Mladen George Sekulovich known to the world as Karl Malden, died today in his home in Los Angles, he was 97 years old. No cause of death was immediately disclosed. The man who had a career in film and television that spanned over five decades starred in films such as Birdman of Alcatraz, How The West Was Won, and the publicly acclaimed film Baby Doll, based on two short plays by Tennessee Williams.
Before getting into film, he started with stage roles on Broadway. He made his greatest mark on Hollywood in the early 1950s as part of a group of New York theater stars, along with Marlon Brando and director Elia Kazan. On Kazan’s first impression of Malden, Kazan said:
“I hadn’t met anyone that non-actorish before, non-theater-like…The minute I saw him, I knew he came from something. It turned out to be the steel mills, and it was a thing that was very important for a director, because you feel, ‘Here’s a person who can play difficult parts, rough parts, physical parts, who doesn’t get frightened easily, who’s all there when I need him.’ “
Kazan directed Malden and Brando in the film, A Streetcar Named Desire, for which Malden won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Keeping the team together, Malden starred in the movie On the Waterfront, again with Brando as a co-star and Kazan in the director chair. For this role Malden was nominated for an Oscar as the dockside priest who rallies a punched-out prizefighter (Brando) to stand against a corrupt union.
Later on in the 70′s, Malden starred in the television series, The Streets of San Francisco alongside Michael Douglas. He won an Emmy for his performance on the show. But it was his role as American Express‘ pitchman that even the man himself joked was his most well-known part. Malden famously delivered the line “Don’t leave home without it!” in a series of U.S. television commercials for American Express Travelers Cheques in the 1970s and 1980s.
Malden was a talent that will always be remembered through his work in the movie and television world. He leaves behind his wife Mona Greenberg to whom he has been married to since 1938, one of the longest unions in Hollywood history.
What are your favorite Karl Malden memories?