Friday, July 3, 2009

Streets of San Francisco star Karl Malden dies aged 97

Karl Malden in The Streets of San Francisco

Understated … Karl Malden in The Streets of San Francisco. Photograph: Allstar/Cinetext/Warner Bros

The American actor Karl Malden, best known for his roles in films such as A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront, died yesterday at the age of 97.

In a career spanning seven decades, Malden made his mark portraying plain-spoken men of gruff manners, though he was noted for bringing an understated, natural dignity to many of his roles.

Malden won a supporting actor Oscar in 1951 for his role as Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire, a role he also played on Broadway. He was nominated again as best supporting actor in 1954 for his performance as Father Corrigan, a fearless priest in On the Waterfront. In both films, he co-starred with Marlon Brando.

Malden, who died at home, had been in poor health for several years. His family said he had died of natural causes.

Early on in his career, Malden said he realised his average looks and distinctive broken nose were unlikely to make him a leading man.

He liked to say he had "an open-hearth face" and many of his more memorable performances came in supporting roles.

His film career flourished in the 1950s and 60s, with parts in movies such as Birdman of Alcatraz, How the West Was Won, Gypsy, The Cincinnati Kid and Patton.

Malden starred with Michael Douglas in The Streets of San Francisco, who yesterday described Malden as "a great actor, father and husband. I admired and loved him deeply".

He rarely acted in his later years, but had a small role on TV's The West Wing in 2000. In 2004, Malden received the Screen Actors Guild's lifetime achievement award, telling the group in his acceptance speech that "this is the peak for me."

Malden and his wife, Mona, whom he met at drama school, had one of Hollywood's longest marriages, having celebrated their 70th anniversary in December.

No comments: