Karl Malden, who won a best supporting actor Oscar for A Streetcar Named Desire in 1951, died “of natural causes” at his Brentwood home earlier today. He was 97.
In addition to his film work – which includes dozens of features from 1940 to the late 1980s – Malden starred opposite Michael Douglas in the popular 1970s television cop series The Streets of San Francisco, and was a spokesman for American Express. Additionally, he served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (website) from 1989–1992.
The son of Central European immigrants, the Chicago-born (March 22, 1912) Malden began his film career in a small role in the 1940 Carole Lombard vehicle They Knew What They Wanted. He was then away from the screen for several years because of World War II.
Following his Oscar win, Malden landed several important roles throughout the 1950s. He was a determined priest in Kazan’s Oscar-winning On the Waterfront (1954); he played child-bride Carroll Baker’s much-too-old husband in Kazan’s Baby Doll (1956); and was Marlon Brando’s archenemy in the psychological Western One-Eyed Jacks (1961), directed by Brando himself.
Despite a second best supporting actor Oscar nod (for On the Waterfront, with Brando and Eva Marie Saint), Malden was never to become a film star like, say, Ernest Borgnine or George C. Scott. He did, however, do quite well on television, earning four consecutive Emmy nominations as lead actor in a drama series for The Streets of San Francisco, which ran from 1972-1977. Malden finally won an Emmy – as best supporting actor in a limited series or special – for Fatal Vision in 1984.
Among his later film appearances were those in Patton (1970), supporting George C. Scott; two disastrous disaster flicks, Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979) and Meteor (1979); and the melodrama Nuts (1987), as Barbra Streisand’s incestuous father.
Malden was the last of the Streetcar Named Desire principals to pass away. Vivien Leigh died in 1967; Kim Hunter in 2002; and Marlon Brando in 2004. Malden was reportedly instrumental in getting Elia Kazan his controversial honorary Academy Award back in 1999. Kazan died in 2003.