Jack Palance as Jack Wilson in Shane (1953)
Jack Palance was the son of an immigrant Ukrainian miner, born Volodymyr Palanyuk (Ãu2019ÃÂ¾ÃÂ»ÃÂ¾ÃÂ´ÃÂ¸ÃÂ¼ÃÂ¸Ã‘u20ac Ãu0178ÃÂ°ÃÂ»ÃÂ°ÃÂ½Ã‘u017dÃÂº) in the coal patch of Lattimer Mines (the site of the famous Lattimer Massacre of 1897).
He began his career as a professional heavyweight boxer, fighting as “Jack Brazzo.” He won 15 fights, 12 by knockout before losing a 4th round decision to Joe Baksi on Dec. 17, 1940.
Upon the outbreak of WWII, he enlisted in the Army Air Force. He sustained serious burns, and required facial reconstruction, after the B-24 bomber he was piloting crashed off the coast of California. Some of his distinctive leathery appearance was attributed to the surgery.
He graduated from Stanford University in 1947 with an AB in Drama. He survived as an aspiring actor via the usual sorts of short-term jobs as photographer’s model, lifeguard, and short-order cook.
Brando invited Palance to work out with him in the theater’s basement. The actors were pounding a punching bag when Palance missed the bag and splattered Brando’s nose. Brando was taken to a hospital for medical attention, while Palance took the stage in the lead, and his performance drew a contract offer from 20th Century Fox. Palance always maintained that making his own “big break” was an accident.
He appeared in more than 100 films. He received an Emmy award in 1957 for Playhouse 90’s production of Requiem for a Heavyweight. He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and the Golden Globe in 1992 for City Slickers. Upon receiving his Oscar, at the age of 72, he performed a number of one-handed pushups to demonstrate his fitness.
He is most commonly remembered for his role as the villainous gunfighter Jack Wilson in Shane, but sophisticated critics are more likely to mention his performance as film producer Jeremy Prokosch in Jean-Luc Godard’s Le Mépris (Contempt – 1963).
Variety reports his death at age 87.
Palance and Bardot in Godard’s Contempt