “Streetcar” made Mr. Malden one of Hollywood’s leading character actors.
He went on to portray the wealthy man Jennifer Jones marries to spite Charlton Heston in “Ruby Gentry” (1952); the policeman in Alfred Hitchcock’s “I Confess” (1953); and the slow-witted husband of a child bride in “Baby Doll” (1956), another Tennessee Williams story directed by Mr. Kazan.
With his movie career tailing off in the early 1970s, Mr. Malden reluctantly tried his hand at television. “I felt that I had started at the bottom in the theater and worked my way up for 20 years, then started at the bottom with bit parts in films and worked my way up for another 20 years,” he wrote in his autobiography. “I didn’t feel like starting at the bottom again.”
Still, he agreed to star in a new detective series on ABC, “The Streets of San Francisco.” Making its debut in 1972, the show was an immediate hit and ran through June 1977. The sidekick to Mr. Malden’s Lieutenant Stone was Michael Douglas, who left the show in 1976.
He appeared in a few more movies in the 1980s, notably as the stepfather of Barbra Streisand’s call girl in Martin Ritt’s film “Nuts.” There were television shows, including the 1980 NBC series “Skag,” in which he reached back to his roots to play a hard-bitten foreman in a steel mill. In the 1984 NBC drama “Fatal Vision,” he played a man who belatedly realizes that his son-in-law is a murderer. His performance brought him an Emmy award.
In one of his last appearances, in “The Hijacking of the Achille Lauro,” a 1989 made-for-television movie, he was cast as Leon Klinghoffer, the American Jew who was murdered by Palestinian terrorists on a Mediterranean cruise ship. And in 2000, in the first season of “The West Wing,” he played a priest one last time, counseling President Jed Bartlet on the death penalty.
In 1989 Mr. Malden began his term as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organization responsible for the Academy Awards. Ten years later he used that standing in Hollywood to urge the academy’s board to award an honorary Oscar to his old friend and mentor Elia Kazan.
The recommendation was bitterly opposed by those who had never forgiven Mr. Kazan for testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee in 1952 and informing on colleagues who had been members of the Communist Party. But the board voted its approval.
“If anyone deserved this honorary award because of his talent and body of work,” Mr. Malden said after the vote, “it was Kazan.”
Mr. Malden never forgot his beginnings as a son of immigrants, nor did he lose his perspective. Not long after his Oscar-winning work with Vivien Leigh in “Streetcar,” he referred to himself as probably “the only ex-milkman Vivien ever kissed in a movie.”
In an interview nearly a half-century later, he said he thought of an actor’s work as “digging ditches.”
“Sometimes they’re deep and sometimes they’re shallow,” he said, “but we keep digging them.”