Remembering Jack Palance
Remembering Jack Palance
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Academy Award-winning Ukrainian-American Jack Palance. The legendary actor ruled the cinema screens with his devious portrayals of villainous characters. With his athletic frame, deep-set eyes, and high cheekbones, he became the quintessential evil-incarnate of his era and one of the most despised movie villain actors of all-time.
A One-of-a-Kind Life
Oscar-winning actor Jack Palance, who real name was Volodomyr Palahniuk – was born on 18 February 1919 in Pennsylvanian to Ukrainian parents. He father was from the Ternopil region while his mother hailed from right here in Lviv. Palance lived an extraordinary life. Starting out as a coal miner, he later became a boxer under the name Jack Brazzo. As a boxer, he broke the record for longest string of victories by KO. He left boxing for the US Air Force at the outbreak of WWII but was discharged after being injured when his plane caught fire in a training mission, leaving him with scars that would lead to his distinct appearance. After the war, he worked as a security guard, waiter, and even a model (!) while earning a BA in Drama at Stanford University.
Always a Ukrainian Patriot
His specific appearance, defined by his scarred face and hoarse voice, led him to certain acting roles. He played alongside Marlon Brando in his first role in Stanley Kowalski’s Broadway show ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ before making his big-screen debut in 1950’s ‘Panic in the Streets’. By then, he had already changed his name to Walter Jack Palance, as people had such difficulty pronouncing his Ukrainian name! He later played some legendary villains, including the title character in 1973’s ‘Bram Stoker’s Dracula’. He never forgot his Ukrainian roots. As a child, his father read him and his siblings the Ukrainian newspaper everyday from front to back. He later headed the Hollywood Trident Foundation, a group of cinema stars that advocates for Ukrainian interests. He famously walked out on Russian People’s Choice Award in 2004, stating “I feel like I walked into the wrong room by mistake. I think that Russian film is interesting, but I have nothing to do with Russia or Russian film. My parents were born in Ukraine. I’m Ukrainian. Not Russian. So, excuse me, but I don’t belong here. It’s best if we leave”, before exiting the ceremony with his entourage.
Dreamed to Play a Ukrainian Hero
He is fondly remembered for his portrayal of grizzled cowboy Curly in 1991’s ‘City Slickers’. The role earned him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor and before famously doing one-handed push-ups on stage after accepting the award, he made sure to mention his Ukrainian birth name to a worldwide audience. His dream role was to play Taras Bulba and he was in negotiations to play the lead of Oles, a person that returns to Ukraine from America, in Oles Sanin’s Kobzari, but before the movie went into production, Palance/Palahniuk passed away. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of this icon of the Ukrainian diaspora. In his honour, be sure to check him out in any of his magnificent roles.