A Tribute to Anthony Quinn
Anthony Quinn probably holds the record for playing a wider variety of ethnic characters during his career than any other actor. With a Mexican and Irish background (thus his last name, from his half-Irish father), he played Greeks, Italians, Native Americans, Filipinos, etc., in addition to Mexicans.
He also holds the distinction of having appeared in more movies with other Oscar-winning actors than any other Oscar-winning actor (46, in case you’re counting), suggesting that his presence improved the work of others. Take a look at the posters for his films on Part IV of this article and notice how many times his name appears with equal billing after the two main stars.
Anthony Quinn died on June 3, 2001, of respiratory failure, at the age of 86, bringing to a close one of the most fascinating careers in motion picture history. Though he began acting in the mid-30s playing mostly bad guys and ethnic stereotypes, he rose above what could have been a lifetime of minor supporting roles to become one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars.
He won Best Supporting Actor Oscars for Viva Zapata! (1952) and Lust for Life (1956), and made over 150 films that we know of. He is rumored to have appeared in many more, in both Hollywood and in Italy, where he was popular after starring in Fellini’s La Strada (1954). He also appeared on Broadway, including the role of Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Perhaps his most famous role was that of Alexis Zorbas in Zorba the Greek (1964), for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. That was the odd year in which Rex Harrison won for My Fair Lady, beating out not only Quinn, but Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton (Beckett) and Peter Sellers (Dr. Strangelove), four of the greatest performances in cinema history.
Like Vincent Price, who we profiled the week before this, Quinn was not only an actor. He was also an accomplished artist, sculptor, architecture student, prizefighter, and jewelry designer. And from all accounts, an exceptional human being, as well.
Part I: Introduction
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Books, Posters