Monday, December 07, 2009

The Ugly

The gun toting fellow above is one Eli Herschel Wallach, our 107th hero of the day born this day 1915 in Brooklyn, New York. Born into the only Jewish family in an Italian-American neighborhood, his parents owned a candy store. He went to the University of Texas where he began to study acting. He made his Broadway debut in 1945, and won a Tony award 1951 for his role in Tennessee Williams play "The Rose Tattoo." However, his hero status rests on one role that of Tuco in "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." He plays the "ugly" the one who is really in it for the money, but who still has a human side that he just can not hide. In fact, Tuco is the most human of them all. He is not the cold hearted Bad (Lee van Clift) that robs prisoners, and engages in violence for the sake of violence. Nor is he the scheming Good (Clint Eastwood), who shares the bounty money for turning Tuco into the law. The Ugly is the simplest one of the group, a cross between good and bad, and therefore the easiest to identify with. Wallach was almost killed twice during the filming of the movie, accidentally drinking acid that was placed next to his soft drink can, and in one scene when he uses a passing train to cut his handcuffs you can see that if he had raised his head he would have been decapitated by the steps on the caboose. He went on to play Mr. Freeze in the 1960's Batman TV series, a role that he said he got more fan mail about that all his other roles combined. But it is for that one role, that one inspired acting job as Tuco, that is one of the best roles in one of the best films I have ever seen (about 5 times), that makes Eli Wallach (December 7th-1915-present), my hero of the day.

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