That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation

Hillel the Elder

Eli Hershel Wallach - biography

Eli Herschel Wallach (born December 7, 1915) is an American film, television and stage actor, who gained fame in the late 1950s. For his performance in Baby Doll he won a BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer and a Golden Globe nomination. One of his most famous roles is that of Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). Other roles include his portrayal of Don Altobello in The Godfather Part III, Calvera in The Magnificent Seven, and Arthur Abbott in The Holiday. Wallach has received BAFTA Awards, Tony Awards and Emmy Awards for his work. Wallach also has a cameo as a liqour store owner in Clint Eastwood's Mystic River (film).

With his 95th birthday approaching, Wallach can be seen in two 2010 films, Roman Polanski's The Ghost Writer and Oliver Stone's Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Wallach received an Honorary Academy Award at the 2nd Annual Governors Awards, presented on November 13, 2010.


Early life

Wallach was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Bertha (née Schorr) and Abraham Wallach, the only Jewish family in an otherwise predominantly Italian American neighborhood. His parents owned Bertha's, a candy store.] His great-nephew is film critic A.O.Scott. Wallach graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and received a Master of Arts from the City College of New York. However, he gained his first Method experience at the Neighborhood Playhouse. It was while attending the University of Texas that Wallach performed in a play with fellow students Ann Sheridan and Walter Cronkite.

Wallach served as a staff sergeant in Hawaii in a military hospital in the United States Army in World War II. He was soon sent to Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Abilene, Texas to train as a medical administrative officer. He graduated as a Second Lieutenant and was sent to Madison Barracks in upstate New York. He was promptly shipped to Casablanca and, later in the war, to France. It was there that a superior discovered his acting history and asked him to form a show for the patients. He and other members from his unit wrote a play called Is This the Army?, which was inspired by Irving Berlin's This is the Army. In the comedic play, Wallach and the other men clowned around as various dictators, with Wallach's portraying Adolf Hitler, the leader of Nazi Germany.


Wallach took classes in acting at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School in New York with the influential German director Erwin Piscator. Wallach made his Broadway debut in 1945 and won a Tony Award in 1951 for his performance in the Tennessee Williams play The Rose Tattoo. Additional theater credits include Mister Roberts, The Teahouse of the August Moon, Camino Real, Major Barbara, Luv, and Staircase, co-starring Milo O'Shea, which depicted an aging homosexual couple in a serious way. He also played a role in a tour of Antony and Cleopatra, produced by actress Katharine Cornell in 1946. He last starred on stage as the title character in Visiting Mr. Green. Wallach's film debut was in Elia Kazan's controversial Baby Doll, and he went on to have a prolific career in films, although rarely in a starring role. Other early films include The Misfits, The Magnificent Seven (he portrayed Mexican bandit Calvera), Lord Jim as the General, a comic role in How to Steal a Million (the latter two with Peter O'Toole), and perhaps most famously, as Tuco (the 'Ugly') in Sergio Leone's The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. After the latter's success, Wallach would appear in several other "Spaghetti Westerns", including Ace High with Terence Hill and Bud Spencer.

Wallach is central to one of the most infamous show business legends. In 1953 he was cast as Angelo Maggio in the movie From Here to Eternity. He was abruptly replaced by Frank Sinatra before filming began. Sinatra went on to win an Oscar for the performance and revived his career. Legend has it that Sinatra used pressure from his reputed underworld connections to get the part. That story inspired a similar incident depicted in the classic 1972 film The Godfather. Wallach says he turned down the role to appear in a Tennessee Williams play: "Whenever Sinatra saw me, he’d say, 'Hello, you crazy actor!'"

In 2006, Wallach made a guest appearance on the NBC show Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, playing a former writer who was blacklisted in the 1950s. His character was a writer on The Philco Comedy Hour, a comedy show that aired on the fictional NBS network. This is a reference to The Philco Television Playhouse, several episodes of which Wallach actually appeared on in 1955. Wallach earned a 2007 Emmy nomination for his work on the show.

Before accepting a role as a villain in Leone's Once Upon a Time in the West, Henry Fonda called Wallach and asked "What the hell does he [Leone] know about the West?" Wallach assured Fonda he would be pleasantly surprised if he accepted the role. After the film's success Fonda called Wallach back to thank him.

Wallach and Leone, though having built a good relationship during shooting The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, had a falling-out later on. Leone had asked Wallach to play a role in his upcoming film, A Fistful of Dynamite, but the actor explained he had a scheduling conflict. After much pleading Wallach finally relented and turned down the other offer and waited for Leone to raise enough Hollywood money for the picture. However, the studio Leone went to had an actor, Rod Steiger, with one more picture in his studio contract and the studio announced that Leone would have to use him if they were to put up any financing. Leone then called to apologize to Wallach, who remained dumbstruck on the other end of the line. After even refusing to give Wallach a token payment for losing out on two jobs, the actor said, "I'll sue you"—to which Leone replied, "Get in line", and slammed down the phone. In his autobiography, Wallach relates the incident as regrettably being the final time the two spoke to one another.

Wallach played Mr. Freeze in the 1960s Batman television series. He wrote in his autobiography that he received more fan mail about his role as Mr. Freeze than all of his other roles combined.

Personal life

Wallach has been married to stage actress Anne Jackson (born 1926) since March 5, 1948, and they have three children: Peter, Katherine and Roberta: the latter had an acting experience as a mentally disturbed teenager in Paul Zindel's The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds.

In 2005, Wallach released his autobiography The Good, the Bad and Me: In My Anecdotage. In this tome, Wallach talked about his most famous role as Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. He mentioned that he didn't realize he was going to be "blessed" with that title until he saw the film. He mentioned it was an honor to work with Clint Eastwood, whom he praised for his professionalism. Wallach mentioned, however, that director Sergio Leone was notoriously careless in ensuring the safety of his actors during dangerous scenes. It was during filming that Wallach accidentally drank from a bottle of acid that a film technician had carelessly placed next to his soda bottle. He spat it out immediately, but was furious that his vocal cords could have been damaged if he'd swallowed any of it. Leone gave him some milk to wash his mouth out with and apologized for the incident, but also commented that accidents do happen.

Wallach lost sight in his left eye as the result of a stroke. According to his autobiography the incident occurred "some years ago".

A.O. Scott, a film critic for the New York Times, is his great-nephew.



  • Baby Doll (1956)
  • The Lineup (1958)
  • Seven Thieves (1960)
  • The Magnificent Seven (1960)
  • The Misfits (1961)
  • Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (1962)
  • How the West Was Won (1962)
  • The Victors (1963)
  • Act One (1963)
  • The Moon-Spinners (1964)
  • Kisses for My President (1964)
  • Lord Jim (1965)
  • Genghis Khan (1965)
  • The Poppy Is Also a Flower (1966)
  • How to Steal a Million (1966)
  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
  • The Tiger Makes Out (1967) (also producer)
  • Ace High (1968)
  • How to Save a Marriage and Ruin Your Life (1968)
  • A Lovely Way to Die (1968)
  • The Brain (1969)
  • Mackenna's Gold (1969)
  • The Adventures of Gerard (1970)
  • The Angel Levine (1970)
  • The People Next Door (1970)
  • Zigzag (1970)
  • Romance of a Horsethief (1971)
  • Long Live Your Death (1971)
  • A Cold Night's Death (1972)(TV)
  • Stateline Motel (1972)
  • Cinderella Liberty (1973)
  • Crazy Joe (1974)
  • The Dream Factory (1975)
  • Eye of the Cat (1975)
  • Shoot First... Ask Questions Later (1975)
  • L'chaim: To Life (1975)
  • Plot of Fear (1976)
  • Independence (1976)
  • The Domino Principle (1976)
  • The Sentinel (1977)
  • The Deep (1977)
  • Winter Kills (1977) (Released in 1979)
  • Nasty Habits (1977)
  • Movie Movie (1977)
  • Girlfriends (1978)
  • Little Italy (1978)
  • Circle of Iron (1978)
  • Firepower (1979)
  • The Hunter (1980)
  • The Salamander (1981)
  • Sam's Son (1984)
  • Sanford Meisner: The American Theatre's Best Kept Secret (1985)
  • Tough Guys (1986)
  • The Impossible Spy (1987)(TV)
  • Hollywood Uncensored (1987)
  • Nuts (1987)
  • Funny (1989)
  • The Two Jakes (1990)
  • The Godfather: Part III Don Altobello (1990)
  • Article 99 (1992)
  • Mistress (1992) (Made in 1987)
  • Night and the City (1992)
  • Honey Sweet Love (1994)
  • Elia Kazan: A Director's Journey (1995) (narrator)
  • Two Much (1996)
  • The Associate (1996)
  • Larry's Visit (1996)
  • The Devil's Twilight [1998]
  • Uninvited (1999)
  • Keeping the Faith (2000)
  • Cinerama Adventure (2002)
  • Advice and Dissent (2002)
  • The Root (2003)
  • Broadway: The Golden Age, by the Legends Who Were There (2003)
  • Mystic River (2003)
  • King of the Corner (2004)
  • A Taste of Jupiter (2005)
  • The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation (2005)
  • The Easter Egg Adventure (2005) (narrator)
  • The Holiday (2006)
  • The Hoax (2006)
  • Pola Negri: Life is a Dream in Cinema (2006) (as himself)
  • Constantine's Sword (2007)
  • The War (2007)
  • Mama's Boy (2007)
  • Liszt For President (2008)
  • The Toe Tactic (2008)
  • Tickling Leo (2009)
  • New York, I Love You (2009)
  • The Ghost Writer (2010)
  • Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)


  • The Philco Television Playhouse - The Beautiful Bequest (1949)
  • Lights Out - Rappaccini's Daughter (1951)
  • Studio One - Stan The Killer (1952)
  • Armstrong Circle Theater - The Portrait (1952)
  • The Web - Deadlock (1952)
  • The Philco Television Playhouse - The Baby (1953)
  • Goodyear Television Playhouse - The Brownstone (1953)
  • Kraft Television Theater - Delicate Story (1954)
  • The Philco Television Playhouse - Shadow of the Champ (1955)
  • The Philco Television Playhouse - The Outsiders (1955)
  • The Kaiser Aluminum Hour - A Fragile Affair (1956)
  • Studio One - The Man Who Wasn't Himself (1957)
  • Hallmark Hall of Fame - The Lark (1957)
  • The Seven Lively Arts - The World of Nick Adams (1957)
  • Climax - Albert Anastasia, His Life & Death (1958)
  • Suspicion - The Death of Paul Dane (1958)
  • Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse - My Father The Fool (1958)
  • Shirley Temple's Storybook Theater - The Emperor's New Clothes (1958)
  • Hallmark Hall of Fame - The Gift of the Magi (1958)
  • Where Is Thy Brother (1958)
  • Playhouse 90 - The Plot To Kill Stalin (1958)
  • The Dupont Show of the Month - I Don Quixote (1959)
  • Playhouse 90 - The Blue Men (1959)
  • Playhouse 90 - For Whom The Bell Tolls (Parts 1 & 2) (1959)
  • Play of the Week - Lullaby (1960)
  • Naked City - A Death of Princes (1960)
  • Naked City - A Run For The Money (1962)
  • The Dick Powell Show - Tomorrow, The Man (1962)
  • CBS Playhouse - Dear Friends (1967)
  • Batman - Ice-Spy (1967)
  • Batman - The Duo Defy (1967)
  • The Typists (1971)
  • The Young Lawyers - Legal Maneuvre (1971)
  • A Cold Night's Death (1972) (TVM)
  • Indict and Convict (1973) (TVM)
  • Paradise Lost (1974)
  • Great Mysteries - Compliments of the Season (1974)
  • Kojak - A Question of Answers (1975)
  • 20 Shades of Pink (1976)
  • Seventh Avenue (1977)
  • The Pirate (1978)
  • Fugitive Family (1980)
  • The Pride of Jesse Hallam (1980)(TVM)
  • Skokie (1981)(TVM)
  • Tales of the Unexpected - Shatterproof (1981)
  • The Wall (1982)
  • The Executioner's Song (1982)
  • Anatomy of an Illness (1983) (TVM)
  • Christopher Columbus (1985)
  • Our Family Honor (1985) (TVM)
  • Our Family Honor (1985–86) (Series)
  • Embassy (1985) (TVM)
  • Murder: By Reason of Insanity (1985) (TVM)
  • Rocket to the Moon (1986) (TVM)
  • Something In Common (1986) (TVM)
  • Highway to Heaven - To Bind The Wounds (1986)
  • The Impossible Spy (1987) (TVM)
  • Highway To Heaven - A Father's Faith (1987)
  • World's Beyond - The Black Tomb (1987)
  • Murder She Wrote - A Very Good Year For Murder (1988)
  • Alfred Hitchcock Presents - Kandinsky's Vault (1988)
  • CBS Schoolbreak Special - A Matter of Conscience (1989)
  • Vendetta : Secrets of a Mafia Bride (1991) (TVM)
  • L.A Law - There Goes The Judge (1991)
  • Legacy of Lies (1992) (TVM)
  • Nonsense and Lullabyes: Nursery Rhymes (1992)
  • Nonsense and Lullabyes: Poems (1992)
  • Law & Order - The Working Stiff (1992)
  • Teamster Boss: The Jackie Presser Story (1992) (TVM)
  • Vendetta 2 - The New Mafia (1993) (TVM)
  • Tribeca - Stepping Back (1993)
  • Naked City - Justice With A Bullet (1998) (TVM)
  • The Bookfair Murders (2000)(TVM)
  • 100 Center Street - Kids : Part 1 (2001)
  • The Education of Max Bickford - I Never Schlunged My Father (2002)
  • The Education of Max Bickford - Genesis (2002)
  • The Education of Max Bickford - One More Time (2002)
  • Monday Night Mayhem (2002) (TVM)
  • Veritas: The Quest - The Name of God (2003)
  • Whoopi - American Woman (2003)
  • E.R - A Boy Falling Out of the Sky (2003)
  • Stroker and Hoop - I Saw Stroker Killing Santa (2005)
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - The Wrap Party (2006)
  • The National Parks: America's Best Idea (2009) (PBS) (Voice)
  • Nurse Jackie (2009)

Article author: Zipora Galitski
Article tags: biography
The article is about these people:   Eli Hershel Wallach

This information is published under GNU Free Document License (GFDL).
You should be logged in, in order to edit this article.


Please log in / register, to leave a comment

Welcome to JewAge!
Learn about the origins of your family