Quinn, Anthony: 1915–2001: Actor , Artist, Writer
Anthony Quinn: 1915–2001: Actor , artist, writer
Anthony Quinn's robust portrayals of such characters as Zorba the Greek and the fierce Bedouin leader in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) made him larger than life to millions. Appearing in more than two hundred films during a career that spanned six decades, his image was defined by his charismatic performance as the lusty peasant Alexis Zorba in Zorba the Greek (1964), a role that seemed to reflect the sum and substance of his off-screen persona as someone proud, virile and passionate.
Early on the Mexican Irish actor was typecast as a Native American, a Latin villain, a Mafia don, and a Mexican bandito in mostly B-movies, but he resisted characterization. His successful stage performance of Stanley Kowalski in Tenessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire led to more challenging roles, such as the hot-tempered brother of Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata! (1952) and the artist Paul Gauguin in Lust for Life (1956), winning Academy Awards for both performances.
Quinn also resisted being categorized as an actor. He considered running for governor of California, but was discouraged by labor leader Cesar Chavez, who told him he was more valuable as an actor than in politics.
He dedicated much of his time later in life to honing his artistic abilities, becoming an accomplished painter and sculptor, and designing houses in Italy and California.
Escaped the Mexican Revolution
Anthony Rudolph Oaxaca Quinn was born in Chihuahua, Mexico to Francisco Quinn of Irish-Mexican descent and Manuella Oaxaca of Mexican and Cherokee ancestry. His father was fighting in the Mexican Revolution with Pancho Villa's forces at the time of his birth until the family fled to El Paso, Texas to escape federal troops. The family, which had grown with the birth of Quinn's sister Stella, eventually moved to California where they worked as farm laborers, earning ten cents an hour picking fruit. After settling in East Los Angeles when Quinn was six, Frank found work at the Lincoln Park Zoo and then as a laborer at the burgeoning film studios. He was killed in a car accident when Quinn was just nine.
His father's death forced Quinn to support his mother with odd jobs, including shining shoes, digging ditches, and driving a taxi. He also worked as a professional boxer, racking up sixteen consecutive victories until he was knocked out in his seventeenth fight and gave up the sport for good. After taking up the saxophone and forming a small orchestra, he joined a band with the Foursquare Gospel Church of the evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson and did some preaching in Los Angeles' Mexican neighborhoods. During this time, Quinn was teaching himself literature, music and painting, and taking courses in art and architecture. After winning an architectural drawing contest, he met Frank Lloyd Wright, who advised him to get medical help to improve his speech impediment. His speech actually deteriorated after the surgery, so he sought the help of former actress Katherine Hamil to improve his stammer though acting lessons.
At a Glance . . .
Born Antonio Rudolph Oaxaca Quinn on April 21, 1915, in Chihuahua, Mexico; died on June 3, 2001 in Boston; son of Francisco Quinn and Manuella Oaxaca; married Katherine De Mille (divorced 1965); married Iolanda Addolori (divorced 1997); married Kathy Benvin; children: Christopher (died 1941), Christina, Catalina, Duncan and Valentina by De Mille; Francesco, Daniele and Lorenzo by Addolori; Antonia and Ryan by Benvin; Alex and Sean by an unnamed German woman; and an unnamed son by an unnamed French woman.
Career: Actor. Made more than 200 films during a career that spanned 60 years. Other major film credits include The Guns of Navarone (1961), La Strada (1954), Wild Is the Wind (1957), Hunchback of Notre Dame (1956), The Last Train From Gun Hill (1959) and Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962).
Awards: Best Supporting Actor, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, 1953, 1957; Best Actor, National Board of Review, 1964; Cecil B. DeMille Award, Golden Globes, 1987; Golden Camera Award, 1995.
Debuted on Stage and Screen
In 1936 Quinn debuted on stage in Mae West's play Clean Beds, playing a role originally written for John Barrymore. The legendary actor made a surprise appearance on opening night, complimenting twenty-one-year-old Quinn on his performance. Over the years, Barrymore would become a friend and mentor. "Many people remember Jack Barrymore as either a wit or a drunk, but what impressed me was his courage of conviction," Quinn told the Los Angeles Times. "He used to tell me that you can only be as right as you dare to be wrong. That you must be willing to take chances to achieve superiority in your craft. He gave me his armor from 'Richard III.' He was like a retiring matador, who gives his sword to the most promising newcomer he knows."
That same year, Quinn signed on with Paramount and made his film debut as a convict in Parole!. This would lead to a string of movies in which he appeared in the "ethnic" roles, including the Cheyenne chief in Cecil B. DeMille's The Plainsman (1936), starring Gary Cooper. It wasn't long before Quinn married DeMille's daughter Katherine, whom he met during the filming. Their first son, Christopher, drowned in 1941 after falling into a fishpond on the estate of W.C. Fields. They would go on to have four more children: Christina, born in 1941; Catalina in 1942; Duncan in 1945; and Valentina in 1952.
Quinn appeared in a number of B-movies between 1936 and 1947, including: King of Alcatraz (1938), King of Chinatown, (1939) and Island of Lost Men (1939), but he felt constrained by Hollywood. "I was the bad guy's bad guy," he told the Guardian."Irarely made it to the final reel without being dispatched by a gun or knife or a length of twine, typically administered by a rival hood." He moved to New York City and made his debut on Broadway in 1947 in Gentleman From Athens, following it with a successful two-year run in Elia Kazan's production of A Streetcar Named Desire, replacing Marlon Brando, who had gone into films.
Part of the reason Quinn moved to New York in 1947 was due to the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee investigating him along with other big names in Hollywood. Quinn was always a political man, sometimes taking stances considered radical at the time. He got involved in the 1942 "Sleepy Lagoon" trial, helping 22 Mexican youths from Los Angeles appeal a gang-related murder conviction. "Probably it's the Irish in me that makes me speak out," he told the Los Angeles Times. "But there are about 800 boys in my profession who have a political ideal and want to express it. How can an actor be real in his work if he hasn't some convictions regarding the problems in the world around him?"
Offered More Rewarding Roles
Quinn's multi-ethnic heritage had an acute effect on his sense of identity, which directly influenced his decision to become an actor and the various ethnic roles he played. "Those were rough times, right from the beginning," he said as he recalled his childhood in a 1981 interview with the Los Angeles Times. "With a name like Quinn, I wasn't totally accepted by the Mexican community in those days, and as a Mexican I wasn't accepted as an American. So as a kid I just decided, well, 'A plague on both your houses. I'll just become a world citizen.' So that's what I did. Acting is my nationality." Still, he was proud to portray Mexicans and Native American's in his films, seeing it as an opportunity to educate the audience. "I fought early to go beyond the stereotypes and demand Mexicans and Indians be treated with dignity in films."
After years of viewing his ethnicity as a disadvantage, Quinn began to realize its benefits. He returned to film in Robert Rosen's The Brave Bulls (1951). "The supporting cast was entirely Mexican, and I was thrilled to be in such company," he told the Guardian. "After so many years as the token Latin on the set, I found tremendous security in numbers. For the first time, I belonged." But it was his performance of the great Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata! (1952) that won him fame and his first Academy Award.
Quinn spent much of his time in Italy, where he worked with several acclaimed Italian filmmakers, including Dino De Laurentiis, Carlo Ponti, and Giuseppe Amato. It was his next film, Federico Fellini's La Strada (1954), in which he played dim-witted circus strongman Zampano, that forever changed his career and demonstrated his capacity to play a leading role. He won his second Oscar in 1955 for his portrayal of Paul Gauguin in Vincente Minnelli's Lust for Life and was nominated again for his performance in Wild is the Wind (1957), with Anna Magnani. He even tried his hand at directing, taking over for his father-in-law when DeMille became ill during the making of The Buccaneer (1958). However, under Quinn's direction, the film would become more of a pirate epic than the intimate, political drama it was intended to be. It would also be his last stab at filmmaking.
Quinn's acting career reached its peak in the early sixties when he appeared on Broadway as Henry II, starred opposite Lawrence Olivier in Jean Anouilh's Becket, and starred with Margaret Leighton in Francois Billetdoux's Tchin Tchin. He had simultaneous box-office success with the WWII drama The Guns of Navarone (1961), in which he played a Greek colonel, and with David Lean's WWII epic Lawrence of Arabia (1962). This was followed by another acclaimed performance, and one of his personal favorites, as an over-the-hill prizefighter in Requiem For a Heavyweight (1962).
He went on to play what became his signature role—the ouzo-drinking and bouzouki-dancing peasant in Michael Cacoyannis's Zorba the Greek (1964), for which he earned another Oscar nomination. He would reprise the role on Broadway nearly twenty years later in what would become one of the most lucrative revivals in history, grossing $48 million over four years. He never found a part of the same caliber despite a busy career that produced such films as A High Wind in Jamaica (1965) and The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969).
Quinn and DeMille's marriage ended in 1965 after he conceived a child with Iolanda Addolori, a wardrobe assistant on the set of Barabbas (1962). The marriage had lasted nearly thirty years, but Quinn had never been a faithful husband. He admitted to affairs with some of Hollywood's most glamorous women, including Carole Lombard, Rita Hayworth, Ingrid Bergman, and Maureen O'Hara. He married Addolori in 1966 when she was pregnant with their third child.
Focused on Other Talents
His success in acting allowed Quinn to exploit his artistic talents later in life, when he concentrated on painting, sculpting, and designing jewelry. He was known for cubist and pot-impressionist oils, showing his work at major international exhibitions, although he admitted to "stealing" from the masters. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, he quoted Picasso: "A poor man borrows, a rich artist steals. I steal, of course." Nevertheless, he added, "I'm much more honest in my painting than I am as an actor. You can't do 240 films and do your best in each one." Quinn penned his memoirs, The Original Sin: A Self Portrait in 1972.
Quinn never stopped acting, but he slowed down quite a bit after 1975. "The parts dried up as I reached my sixtieth birthday, loosely coinciding with my growing disinclination to pursue them," he said to The Guardian. "Indeed, I could not see the point in playing old men on screen and I rejected the role for myself." However, he continued to make movies throughout the 1970s, appearing in such films as The Greek Tycoon (1978) and The Children of Sanchez (1978). Turning to television, he played Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in the 1988 movie Onassis: The Richest Man in the World and the tireless fisherman in Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea (1990).
Quinn's second marriage lasted 31 years, but he was never a faithful husband. He had three children with two other women and carried on affairs with many more, including Ingrid Bergman's daughter Pia Lindstrom and the French actress Dominique Sanda. He and Addolori divorced in 1997 after he fathered two more children with his former secretary, Kathy Benvin, who was 50 years his junior. Their daughter, Antonia, was born in 1993 and a son, Ryan, was born in 1996.
Still active into his eighties, Quinn worked with Kevin Costner in Revenge (1990), director Spike Lee in Jungle Fever (1991) and Keanu Reeves in A Walk in the Clouds (1995). In 1995 he published One Man Tango, a second memoir in which he did some soul-searching and confessed to his womanizing ways. The title refers to a comment made by Orson Welles: "Tony, you're a one-man tango." He was working on the film Avenging Angelo with Sylvester Stallone at the time of his death from respiratory failure.
A Streetcar Named Desire.
Gentlman from Athens.
The Plainsman, 1937.
King of Alcatraz, 1938.
King of Chinatown, 1939.
Islands of Lost Men, 1939.
The Brave Bulls, 1951.
Viva Zapata, 1952.
La Strada, 1954.
Lust for Life, 1956.
Wild Is the Wind, 1957.
(as director) The Buccaneer, 1958.
Guns of Navarone, 1961.
Requiem for a Heavyweight, 1962.
Lawrence of Arabia, 1962.
Zorba the Greek, 1964.
High Wind in Jamaica, (1965.
The Secret of Santa Vittoria, 1969.
Deaf Smith and Johnny Ears, 1973.
The Children of Sanchez, 1978.
The Greek Tycoon, 1978.
Jungle Fever, 1991.
A Walk in the Clouds, 1995.
Avenging Angelo, 2002.
Onassis: The Richest Man in the World. The Old Man and the Sea.
The Original Sin: A Self Portrait, 1972.
(with Michael Paisner) One Man Tango, 1995.
The Guardian (London), June 5, 2001.
Independent (London), June 5, 2001. B2.
Los Angeles Times, June 4, 2001. A1.
San Francisco Chronicle, June 5, 2001. B2.
The Scotsman, June 5, 2001. P. 14.
The Washington Post, June 4, 2001. B6.
Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2002.
—Kelly M. Cross
Nationality: American. Born: Anthony Rudolph Oaxaca Quinn in Chihuahua, Mexico, 21 April 1915 (some sources give 1916); became U.S. citizen, 1947. Education: Attended public school in Los Angeles, California. Family: Married 1) Katherine DeMille, 1937 (divorced 1965), sons: Christopher (deceased), Duncan, daughters: Christina, Kathleen, Valentina; 2) Iolanda Addolori, 1965 (separated 1995), sons: Francesco, Daniele, Lorenzo; child with Kathy Benvin. Career: Worked as cement mixer, ditchdigger, boxer, fruit picker, taxi driver; also with Federal Theater Project; 1936—stage debut in Clean Beds; film debut in Parole; then contract with Paramount, 1936–40; 1947—Broadway debut in The Gentleman from Athens; 1958—directed the film The Buccaneer; 1962—on stage in Tchin-Tchin; 1971–72—in TV series The Man and the City; 1977—in mini-series Jesus of Nazareth; 1983—in musical version of the film, Zorba! on Broadway; 1988—in TV mini-series The Richest Man inthe World: The Story of Aristotle Onassis. Awards: Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, for Viva Zapata!, 1952; Best Supporting Actor Academy Award, for Lust for Life, 1956. Agent: Johnnie Planco, William Morris Agency, 1350 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019, U.S.A.
Films as Actor:
Parole (Landers) (as Browning); Sworn Enemy (Marin) (as gangster); Night Waitress (Landers) (as hood); The Plainsman (Cecil B. DeMille) (as Cheyenne Indian); The Milky Way (McCarey) (as extra)
Swing High, Swing Low (Leisen) (as the Don); Waikiki Wedding (Tuttle) (as Kimo); The Last Train from Madrid(Hogan) (as Capt. Ricardo Alvarez); Partners in Crime(Murphy) (as Nicholas Mazaney); Daughter of Shanghai(Florey) (as Harry Morgan)
The Buccaneer (Cecil B. DeMille) (as Beluche); Dangerous to Know (Florey) (as Nicholas Keisnoff); Tip-Off Girls(Louis King) (as Marty); Hunted Men (Louis King) (as Legs); Bulldog Drummond in Africa (Louis King) (as Deane Fordline); King of Alcatraz (Florey) (as Lou Gadney)
King of Chinatown (Grinde) (as Mike Gordon); Union Pacific(Cecil B. DeMille) (as Jack Cordray); Island of Lost Men(Neumann) (as Chang Tai); Television Spy (Dmytryk)(as Forbes)
Emergency Squad (Dmytryk) (as Nick Buller); Road to Singapore (Schertzinger) (as Caesar); Parole Fixer (Florey)(as Francis Bradmore); The Ghost Breakers (George Mar-shall) (as Ramon); City for Conquest (Litvak) (as MurrayBruno); Texas Rangers Ride Again (Hogan) (as Joe Yuma)
Blood and Sand (Mamoulian) (as Manolo de Palma); Knockout (Clemens) (as Trego); Thieves Fall Out (Wright) (as Chic Collins); They Died with Their Boots On (Walsh) (as Crazy Horse); The Perfect Snob (McCarey) (as AlexMorens); Bullets for O'Hara (William K. Howard) (as Tony Van Dyne)
Larceny, Inc. (Lloyd Bacon) (as Leo Dexter); Road to Morocco(David Butler) (as Mullay Kasim); The Black Swan (Henry King) (as Wogan); The Ox-Bow Incident (Wellman) (as the Mexican)
Guadalcanal Diary (Seiler)
Buffalo Bill (Wellman) (as Yellow Hand); Roger Touhy, Gangster (The Last Gangster) (Florey) (as George Car-roll); Ladies of Washington (Louis King) (as Michael Romanescue); Irish Eyes Are Smiling (Ratoff) (as Al Jackson)
Where Do We Go from Here? (Ratoff) (as Indian Chief);China Sky (Enright) (as Chen Ta); Back to Bataan (Dmytryk)(as Capt. Andres Bonifacio)
California (Farrow) (as Don Louis Rivera y Hernandez)
Sinbad the Sailor (Wallace) (as Emir); The Imperfect Lady(Lewis Allen) (as Jose Martinez); Black Gold (Karlson) (as Charley Eagle); Tycoon (Wallace) (as Enrique Vargas)
The Brave Bulls (Rossen) (as Raul Fuentes); Mask of the Avenger (Karlson) (as Giovanni Larocca); High Treason(Boulting)
Viva Zapata! (Kazan) (title role); The Brigand (Karlson) (as Carlos Delargo); The World in His Arms (Walsh) (as Portugee); Against All Flags (Sherman) (as Roc Brasiliano)
City beneath the Sea (Boetticher) (as Tony Bartlett); Seminole(Boetticher) (as Osceola); Ride Vaquero! (Farrow) (as José Esqueda); East of Sumatra (Boetticher) (as Kiang); Blowing Wild (Fregonese) (as Ward Conway); Cavalleria Rusticana (Fatal Desire) (Gallone) (as Alfio); Donne Proibite(Angels of Darkness; Forbidden Women) (Amato) (as Francesco Caserto)
Ulisse (Ulysses) (Camerini) (as Antinous); La strada (Fellini)(as Zampano); The Long Wait (Saville) (as Johnny McBride);Attila flagello di dio (Attila; Attila the Hun) (Francisci)(title role)
The Magnificent Matador (Boetticher) (as Luis Santos); The Naked Street (Shane) (as Phil Regal); Seven Cities of Gold(Webb) (as Capt. Gaspar de Portola)
Lust for Life (Minnelli) (as Paul Gauguin); Man from Del Rio(Horner) (as Dave Robles); The Wild Party (Horner) (as Big Tom Kupfen); Notre Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) (Delannoy) (as Quasimodo)
The River's Edge (Dwan) (as Ben Cameron); The Ride Back(Miner) (as Bob Kallen); Wild Is the Wind (Cukor) (as Gino)
Hot Spell (Daniel Mann) (as Jack Duval)
The Black Orchid (Ritt) (as Frank Valentine); Warlock(Dmytryk) (as Tom Morgan); Last Train from Gun Hill(John Sturges) (as Craig Beldon)
Heller in Pink Tights (Cukor) (as Tom Healy); Portrait in Black (Gordon) (as Dr. David Rivera); The Savage Innocents (Ombre Bianche) (Nicholas Ray) (as Inok)
The Guns of Navarone (J. Lee Thompson) (as Col. Andrea Stavros)
Barabbas (Fleischer) (title role); Requiem for a Heavyweight(Nelson) (as Mountain Rivera); Lawrence of Arabia (Lean)(as Auda Abu Tayi)
Behold a Pale Horse (Zinnemann) (as Capt. Vinolas); Der Besuch (The Visit) (Wicki) (as Serge Miller); Zorba the Greek (Cacoyannis) (title role)
Lost Command (Not for Honor and Glory) (Robson) (as Lt.Col. Pierre Raspeguy)
La 25e Heure (La Vingt-cinquième Heure; The 25th Hour)(Verneuil) (as Johann Moritz); The Happening (Silverstein)(as Roc Delmonico); The Rover (L'Avventuriero) (Terence Young) (as Peyrol)
Guns for San Sebastian (Verneuil) (as Leon Alastray); The Shoes of the Fisherman (Anderson) (as Kiril Lakota); The Magus (Guy Green) (as Maurice Conchis)
The Secret of Santa Vittoria (Kramer) (as Stalo Bambolini); A Dream of Kings (Daniel Mann) (as Matsverkas)
A Walk in the Spring Rain (Guy Green) (as Will Cade); R.P.M.(Kramer) (as Paco); Flap (The Last Warrior) (Reed) (as Flapping Eagle); King: A Filmed Record . . . Montgomery to Memphis (Lumet and Joseph L. Mankiewicz—doc)
Across 110th Street (Shear) (as Capt. Frank Mattelli, + exec pr); The Voice of La Raza (Greaves) (as narrator)
Deaf Smith and Johnny Ears (Cavara) (as Erastus "Deaf"Smith); The Don Is Dead (Fleischer) (title role)
The Marseilles Contract (The Destructors) (Parris) (as Steve Ventura)
L'eredità Ferramonti (The Inheritance) (Bolognini) (as Gregorio Ferramonti); Bluff (High Rollers); The Message(Mohammad, Messenger of God) (Akkad) (as Hazma);Tigers Don't Cry (Collinson)
The Greek Tycoon (J. Lee Thompson) (as Theo Tomasis);Caravans (Fargo) (as Zulfigar); The Children of Sanchez(Bartlett)
The Passage (J. Lee Thompson) (as the Basque)
High Risk (Raffill) (as Mariano); Lion of the Desert (Omar Mukhtar) (Akkad—produced in in 1979) (as Omar Mukhtar);The Con Artists (Corbucci) (as Bang); The Salamander(Zinner) (as Bruno Manzini)
Regina (Roma) (Prate)
Valentina (Betancor) (as Mosen Joaquin)
Ingrid (Feldman); The Last Days of Pompeii (Hunt—for TV)
Isola del tesoro (Dawson)
A Man of Passion (Pasion de hombre) (Loma); Actor(Angelucci)
Only the Lonely (Columbus) (as Nick); Jungle Fever (SpikeLee) (as Lou Carbone); Mobsters (Karbeinidoff) (as DonMasseria)
Last Action Hero (McTiernan) (as Tony Vivaldi)
Somebody to Love (Rockwell) (as Emilio); Hercules in the Underworld (Bill L. Norton—for TV) (as Zeus); Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur (Bender—for TV) (as Zeus);Hercules and the Lost Kingdom (Cokliss—for TV) (as Zeus); Hercules and the Circle of Fire (Doug Lefler—for TV) (as Zeus); Hercules and the Amazon Women (Bill L.Norton—for TV) (as Zeus); This Can't Be Love (Harvey—for TV) (as Michael Reyman)
A Walk in the Clouds (Arrau) (as Don Pedro Aragon)
Il Sindaco (Ugo Fabrizio Giordani); Gotti (Harmon—for TV)(as Neil Dellacroce)
Ringside (Norman Mailer); Camino Santiago (mini for TV);Oriundi (Bernstein) (as Giuseppe Padovani)
Film as Director:
By QUINN: books—
The Original Sin, a Self-Portrait (autobiography), New York, 1972.
One Man Tango, with Daniel Paisner, New York, 1995.
By QUINN: articles—
"The Loving World of Anthony Quinn," interview with Mary Simons, in Look (New York), 1 April 1969.
"Competing with Myself," interview in Films and Filming (London), February 1970.
Interview by Veronica Webb, in Interview (New York), May 1991.
"The Number It Takes to Tango," interview with Alex Witchel, in New York Times, 6 July 1995.
On QUINN: books—
Ball, Gregor, Anthony Quinn: seine Filme, sein Leben, Munich, 1985.
Amdur, Melissa, Anthony Quinn, New York, 1993.
On QUINN: articles—
Current Biography 1957, New York, 1957.
Johnson, Ian, "Anthony Quinn," in Films and Filming (London), February 1962.
Marill, Alvin H., "Anthony Quinn," in Films in Review (New York), October 1968.
Denby, David, "High on Anthony Quinn," in Premiere (New York), September 1992.
Nielsen, Ray, "Anthony Quinn," in Classic Images (Muscatine), August 1993.
Williamson, K., "The Mighty Quinn," in Boxoffice (Chicago), January 1995.
* * *
Pounding on his beefy chest and rolling his exotic eyes, Anthony Quinn is easily disparaged as an all-purpose Ethnic, but his vibrant approach to acting can be riveting. In the 1990s, in smaller doses, as in the macho shenanigans of Last Action Hero, the formulaic but diverting comedy of Only the Lonely, and especially the swooning lyricism of A Walk in the Clouds, Quinn seems looser and less pointedly vociferous. Maybe time has purified him of some of that much talked-about Life Force, that so memorably defined the spirit of Zorba the Greek. That was before it degenerated into meaninglessness when applied across the board to all the international characterizations that nipped at Zorba's heels. In his post-1964 heyday, Quinn was as overexposed as the cast of television's Friends are today.
Born in poverty in Mexico, Anthony Quinn served a long contractual apprenticeship in the movies as lummox-in-loincloth or scourge-with-scimitar. If menace of a foreign extraction was required, casting agents made a beeline to Tony. But small monotonous parts were as galling to Quinn as being dismissed as Cecil B. DeMille's son-in-law. Graduating from leads in B movies, Quinn remained the same stone-faced heavy in A pictures; the performance in Viva Zapata! that won him his first Oscar hardly seemed more challenging than dozens of scenery-chewing turns that preceded it.
Instead of turning his frustration at being typecast inward, Quinn started thesping his heart out more and more; the Quinn style was born—earthy, hearty, and above all, voluble. You could outfight Quinn but never outshout him. Several savvy breaks from the Hollywood rut paid off by building (maybe overbuilding) Quinn's confidence. After donning the Brando T-shirt as a replacement Stanley Kowalski, he also shared glory with Olivier himself as they switched lead roles in Becket, and then his career rose phoenixlike out of a past-his-prime graveyard with Fellini's La strada. Taken seriously by Hollywood thanks to his art-house circuit success as the brutal strongman, Zampano, Quinn snagged a second supporting Oscar for Lust for Life and then began stamping all his roles with the same lust for overacting.
Whether certain directors could handle him with more authority or whether he simply responded to simpatico material, Quinn got delightfully high on his own ego-puffery in Cukor's colorful Heller in Pink Tights, presented a memorably noncondescending portrayal of an Eskimo in Ray's The Savage Innocents, then shadow-boxed beautifully with despair in Requiem for a Heavyweight, a much subtler and affecting portrait of brute force than his La strada stint. Throughout the 1950s and early 1960s, whether top-billed as he gave us Barabbas or cameoed in Lawrence of Arabia, Quinn broke no new ground until the soulmate role of Zorba the Greek liberated him. After 1964, however, Tony the Quinn became Zorba the Greek, and it is difficult to rebut the prevailing wisdom that dubbed him a one-man UN. He could play Italian, Native American, Greek, or Basque—just go round the globe; Quinn acted there. This was thesping by way of Berlitz. Still, if there were many occasions when you wished he had moved on from Esperanto-translated populism, there was no denying this peacock actor's energy. If every performer seeks to improve upon reality, then Quinn is the Great Embellisher. Refusing to play in sotto voce, the man is a one-tenor opera. The feverish, life-forced quality of his performances (good and bad) sing out with the overabundant grace notes of a man whose love of acting is boundless.
Anthony Quinn (born 1915) aspired to be an architect and later a merchant seaman before a detour through Hollywood brought him movie stardom. He appeared in over 100 motion pictures and won two Academy Awards.
Star of stage and screen, Anthony Quinn, made his first movie in 1936. By 1999, he had 148 movies to his credit. For years he played small parts in Hollywood, locked into stereotyped roles as convicts and gangsters. In 1947, a brief appearance on Broadway led to a major stage role with a minor touring company. By 1952, he had secured the role that would win for him an Academy Award, as Eufemio Zapata in the film Viva Zapata! With an Oscar to his credit Quinn caught the attention of the international film industry. By the mid-1950s he was a favorite of Italian filmmakers, from Dino De Laurentis to Federico Fellini. In 1964, he won more fans as the aging Alexis Zorba in the movie version of the hit musical, Zorba the Greek. Quinn proved himself further as a talented painter and sculptor. A showing of his artwork brought in two million dollars in 1982.
Anthony Quinn was born Antonio Rudolph Oaxaca Quinn, the son of freedom fighters in the Mexican revolution. Quinn's father, Francesco Quinn, was the son of an Irish railroad worker, raised in Mexico after the death of his own father. Her family abandoned Quinn's mother, Manuela Oaxaca, almost at birth. She and Francesco Quinn met in Chihuahua, Mexico and married soon afterward, on board a train filled with rebel troops bound for Durango. Quinn was conceived virtually in the field of battle. When the sergeant learned of Oaxaca's pregnancy, he shipped her by train back to Chihuahua where she gave birth to Quinn on April 21, 1915. Quinn's father returned from the war and rejoined his family in El Paso, Texas when Quinn was approximately two years old. His paternal grandmother, Dona Sabina, lived with the family in a small tin-roofed hut. She and her grandson developed a close bond. Within a year of his father's homecoming, Quinn's younger sister, Stella, was born.
Quinn's parents worked together building the railroads in Texas, until his father was injured and could no longer continue the work. He moved his family to San Jose, California, to work in the fields as migrant farm hands. For several years the Quinns lived as nomads, traveling throughout California in search of farm work. The family eventually settled in the southern part of the state to work in the citrus fields.
Quinn's father moved his family to East Los Angeles, where he found work at the Lincoln Park Zoo and later as a laborer at the new movie studios. On January 10, 1926, when Quinn was 10 years old, a car accident took his father's life. He went to work as a water boy on a construction crew on the Los Angeles River, and accepted other odd jobs in an effort to help support his family. When his widowed mother became romantically involved with a man named Frank Bowles, Quinn became irate and moved out of her home. He brought his sister and grandmother along with him, and left high school to support them.
Architecture Led to Acting
Quinn was a talented artist and, prior to quitting high school, had entered an architectural drawing contest. He won the first prize, which included an appraisal of his work by the noted architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Quinn's poor diction annoyed Wright who recommended tongue surgery to facilitate his speech. Ironically, Quinn's speech deteriorated further after the operation. He sought the assistance of a former actress, Katherine Hamil, to help him learn to speak clearly, in the hopes of earning an apprenticeship with Wright. Hamil's students, for the most part, aspired to acting. They performed plays, and Quinn participated in those productions on several occasions. He joined an acting troupe called the Gateway Players, and was offered a role in a Mae West stage production. He made his professional debut in a play called Clean Beds, and later accepted a minor part as a prison inmate in a film called Parole!
Quinn stood six-feet-two and weighed 182 pounds— an impressive stance for a would-be actor. Yet his career was slow to unfold. He became discouraged and drifted across the American Southwest for a time. In 1936, he joined a fishing junket bound for the Orient out of Ensenada in Baja, California, but detoured back to Hollywood shortly before departure, in response to an advertised casting call for a Hollywood film. The movie was called The Plainsman and starred Gary Cooper under the direction of Cecil B. De Mille. To achieve realism, De Mille sought a Native American actor to play the part of a Cheyenne warrior. Quinn represented himself as a full-blooded Cheyenne and feigned an inability to speak English in an effort to secure the role. His initial performance displeased De Mille who would have replaced the aspiring actor had it not been for Cooper's remark, "He seems like a nice kid, give him a break," according to Quinn's memoir. De Mille allowed Quinn to play the part, which led to a long-term contract with Paramount Studios.
Quinn appeared in Swing High, Swing Low with Carole Lombard, followed by director Frank Tuttle's Waikiki Wedding. Soon after came a role in The Buccaneer with Frederic March, followed by a string of grade "B" motion pictures, including King of Alcatraz, King of Chinatown, Island of Lost Men, and Dangerous to Know. By 1940, Quinn was a veteran of 20 Hollywood films. From 1940 until 1949 he added 29 movies to his credit. Although he was glad for the work, he felt stereotyped because of his swarthy complexion. Repeatedly he was assigned to play gangsters and thugs, and on occasion he portrayed a Native American warrior or chief. He worked largely with J. Carrol Nash, Lloyd Nolan, Robert Preston, and Anna May Wong. A breakthrough occurred when Quinn received an offer to play a matador in the 20th Century-Fox production Blood and Sand with Rita Hayworth and Tyrone Power. In Quinn's next film, They Died with Their Boots on, Quinn played the role of Crazy Horse against Errol Flynn's General George Armstrong Custer.
Quinn's road to stardom took many detours. He secured a role as the male lead in Black Gold in 1947 but abandoned Hollywood soon afterward when advised by Darryl Zanuck that he was under investigation along with other Hollywood stars, by the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee as a suspected Communist sympathizer. Quinn soon departed for New York City and established himself as a stage actor on Broadway. His first play, The Gentleman from Athens by Emmet Lavery, failed after six performances but led to a promising offer. Elia Kazan offered Quinn the role of Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams's Streetcar Named Desire for two years on tour. After the road show, Quinn co-starred with Marlon Brando in Kazan's 1952 film about the Mexican Revolution, Viva Zapata! Quinn played the part of Eufemio Zapata, brother of Emiliano Zapata. Critics applauded the movie. On March 19, 1953, Quinn received the Best Supporting Actor award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Soon Quinn was in Rome, where he worked with several renowned Italian film directors. He worked with Dino De Laurentis and Carlo Ponti in the Kirk Douglas film, Ulysses. He appeared in Giuseppe Amato's Donne Proibite (Angels of Darkness) with Linda Darnell, and then starred as Attila the Hun with Sophia Loren, in the De-Laurentis/Ponti production, Attila. . Quinn was in high demand. During the filming of Attila he worked simultaneously on Federico Fellini's La Strada, a 1956 release that secured Quinn's stature as an international star.
Quinn returned to the United States and starred in the 20th Century Fox release of The Magnificent Matador, again with Maureen O'Hara. He spent much of 1955 in filming the life of Paul Gauguin in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's Lust for Life, by director Vincente Minelli. The Gauguin role won him a second Academy Award in 1957. Quinn re-appeared on Broadway in 1956 in Becket as King Henry II against Sir Lawrence Olivier's Thomas Becket. Quinn starred next as Quasimodo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1957 with Gina Lollabrigida as Esmeralda. Again on Broadway in 1962, he appeared with Margaret Leighton in Tchin-Tchin. That same year he co-starred with Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, and Alec Guinness in Lawrence of Arabia. The twoand-one-half hour epic won seven academy awards and was re-released in 1989. In 1968, as Kiril Lakota in The Shoes of the Fisherman, Quinn adeptly created the role of the first Russian Pope of the Catholic Church.
Quinn played the starring role of Alexis Zorba in the hit musical Zorba the Greek in 1964. The character became Quinn's signature role. He reprised the role of Zorba on tour in 1983. Also in 1983 he appeared as a priest who mentors a young boy, in the Spanish language film, Valentina. His 1991 film credits included Only the Lonely, directed by Chris Columbus, and Spike Lee's Jungle Fever. Quinn appeared in Last Action Hero with Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1993, and in A Walk in the Clouds, a 1995 remake of Four Steps in the Clouds, of 1942. He appeared in a recurring television role as the Greek god, Zeus, on Hercules: the Legendary Journeys in 1995, and as Santiago in a British made-for-television film of the Old Man and the Sea. with Tom Cruz. Quinn starred as Neil Dellacroce in a 1996 HBO film about John Gotti. In all, Quinn's filmography listed 148 different roles between 1936 and 1999, plus a director's credit for the 1958 film Buccaneer, and two producer's credits, for The Visit in 1964 and Across 110th Street in 1972.
From his earliest years as an actor, Quinn bemoaned the fact that he played in many productions but was rarely cast in the role of the romantic leading man. In 1993 he commented to Julie Greenwalt of People, "I never get the girl." His remark was facetious at best in consideration of his personal lifestyle. He married three times and fathered 13 children. After undergoing major heart surgery in 1990 he fathered a 12th child. A proud and willing father, Quinn's large family was a source of pride to him, and he was flattered when three of his sons embarked on their own respective acting careers.
His first marriage, in October 1937, was to Katherine De Mille, the adopted daughter of Cecil B. De Mille. The wedding, a lavish affair orchestrated by the De Mille family, took place at All Saints Episcopal Church in Hollywood, California. Sadly the couple's first-born son, Christopher, drowned on March 15, 1941 at the age of three. Together the couple had four more children: Christina, born in 1941; Catalina in 1942; Duncan in 1945; and Valentina in 1952. Quinn and De Mille were married for 27 years; they divorced in 1965.
In the early 1960s, during the filming of the movie Barabbas on location in Rome, Quinn was romantically involved with Iolanda Addolori, who worked on the set. They married in 1966 and had three sons: Francesco, Daniele, and Lorenzo. The couple owned a residence in Manhattan and a villa near Rome. They divorced in 1997.
Quinn's romantic involvement with Kathy Benvin led him into a third marriage in 1997. The couple had two children and lived in Paris.
In addition to his acting career, Quinn is a talented painter and sculptor—well known for his cubist and post-impressionist oils. He held an art show in Honolulu in December 1982 where he displayed paintings as well as sculptures made from wood and marble. Individual pieces of his work sold for as much as $30-40,000, and the entire show sold out, for a total of two million dollars.
Quinn, Anthony (with Daniel Paisner), One Man Tango, Harper-Collins Publishers, 1995.
American Libraries, October 1983.
Cosmopolitan, August 1991.
Maclean's, June 28, 1993.
People, May 2, 1983; February 27, 1989; September 6, 1993;August 14, 1995, September 1, 1997; December 22, 1997.
"Anthony Quinn," available at http://us.imdb.com (November 8, 1999. □