Anthony Quinn was born Antonio Rudolfo Oaxaca Quinn on April 21, 1915, in Chihuahua, Mexico, to an Irish-Mexican father and a Mexican mother. After starting life in extremely modest circumstances in Mexico, his family moved to Los Angeles, California, where he grew up in the Boyle Heights and the Echo Park neighborhoods. In Los Angeles he attended Polytechnic High School and later Belmont High, but he eventually dropped out. The young Quinn boxed (which stood him in good stead as a stage actor, when he played Stanley Kowalski to rave reviews in Chicago), then later studied architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright at the great architect's studio, Taliesin, in Arizona. Quinn was close to Wright, who encouraged him when Quinn decided to give acting a try. After a brief apprenticeship in theatre, Quinn hit Hollywood in 1936 and picked up a variety of small roles in several films at Paramount, including an Indian warrior in The Plainsman (1936), which was directed by the man who later became his father-in-law, Cecil B. DeMille.
As a contract player at Paramount, Quinn mainly played villains and ethnic types, such as an Arab chieftain in the Bing Crosby-'Bob Hope' vehicle Road to Morocco (1942). As a Mexican national (he did not become an American citizen until 1947), he was exempt from the draft. With many actors in the service fighting World War II, Quinn was able to move up into better supporting roles. He had married DeMille's daughter Katherine DeMille, which enabled him to move in the top circles of Hollywood society.
He became disenchanted with his career and did not renew his Paramount contract despite the advice of others, including his father-in-law (whom Quinn felt never accepted him due to his Mexican roots). Instead, he returned to the stage to hone his craft. His portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire" in Chicago and on Broadway (where he replaced the legendary Marlon Brando, who is forever associated with the role) made his reputation and boosted his film career when he returned to the movies.
Brando and Elia Kazan, who directed "Streetcar" on Broadway and on film, were crucial to Quinn's future success. Kazan, knowing the two were potential rivals due to their acclaimed portrayals of Kowalski, cast Quinn as Brando's brother in his biographical film of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, Viva Zapata! (1952). Quinn won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for 1952, making him the first Mexican-American to win an Oscar. It was not to be his lone appearance in the winner's circle: he won his second Supporting Actor Oscar in 1957 for his portrayal of Paul Gauguin in Vincente Minnelli's biographical film of Vincent van Gogh, Lust for Life (1956), opposite Kirk Douglas. Over the next decade Quinn lived in Italy and became a major figure in world cinema, as many studios shot films in Italy to take advantage of the lower costs ("runaway production" had buffeted the industry since its beginnings in the New York / New Jersey area since the 1910s). He appeared in several Italian films, giving one of his greatest performances as the circus strongman who brutalizes the sweet soul played by Giulietta Masina in her husband Federico Fellini's masterpiece La Strada (1954). Alternating between Europe and Hollywood, Quinn built his reputation and entered the front-rank of character actors and character leads. He received his third Oscar nomination (and first for Best Actor) for George Cukor's Wild Is the Wind (1957). He played a Greek resistance fighter against the Nazi occupation in the monster hit The Guns of Navarone (1961) and received kudos for his portrayal of a once-great boxer on his way down in Rod Serling's Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962). He went back to playing ethnic parts, such as an Arab warlord in David Lean's masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia (1962), and he played the eponymous lead in the "sword-and-sandal" blockbuster Barabbas (1961). Two years later he reached the zenith of his career, playing Zorba the Greek in the 1964 film of the same name (a.k.a. Zorba the Greek (1964)), which brought him his fourth, and last, Oscar nomination as Best Actor. The 1960s were kind to him: he played character leads in such major films as The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968/II) and The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969). However, his appearance in the title role in the film adaptation of John Fowles' novel, The Magus (1968), did nothing to save the film, which was one of that decade's notorious turkeys.
In the 1960s Quinn told Life magazine that he would fight against typecasting. Unfortunately, the following decade saw him slip back into playing ethnic types again, in such critical bombs as The Greek Tycoon (1978). He starred as the Hispanic mayor of a southwestern city in the short-lived 1971 TV series "The Man and the City" (1971), but his career lost its momentum during the 1970s. Aside from playing a thinly disguised Aristotle Onassis in the cinematic roman-a-clef "The Greek Tycoon", his other major roles of the decade was as Hamza in the controversial 1977 movie The Message (1977) (a.k.a. "Mohammad, Messenger of God", as the Italian patriarch in The Inheritance (1976), yet another Arab in Caravans (1978) and a Mexican patriarch in The Children of Sanchez (1978). In 1983 he reprised his most famous role, Zorba the Greek, t on Broadway in the revival of the musical "Zorba", for 362 performances. Though his film career slowed during the 1990s, he continued to work steadily in films and television.
Quinn lived out the latter years of his life in Bristol, Rhode Island, where he operated a restaurant. He died in hospital in Boston from pneumonia and respiratory failure linked to his battle with throat cancer. He was 86 years old.
|Kathy Benvin||(7 December 1997 - 3 June 2001) (his death) 2 children|
|Jolanda Addolori||(2 January 1966 - 19 August 1997) (divorced) 3 children|
|Katherine DeMille||(3 October 1937 - 21 January 1965) (divorced) 5 children|
Appeared in more movies with other Oscar-winning actors than any other Oscar-winning actor - a total of 46 Oscar-winning co-stars (28 male, 18 female).
He had 5 children, Christopher Quinn (born October 27, 1938 - died March 15, 1941), Christina Quinn (born December 1, 1941), Catalina Quinn (born November 21, 1942), Duncan Quinn (born August 4, 1945) and Valentina Quinn (born December 26, 1952), with Katherine DeMille. He had 3 children, Francesco Quinn (born March 22, 1963 - died August 5, 2011), Danny Quinn (born April 16, 1964) and Lorenzo Quinn (born May 7, 1966), with Jolanda Addolori. He had 2 children, Sean Quinn (born February 7, 1973) and Alex A. Quinn (born December 30, 1976), with Friedel Dunbar and he had 2 children, Antonia Quinn (born July 23, 1993) and Ryan Quinn (born July 5, 1996), with Kathy Benvin.
Became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1947, just before he was "gray-listed" for his association with Communists such as screenwriter John Howard Lawson and what were termed "fellow travelers", though he himself was never called before the House Un-American Activities Committee. When warned of his gray-listing by 20th Century-Fox boss Darryl F. Zanuck (a liberal), Quinn decided to go on the Broadway stage where there was no blacklist rather than go through the process of refuting the suspicions.
For The Magus (1968) he had to shave his hair. He had an insurance policy against the risk that it might not grow back!
Lived in Bristol, RI, and befriended Providence's controversial mayor Buddy Cianci.
Before he launched his acting career Quinn worked odd jobs as a butcher, a boxer, street corner preacher and a slaughterhouse worker. He also won a scholarship to study architecture with Frank Lloyd Wright, with whom he developed a close relationship.
Won his second Oscar for a movie in which he only appeared on screen for a total of 23 minutes and 40 seconds.
Brother-in-law of screenwriter Martin Goldsmith.
Son of an Irish-Mexican father and Mexican mother, he grew up in the barrio of East L.A. shining shoes and selling newspapers.
Sidelines: painting and sculpting.
Was scheduled to appear in the David Lean-directed "Nostromo" in 1991, but Lean died and the production came to a halt.
For extra cash he entered dance contest, from which he sold the statues.
Was nominated for Broadway's 1961 Tony Award as Best Actor (Dramatic) for Becket.
Around 1972 he announced his desire to play Henry Cristophe, the 19th-century emperor of Haiti. Upon this announcement, several prominent black actors, including Ossie Davis and Ellen Holly, stated that they were opposed to a "white man" playing "black." Davis stated, "My black children need black heroes on which to model their behavior. Henry Cristophe is an authentic black hero. Tony, for all my admiration of him as a talent, will do himself and my children a great disservice if he encourages them to believe that only a white man, and Tony is white to my children, is capable of playing a black hero".
Took acting class from Michael Chekhov in Hollywood.
According to Joseph McBride's Searching for John Ford (St. Martin's Press, 2001 - ISBN 0312242328), director John Ford was urged to cast Richard Boone and Quinn as the Little Wolf and Dull Knife characters in Cheyenne Autumn (1964), as both allegedly had Native American blood. Ricardo Montalban and Gilbert Roland, who were of Mexican descent, were cast instead.
Played in the band of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson as a youth and as a deputy preacher.
While many biographies have the young Quinn, who was the son of an Irish father and Mexican mother, growing up on the streets of East L.A., the truth was that he grew up in Echo Park, attending Polytechnic (which at the time was located in downtown L.A. before it moved to North Hollywood) and Belmont high schools. In later years he would recount how, while growing up in Echo Park, young Chicano toughs would come over to his house to enlist his help in brawling with the Irish gangs, and that later in the same day, young Irish bruisers would visit him to enlist his services in fighting the Mexicans. He would always beg off choosing sides by having his mother chase the young delinquents out of her house, after which he would resume one of his favorite pastimes, drafting and drawing.
He did not get along well with his first father-in-law, legendary producer-director Cecil B. DeMille, though they later developed a civil relationship.
He was one of the few actors to move easily and successfully between starring and supporting roles throughout his career. In both categories, the Irish-Mexican Quinn played a vast array of characters and ethnicities, including American, Arab, Basque, Chinese, English, French, Greek, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Hun, Irish, Italian, Mexican, Mongol, Native American, Filipino, Portuguese, Spaniard and Ukranian.
Donated blood to John Barrymore whenever the older actor needed a transfusion.
Underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery in February 1990.
He was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, in 1915, during the Mexican revolution, in which his father was a soldier in the army of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. After the revolution the family moved to Los Angeles, CA, where Quinn's father eventually secured a job as a cameraman at Selig Film Studios. Quinn often accompanied his father to work, and became acquainted with such stars as Tom Mix and, John Barrymore, with whom he kept up the friendship into adulthood.
Anthony Quinn appeared with Irene Papas in 7 films starting as far back as 1954. The films are "Attila" (1954), The Guns of Navarone" (1961), "Zorba the Greek"(1964), "A Dream of Kings" (1969), the Mexican produced, Spanish languaged and filmed in Rome short film "El asesinato de Julio Cesar" (1972), "The Messenger" (1977), and "The Lion of the Desert" (1981).
He met his third wife, Jolanda Addolori, a wardrobe assistant, while he was in Rome filming 'Barabbas.".
Quinn's father was killed in a motor accident when he was age 9.
Quinn's first job in Hollywood was tending animals at the Selig Studio.
In Europe an actor is an artist. In Hollywood, if he isn't working, he's a bum.
[when asked about his ethnicity] It doesn't make a difference as long as I'm a person in the world.
I never get the girl. I wind up with a country instead.
They said all I was good for was playing Indians.
[speaking in the 1980s] I don't see many men today. I see a lot of guys running around on television with small waists, but I don't see many men.
I never satisfied that kid [referring to himself], but I think he and I have made a deal now. It's like climbing a mountain. I didn't take him up Mount Everest, but I took him up Mount Whitney. And I think that's not bad.
I have lived in a flurry of images, but I will go out in a freeze frame.
[on Ingrid Bergman] I reckon there wasn't a man who came within a mile of her who didn't fall in love with her.
[on Marlon Brando] I admire Marlon's talent, but I don't envy the pain that created it.
[on Marilyn Monroe] An empty-headed blonde with a fat rear. Oh, Monroe was pretty enough to look at, but there were hundreds of better-looking actresses poking around Hollywood. Even after she hit the big time, with Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953), I never could see what all the fuss was about.
[on Zorba the Greek (1964) (aka "Zorba the Greek")] Nobody wanted to do this role. Burl Ives and Burt Lancaster turned it down. They said 'Who cares about an old man making love to a broken-down old broad?'.
[In 1962] Ten years ago there wasn't an actor who didn't envy Brando. He was superb. His potential was enormous. But what happened? He went out to Hollywood, and instead of fighting giants, he fought pygmies. He stopped growing. He threw his potential away.
Spencer Tracy's a dangerous actor. You never know what he's going to do. He's one of the few actors you can never steal a scene from. He and Olivier and Jean Gabin.
When I was just starting in movies, I got a reputation for being a scene stealer. Once I was in a film with a famous star and had to stand behind him in one scene. 'Now watch that Quinn,' this star told the director, 'I don't want him stealing the scene behind my back.' The director parked me in a chair and I just sat there. Next day, when we were looking at the rushes, the star said,'See, I told you! Look at him!' The director exclaimed: 'But he's only sitting there! 'Only,' rejoined the star, 'Maybe so, but he's thinking!'
(1993) Release of the book, "Anthony Quinn" by Melissa Amdur.
(1995) Release of his book, "One Man's Tango: A Memoir", by Anthony Quinn with Daniel Paisiner.
(2000) Release of his book, "Lovers and Other Strangers: Paintings by Jack Vettriano".
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