NEW YORK — Eli Wallach, the raspy-voiced character actor who starred in dozens of movies and Broadway plays over a remarkable and enduring career and earned film immortality as a conniving, quick-on-the-draw bandit in the classic Western "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," has died. He was 98.
The actor's son, Peter Wallach, confirmed Wednesday that his father passed away Tuesday evening in New York from natural causes.
"The best way to honor him is to put on one of his movies," he said. "Put on 'Baby Doll' or 'Magnificent Seven.' Those live forever."
Wallach and his wife, Anne Jackson, were a formidable duo on the stage, appearing in several plays dating back to the 1940s. He won a Tony Award for his supporting role in Tennessee Williams' "The Rose Tattoo" in 1951, was an original member of the Actors Studio, and was still starring in films well into his 90s.
"He was as wonderful a person as he was an actor," said Robert De Niro. "He will be missed."
Wallach may be best remembered for his role as Tuco in "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." In the Sergio Leone spaghetti Western, Clint Eastwood (The Good), Lee Van Cleef (The Bad) and Wallach (The Ugly) attempt to outwit and out shoot each other in pursuit of a trove of gold coins buried in a Civil War cemetery.
Wallach played a menacing, yet lovable, outlaw who had committed every crime in the book: "murder, armed robbery ... inciting prostitution, kidnapping, extortion ... rape" as the executioner intoned in one famous scene before Tuco escaped a hanging.
The movie — with a haunting score by Ennio Morricone — was the third film in a trilogy that included "Fistful of Dollars" and "For a Few Dollars More," and influenced a generation of filmmakers. Wallach's character had several memorable lines, including, "When you have to shoot, shoot, don't talk," after being confronted by a rival gunslinger.