Vale: Karl Malden

police_streetsEsteemed character actor Karl Malden, who became known to millions of TV viewers as a veteran police detective in The Streets of San Francisco, has died, aged 97. No cause of death was reported.

Despite his years alongside a young Michael Douglas (pictured), it was in film and theatre that he made his mark. He played the shy suitor in A Streetcar Named Desire and an Oscar nominated performance in On the Waterfront. Amongst his countless films were Baby Doll, Gypsy, Cheyenne Autumn and Nuts.

He made his greatest mark in Hollywood in the early 1950s as part of a group of New York theatre stars, headed by actor Marlon Brando and director Elia Kazan, who were trying to bring an unpredictable, realistic style of acting to audiences.

He twice broke his nose playing basketball, and he was resigned to never playing a romantic leading man.

“God knows I didn’t have a pretty face to help me get parts, so in order to stay in this profession, I realised early on that I’d better know my business,” he wrote in a 1997 memoir, When Do I Start? “I strived to be number one in the number two parts I was destined to get.”

Malden was nominated four times for an Emmy in The Streets of San Francisco, and he won for outstanding supporting actor in a limited series or a special for Fatal Vision (1984), and played a priest in an episode of The West Wing.

He also fronted the ad campaigns for American Express urging consumers not to leave home without traveler’s checks. He joked that this became his best-known part.

From 1989 to 1992, he was president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and helped raise millions of dollars to build a library and film research center. In 2004, he received a Screen Actors Guild award for a lifetime of achievement.

Source: Washington Post


  1. Another legend passes. It’s been a crazy few weeks for this sort of thing. Just heard Harve Presnell of Piant Your Wagon and Lois and Clark just passed away too!

  2. He was also married for 70 years.

    Wonderful actor, hadn’t realised that the role in West Wing was his last.

    They’re dropping like flies at the moment. Harve Presnell (Daddy Parker on The Pretender, Fargo, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Paint Your Wagon) died 30 June, aged 75, from pancreatic cancer. His “They call the wind Maria” is one of the most gorgeous recordings ever.

  3. I rememebr him in the only film Brando ever directed – One Eyed Jacks. Its a very interesting but flawed psychological western. I hope they show that on Tv because the only version around is a teribal transfer. Maldon is great in the film. One of the early Method actors. I am always interested in seeing his performances.

  4. Mr Malden was one of the best character actors. He didn’t have to speak for you to understand what the character was feeling. A case in point was his final scenes in the 1967 film ‘Hotel’ which was broadcast recently.

  5. Karl was a great actor – I used to watch Streets of San Francisco a lot back in the ‘good old days’

    He was great in a film called Cat O’Nine Tails – a classic 70s whodunnit – well worth seeing.

    RIP Mr Malden – another fine actor with a lasting legacy.

  6. All the real actors are dying off. This man was terrific. On stage, big screen, small screen and in life. Married for 70 years. My favourite film is Baby Doll. It would be a fitting tribute if ABC would show his movies as they have done in the past with Cary Grant.

  7. David @ Green Point

    4 weeks ago we actually stood on the steps (location) used for the opening credits of “Streets of San Francisco” and, at the time, I wondered if he was still alive. He was an incredible talent on stage.

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