Eli Wallach, the character actor known for his roles in films like The Magnificent Seven, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, and The Misfits, died Tuesday at 98, the New York Times reports. Wallach acted in more than 90 movies in the past 60 years, with recent appearances in The Holiday, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and Roman Polanski’s The Ghost Writer. He acted in various theater productions as well over the years, many of them Tennessee Williams productions, and regularly appeared onstage alongside his wife, the actress Anne Jackson.
Wallach was Jewish and played several Jewish characters in film and onstage throughout his career. But his breakout roles, and the roles for which he is best remembered, were distinctly Italian characters. From his Times obituary:
Mr. Wallach, who as a boy was one of the few Jewish children in his mostly Italian-American neighborhood in Brooklyn, made both his stage and screen breakthroughs playing Italians. In 1951, six years after his Broadway debut in a play called “Skydrift,” he was cast opposite Maureen Stapleton in Tennessee Williams’s “The Rose Tattoo,” playing Alvaro Mangiacavallo, a truck driver who woos and wins Serafina Delle Rose, a Sicilian widow living on the Gulf Coast. Both Ms. Stapleton and Mr. Wallach won Tony Awards for their work in the play.
In 2010, just before he turned 95, Wallach was given a lifetime achievement award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—much like his character Arthur Abbott in the otherwise dreadful 2005 romantic comedy The Holiday. New York Times film critic (and Tablet contributor) A.O. Scott, whose grandfather was Wallach’s older brother, visited ‘Uncle Eli’ on the Upper West Side before the ceremony to discuss his lengthy, and memorable, career.