Eli Wallach, the gifted character actor whose career spanned six decades, died on June 24, 2014 at his New York City home. When he was recognized by the Governors Awards in 2010, "for a lifetime's worth of incredible screen characters," Wallach addressed the crowd. "As an actor I've played more bandits, thieves, killers, war lords, molesters and mafiose than you can shake a stick at."
The son of Jewish immigrants, Eli Wallach was born on December 7, 1915 in Brooklyn, New York. After earning a master's degree at City College of New York he studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse. During World War II, Wallach served five years, first in Hawaii and then in Europe as a medical administration officer.
Returning to New York, Wallach was a founding member of the famed Actors Studio and made his Broadway debut in 1945. His theatre credits include Mister Roberts and The Teahouse of the August Moon. For his performance in Tennessee William's play, The Rose Tattoo, Wallach won a Tony Award.
In 1956, Wallach appeared for the first time on the silver screen in the Elia Kazan directed film, Baby Doll followed by more than ninety other films. Throughout his career, he starred alongside many of Hollywood's superstars including Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable, Clint Eastwood and Al Pacino. He is probably best known for his portrayal of two of cinema's most unforgettable characters, Calvera in The Magnificent Seven and Tuco in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Unknown to the majority of his fans, one of Wallach's passions was collecting antique clocks and watches. His first acquisition was a watch he won in a card game on a troop ship returning from Europe to the U.S. "From then on," Wallach explained, "everywhere I went in the world to make a film, I would look for an out-of-the-way watch shop and buy an old timepiece that interested me." When his friends discovered Wallach's hobby, they were soon adding to his collection. A Cartier clock was a gift from Walter and Carol Matthau, Zero Mostel and Groucho Marx gave him wristwatches and his Movado Museum watch was a gift from the designer, Nathan George Horwitt. When filming was completed for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Sergio Leone presented Wallach with a Baume & Mercier watch fitted with a unique chain bracelet that the actor displayed in a glass case.
It was Wallach's fascination with timepieces that led to his relationship with Bert Kalisher and Chronos magazine. A loyal supporter of the magazine, Wallach's collection was showcased in several articles and at several exhibits sponsored by the American Watch Guild. Chronos has a long relationship with Sloan-Kettering Hospital and Wallach was always more than willing to add his presence to fund raising events.
Everyone at Chronos will miss Eli. In addition to his remarkable acting talent, his enthusiasm, kindness and fascination with horology turned what began as a business relationship into a genuine friendship.