Eli Wallach The Holiday

Co-starring Eli Wallach The Holiday was a hit in 2006. Here is a biography of Eli Wallach and his movie career.

I remember the first time I saw Eli Wallach. It was Christmas, sometime in the early seventies. I wouldn’t have known it was him at the time.

In fact I wouldn’t have been able to place the name Eli Wallach against any film role until relatively recently. Wallach is that sort of actor.

Yet, I clearly recall watching the immoral, slime-ball, bandit, he so memorably characterised in the big movie showing on TV that December evening.

‘The Magnificent Seven’ is a film typical of those Eli Wallach has appeared in during a long career. It had bigger name stars such as Steve McQueen, Yul Brynner, James Colburn and Charles Bronson but it was Wallach, as the villain, who caught the eye.

People don’t often associate his Eli Wallach’s name with Hollywood stardom or such classic films. This is because he rarely plays the leading man or the hero. Instead he tends to play the important character roles on which films like The Magnificent Seven hinge.

It’s certainly an injustice that Wallach isn’t better known even if only for The Magnificent Seven and ‘The good, The Bad and The Ugly ‘. The latter is another film I distinctly recall watching in the days when the terrestrial channels had big movie premiers.

Wallach’s performance, again as a bandit, is another classic portrayal of a western bad guy, and is a supporting role that fully complimented, rather than stole attention from, Clint Eastwood as the main character.

Although these are the two films that will forever stick in my mind when the name Eli Wallach is mentioned his career didn’t begin and end with those films, nor has he made westerns his forte.

He began his film career in 1956 starring as the lecherous Silva in the tensely sexual ‘Baby Doll’ before becoming the archetypal character actor maintaining a varied and hectic schedule, averaging at least one film a year, for over five decades.

You’ll probably have seen him without associating the character with the name in such films as The People Next Door; Cinderella Liberty; The Executioners Song; The Godfather – Part III, and Mystic River.

Of the recent films I remember him mainly for ‘The Holiday.’

Again he was cast with a host of better known names such as Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslett, Jack Black, Jude Law but even so, and although the film tried and failed to be a rom-com in the classic Rock Hudson and Katharine Hepburn style it was good in parts and was definitely enlivened by Wallach in the scenes where as an aging screenwriter.

He forms a bond with Iris played by Kate WInslett, and which for many reasons bring back memories of Hollywood’s golden age.

Since then Wallach has added substantial support and total professionalism to a range of films including ‘Mama’s Boy’: ‘New York, I Love You’ and ‘The Ghost’.

He also made an unforgettable appearance in last years ‘Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps’ as a doom mongering top executive and wall street Patriarch.

Despite reaching the age of 95 in December 2010 Wallach has certainly not lost any of his presence or ability.

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