The title of the movie was The Magnificent Seven but the cast was really a magnificent eight. Here’s the late, great Eli Wallach as I’ll always and fondly remember him, as the bandit leader Calvera.
One of the more fun things to know about Wallach is he titled his autobiography The Good, the Bad, and Me. I learned that from this post by Sheila O’Malley which is full of everything you need to know Wallach to remind you what a treasure he was.
Well, almost everything.
She left out his stint stepping in for Otto Preminger as Mr Freeze on the old Batman TV show.
Actually, some of Wallach’s best acting was done in guest shots on TV shows. On an episode of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip he played a enigmatic old coot who might be a famous TV writer blackballed during the McCarthy era. Mostly all he does is sit and tell stories from the early days of television in monologues that sounded like Aaron Sorkin giving notes to himself on what he needed to do to fix his own show, notes, sadly, he didn’t act upon.
My favorite guest starring role was on Naked City in which he played a cop who might be dirty, might in fact be a murder---“might be” could qualify most of Wallach’s performances. You never could be sure with him. When he was playing a bad guy, you didn’t know how much good was lurking inside; when he was playing a good or at least sympathetic guy, you didn’t know how long the good or the sympathy would last. It was that wolfish grin, full of charm, humor, and menace all all together.
That episode was also notable for Wallach’s gunning down a very young Peter Falk before Falk could utter a line.
Vamos, amigos, on over to Sheila’s ranchero, The Sheila Variations, and read the whole post, R.I.P. Eli Wallach.