PALANCE, Jack

(1919–2006)
   Born Volodymyr Palanyuk in Pennsylvania, Jack Palance was one of the great bad guys of Westerns during his long career making a wide variety of films. His first major role was one of his best—Jack Wilson, the sadistic gunfighter, in Shane (1953). Nominated for best supporting actor for the role, Palance fit the part perfectly, dressed in solid black with huge guns jutting out from his waist, constantly fiddling with his fingers. While confronting an obviously inept townsman who was slow on the draw, Palance gets the drop, hesitates long enough to enjoy looking into the eyes of a man about to die, and then fires, dead center. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, Palance regularly played villains, gunfighters, and assorted types, but when spaghetti Westernscame out he headed for Europe and made a string of highly popular European Westernsand developed a large following away from the United States. Since he began his career as a boxer, Palance was always acutely aware of his own fitness. When he accepted his Academy Award for best supporting actor in City Slickers (1991), the grand old man of Westerns dropped to the floor in front of the audience and began doing one-handed pushups. Jack Palance seemed just as young as when he played in Shane.

Historical Dictionary of Westerns in Cinema. . 2012.

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