The Finest Mr. Hyde

Those of you too young to remember the actor, Jack Palance, missed a treat.  6’ 4”, until he got older and slouched to reach 6’ 3”, a former boxer and injured member of a WWII bomber crew whose face was “improved” with surgery, he “often played a film’s menacing villain with an imposing physique and authoritative voice.” In 1956, he played an over-the-hill, but loyal boxer in the TV drama from Rod Serling, “Requiem for a Heavyweight.” It won awards.  He was Marlon Brando’s Broadway understudy in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”  It, too, won awards.  For much of his film career he played villains, quite well.  For example, in 1953, he played opposite Alan Ladd in “Shane.” As the evil Jack Wilson, (see below)


Palance cemented his performance as film’s baddest guy opposite the buckskin-clad hero.  He was nominated for an award, but won no Oscar …until 1991 when he was successful in 1991’s Billy Crystal’s “City Slickers” as an older, wiser, funnier cowboy. (see below)



When accepting his award, he said he he didn’t know what to do, so –on stage—he did some one-arm push-ups, as he did in military service.  The audience loved it.  Off screen, he was a writer, poet, rancher, and spoke 6 languages.  In a film entitled “The Professionals,” he played a bad guy with a heart of gold who required Lee Marvin, Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and Woody Strode to be brought in –only to then be let go because the “bad guy” was the story’s good guy after all.

But my favorite piece of his work was from a television production, in 1968, of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”  Remember the story?  A medical doctor, through his research, wants to set aside a man’s lesser qualities and emphasize only a man’s good intentions.  He experiments  on himself and, dang, doesn’t it turn out just the opposite.  Under the spell of his magic potion, he became a gambler, womanizer, cruel type of guy.  (Don’t you hate it when that happens?!)  How bad was he?  While dressed in fine clothes, tails and top hat, he carried a walking stick whose leaded handle doubled as a club and whose wooden shaft housed a small sword. (see below for a happy Mr. Hyde and contrasting Dr. Jekyll)



Of course, both weapons are used by Mr. Hyde to maximum ill effect, as he smiles throughout an evening of drinking, gambling, and female companionship.  Just another night-on-the-town for the nasty star, but a thoroughly convincing performance. Too bad Denholm Elliott shoots him at the end of it.

Unfortunately, for Palance much of his work was done abroad and –how can I say this—on the cheap. But if you like an acting job well done, and portraying a convincing bad guy, keep Jack in mind.  For TCM or late night TV.  And don’t look for Frederick March or Spenser Tracy in the main role.  Just remember Jack.






About rcarmean

Two things... First, why have I decided to establish this blog? I like to put essays together. I research an idea or topic looking for information, statistics, stories, quotes, pictures, etc. I enjoy the process and seeing a finished product. I’m told that as I get older, new activities can help maintain energy and keep my brain alert. In other words, I am not doing this for money or fame. Second, regarding the gentleman in the collage of pictures's not me. Those are photos of Christy Mathewson. Why him? When I was young, my primary activity was being sick. It took up much of my time. Eczema (a case so bad I was written up in a medical journal showing doctors what their patients COULD look like), asthma, and allergies. You know allergies: don’t eat this, don’t wear that, and, for Heaven’s sake, don’t touch any of these things (eg, dogs, cats, horses --I only saw horses in cowboy movies and TV shows, dust, swimming pools, my brother --OK, that’s an exaggeration, Rick was a fine brother). In my spare time between doctors' appointments, pills, and ointments, baseball kept me sane. In the 1940s and 1950s, when I grew up, pro footballI and basketball had not yet become extremely popular. Baseball truly was “the national pastime.” I listened to games on the radio (remember it? TV without the picture). I read magazines, books, and newspaper accounts of games. I collected baseball cards. I learned about the game’s history, as well as present. The same with its stars. One man stood out: Christy Mathewson. He was a great pitcher for the New York Giants in the early 20th century. But there was much more to him. At a time when professional athletes made little money (yes, there was such a time) and ball players were considered on the same level as actors, artists, and prostitutes, Mathewson stood out. One of his nicknames was: “The Christian Gentleman.” Most men is baseball drank, smoked, cursed, and fought —with other players, umpires, and fans. The fights were physical, not just verbal. Mathewson did none of these things. But he earned the respect of other players who did them all. Even Ty Cobb and John McGraw. There’s more. He was a college graduate (Bucknell University) when most men were lucky to have a high school diploma. He played other sports, including pro football which you wouldn’t recognize. He was handsome. He played in New York City, then as now, the largest city in the country. Excellence and popularity there meant fame and money. He dressed well. Today, his commercials would rival LeBron’s. And, finally, a hero’s life must have tragedy. After his playing career ended, WWI arrived. He suffered from influenza and was exposed to mustard gas. Chemical warfare. His lungs were damaged and he required treatment for the rest of his life. (Like my Grandfather who also fought in The Great War.) He died in 1925. He was 45 years old. I have his picture here because you need to know more about him than me. He was what an athlete could be. Players like him and their accomplishments got me through a sickly, painful childhood and can still sustain me in difficult times. *****
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