Jack Palance: ‘Shane’ bloodthirsty villain and ‘City Slickers’ Oscar winner dead at 87
Jack Palance, a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award winner for City Slickers, died of “natural causes” on Nov. 10 in the affluent beach resort of Montecito in Santa Barbara County, northwest of Los Angeles. Palance (born on Feb. 18, 1919, in Lattimer Mines, Pennsylvania) was 87.
Jack Palance movies: ‘Shane’ & ‘City Slickers’
Jack Palance’s film career, which spanned nearly half a century and included more than 80 titles, consisted mostly of supporting roles – often villains – in major productions and leads in minor fare. His two most important movie roles were his vicious black-hat-wearing gunslinger in George Stevens’ (subversively) elegiac Western Shane (1953), fighting a duel to the death with mysterious hero Alan Ladd; and his rugged but humorous Man of the West in Ron Underwood’s popular 1991 comedy City Slickers, starring Billy Crystal. (Image: Jack Palance in Shane.)
Besides Palance’s City Slickers Oscar win, he received two other nominations, both also in the Best Supporting Actor category: for his Shane villain and, the previous year, for plotting with Gloria Grahame to kill Joan Crawford in David Miller’s suspense melo Sudden Fear.
The gap between Palance’s second and third Oscar nominations is one of the longest ever in the Academy Awards’ acting categories: 38 years, tying with Helen Hayes (The Sin of Madelon Claudet, 1931-32; Airport, 1970) and Alan Arkin (The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, 1968; Little Miss Sunshine, 2006), and trailing only Henry Fonda’s 41-year gap (The Grapes of Wrath, 1940; On Golden Pond, 1981).
Among Jack Palance’s dozens of other movies were Douglas Sirk’s Sign of the Pagan (1954), as Attila the Hun, who makes life miserable for the denizens of the Roman Empire, including Jeff Chandler; Robert Aldrich’s The Big Knife (1955), as a Hollywood actor in professional trouble; Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt / Le mépris (1963), playing a Hollywood producer opposite Brigitte Bardot and Michel Piccoli; and Tim Burton’s Batman, as Carl Grissom.
But really, Jack Palance will quite possibly be better remembered for his push-ups onstage at the 1992 Oscar ceremony than for any of his movie roles.
Jack Palance Shane photo: Paramount Pictures.