Saturday, November 11, 2006

The pallid bust of Palance just above my chamber door

When I think of Jack Palance, who passed away yesterday at the age of 87, four disparate images come to mind:

1. Palance as the villainous gunslinger Jack Wilson, striding into town while leading his horse by the reins in the classic Western Shane. The film is almost an hour old by the time Palance makes his first appearance, and he has only twelve lines of dialogue. But he steals the movie from its titular star, Alan Ladd. (In the Clint Eastwood comedy, Any Which Way You Can, Eastwood's character Philo Beddoe engages in a climactic fistfight with another tough guy named Jack Wilson, played by frequent screen villain William Smith — who bore a remarkable resemblance to Palance and was usually cast in similar roles. Coincidence? I think not.)

2. Palance as the tough old codger doing one-handed pushups on stage at the 1991 Academy Awards, when he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in City Slickers. Personally, I thought the movie was no great shakes, but Palance was Palance, and that counted for something. (Interesting that two of City Slickers' key players, Palance and Bruno Kirby, have both died within the past three months. I wonder how Billy Crystal is feeling these days?)

3. Palance as the unlikely pitchman in an unforgettable TV commercial for Mennen Skin Bracer aftershave. After splashing the odiferous product onto his craggy mug, Palance leered into the camera and intoned in his trademark gravelly baritone, "Confidence is very sexy. Don't you think?" (You need Palance-like confidence to wear Skin Bracer. That stuff smells like my high school gym locker.)

4. Palance as Morbius, the Living Vampire, in Amazing Spider-Man comics. No, seriously. Legendary comic artist Gil Kane, who cocreated and designed the Morbius character while the regular Spider-Man penciler in the early 1970s, modeled the vampire's facial features after those of Palance. At least, that's the story Kane told, and I'm sticking to it. (Palance did, in fact, portray Count Dracula in the 1973 telefilm adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel. The film was directed by Dan Curtis, best known as the creator of the '60s TV horror serial Dark Shadows. Curtis also passed away earlier this year. Hmmm.)

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5 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Anonymous Lee offered these pearls of wisdom...

I think of him as Jack Grissom in the Batman film - great casting by Tim Burton

5:53 AM  
Anonymous Donna offered these pearls of wisdom...

I'll fondly remember Jack's character in "City Slickers" most of all because that is the movie my husband and I saw in the theaters the day after we were married. Do suppose he and Bruno Kirby are working together again in God's theater?

8:58 AM  
Anonymous Bob Almond offered these pearls of wisdom...

I thought that Gene Colan had said that he modeled Dracula from TOMB OF
DRACULA after Jack from his stint as Drac in that film.....sure looks like
him in the comics.

10:30 AM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Lee: Another great Palance role. I'm not a fan of Burton's take on Batman -- I like Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins infinitely better -- but Palance was first-rate.

Donna: The day after you were married, you actually went out to a movie theater? ;) (I'm teasing you. The day after KM and I were married, we sat in a pizza parlor watching the 49ers win their second Super Bowl.)

Bob: You may be right about that one too. There's definitely a resemblance between the Colan Dracula and Palance. I guess old Jack just had the kind of face that made a good vampire! :)

10:35 AM  
Blogger MCF offered these pearls of wisdom...

For me it's Grissom, then Curly from City Slickers, then the old guy doing one-handed pushups. For some reason I thought he was even older. Sad news; great actor and career, and I never knew that about Morbius either--great fact.

4:11 PM  

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