Tag Archives: Zorba the Greek

Anthony Quinn

 

Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca (April 21, 1915 – June 3, 2001), more commonly known as Anthony Quinn, was a Mexican actor, painter and writer. He starred in numerous critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, including La Strada, The Guns of Navarone, Zorba the Greek, Guns for San Sebastian, Lawrence of Arabia, The Shoes of the Fisherman, The Message, Lion of the Desert, Last Action Hero and A Walk in the Clouds. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor twice: for Viva Zapata! in 1952 and Lust for Life in 1956.

 

Early life

Quinn was born Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca on April 21, 1915, in Chihuahua, Mexico, during the Mexican Revolution to Manuela “Nellie” (née Oaxaca) and Francisco “Frank” Quinn. Francisco Quinn was born in Mexico, to an Irish immigrant father from County Cork and a Mexican mother. Frank Quinn rode with Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa, then later moved to the East Los Angeles neighborhood of City Terrace and became an assistant cameraman at a movie studio. In Quinn’s autobiography, The Original Sin: A Self-portrait by Anthony Quinn, he denied being the son of an “Irish adventurer” and attributed that tale to Hollywood publicists.

When he was six years old, Quinn attended a Catholic church (even thinking he wanted to become a priest). At age eleven, however, he joined the Pentecostals in the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (the Pentecostal followers of Aimee Semple McPherson). For a time he played in the church’s band and was an apprentice preacher with the renowned evangelist. “I have known most of the great actresses of my time, and not one of them could touch her,” Quinn once said of the spellbinding McPherson, whom he credited with inspiring Zorba’s gesture of the dramatically outstretched hand.

Quinn grew up first in El Paso, Texas, and later in East Los Angeles and in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles, California. He attended Hammel Street Elementary School, Belvedere Junior High School, Polytechnic High School and finally Belmont High School in Los Angeles, with future baseball player and General Hospital star John Beradino, but left before graduating. Tucson High School in Arizona, many years later, awarded him an honorary high school diploma.

As a young man, Quinn boxed professionally to earn money, then studied art and architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright, at Wright’s Arizona residence and his Wisconsin studio, Taliesin. The two men became friends. When Quinn mentioned that he was drawn to acting, Wright encouraged him. Quinn said he had been offered $800 per week by a film studio and didn’t know what to do. Wright replied, “Take it, you’ll never make that much with me.” During a 1999 interview on the show Private Screenings with Robert Osborne, Quinn said the contract was for only $300 per week.

 

Career

After a short time performing on the stage, Quinn launched his film career performing character roles in the 1936 films The Plainsman (1936) as a Cheyenne Indian after Custer’s defeat with Gary Cooper, Parole (in which he made his debut) and The Milky Way. He played “ethnic” villains in Paramount films such as Dangerous to Know (1938) and Road to Morocco, and played a more sympathetic Crazy Horse in They Died with Their Boots On with Errol Flynn.

By 1947, he had appeared in more than fifty films and had played Indians, Mafia dons, Hawaiian chiefs, Filipino freedom-fighters, Chinese guerrillas, and Arab sheiks, but was still not a major star. He returned to the theater, playing Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway. In 1947, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.

He came back to Hollywood in the early 1950s, specializing in tough guy roles. He was cast in a series of B-adventures such as Mask of the Avenger (1951). His big break came from playing opposite Marlon Brando in Elia Kazan‘s Viva Zapata! (1952). Quinn’s performance as Zapata’s brother won Quinn an Oscar while Brando lost the Oscar for Best Actor to Gary Cooper in High Noon.

 

Quinn was the first Mexican-American to win an Academy Award. He appeared in several Italian films starting in 1953, turning in one of his best performances as a dim-witted, thuggish and volatile strongman in Federico Fellini‘s La Strada (1954) opposite Giulietta Masina. Quinn won his second Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of painter Paul Gauguin in Vincente Minnelli‘s Lust for Life (1956). The following year, he received an Oscar nomination for his part in George Cukor‘s Wild Is the Wind. He starred in The Savage Innocents 1959 (film) as Inuk, an Eskimo who finds himself caught between two clashing cultures.

 

As the decade ended, Quinn allowed his age to show and began his transformation into a major character actor. His physique filled out, his hair grayed, and his once smooth, swarthy face weathered and became more rugged. He played a Greek resistance fighter in The Guns of Navarone (1961), an aging boxer in Requiem for a Heavyweight, and the Bedouin shaikh Auda abu Tayi in Lawrence of Arabia (both 1962). That year he also played the title role in Barabbas, based on a novel by Pär Lagerkvist.

 

The success of Zorba the Greek in 1964 resulted in another Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Other films included The 25th Hour, The Magus, La Bataille de San Sebastian and The Shoes of the Fisherman. In 1969, he starred in The Secret of Santa Vittoria with Anna Magnani; each was nominated for a Golden Globe Award.

 

He appeared on Broadway to great acclaim in Becket, as King Henry II to Laurence Olivier‘s Thomas Becket in 1960. An erroneous story arose in later years that during the run Quinn and Olivier switched roles and Quinn played Becket to Olivier’s King. In fact, Quinn left the production for a film, never having played Becket, and director Peter Glenville suggested a road tour with Olivier as Henry. Olivier happily agreed and Arthur Kennedy took on the role of Becket for the tour and brief return to Broadway.

In 1971, after the success of a TV movie named The City, where Quinn played Mayor Thomas Jefferson Alcala, he starred in the television series, The Man and the City. Quinn’s subsequent television appearances were sporadic, including Jesus of Nazareth.

In 1976, he starred in the movie Mohammad, Messenger of God (also known as The Message), about the origin of Islam, as Hamza, a highly respected uncle of Mohammad, the prophet of Islam. In 1981, he starred in the Lion of the Desert. Quinn played real-life Bedouin leader Omar Mukhtar who fought Benito Mussolini‘s Italian troops in the deserts of Libya.

In 1983, he reprised his role as Zorba the Greek for 362 performances in a successful musical version, called Zorba, opposite fellow film co-star Lila Kedrova, reprising her role as Madame Hortense. Quinn performed in the musical both on Broadway and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Quinn’s film career slowed during the 1990s, but he nonetheless continued to work steadily, appearing in Revenge (1990), Jungle Fever (1991), Last Action Hero (1993), A Walk in the Clouds (1995) and Seven Servants (1996).

In 1994 Quinn played the role of Zeus in five television movies focusing on the legendary journeys of Hercules. These were, in order, Hercules and the Amazon Women, Hercules and the Lost Kingdom, Hercules and the Circle of Fire, Hercules in the Underworld, and Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur

 

Mafia

Quinn made an appearance at the John Gotti trial, according to John H. Davis, author of Mafia Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the Gambino Crime Family. He told reporters he wanted to play Paul Castellano, the boss of the Gambino family after Carlo Gambino. Gotti had Castellano murdered, becoming the boss of the Gambino family thereafter. Gotti was on trial concerning a variety of felony charges when Quinn visited the courtroom.

Although he tried to shake hands with Gotti, federal marshals prevented him from doing so, Davis says. The actor interpreted the testimony of Sammy (“The Bull”) Gravano, Gotti’s underboss, against Gotti as “a friend who betrays a friend.” He had not come to “judge” Gotti, Quinn insisted, but only because he wanted to portray Castellano, who inspired the actor because he had had a “thirty-year-old” mistress, which Quinn believed was “a beautiful thing.” He would later portray Gambino family underboss Aniello Dellacroce in the 1996 HBO film Gotti.

Quinn was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance as Dellacroce.

Quinn had a personal relationship with New York Mafia crime boss Frank Costello and other Genovese gangsters.

 

Painting and writing

Art critic Donald Kuspit explains, “Examining Quinn’s many expressions of creativity together—his art, collecting, and acting—we can see that he was a creative genius.”

Early in life Quinn had an interest in painting and drawing. Throughout his teenage years he won various art competitions in California and focused his studies at Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles on drafting. Later, Quinn studied briefly under Frank Lloyd Wright through the Taliesin Fellowship — an opportunity created by winning first prize in an architectural design contest. Through Wright’s recommendation, Quinn took acting lessons as a form of post-operative speech therapy, which led to an acting career that spanned over six decades.

Apart from art classes taken in Chicago during the 1950s, Quinn never attended art school; nonetheless, taking advantage of books, museums, and amassing a sizable collection, he managed to give himself an effective education in the language of modern art. By the early 1980s, his work had caught the eyes of various gallery owners and was exhibited internationally, in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and Mexico City. His work is now represented in both public and private collections throughout the world.

He wrote two memoirs, The Original Sin (1972) and One Man Tango (1997), a number of scripts, and a series of unpublished stories currently in the collection of his archive.

 

Personal life

Quinn’s first wife was the adopted daughter of Cecil B. DeMille, the actress Katherine DeMille; they wed in 1937. The couple had five children: Christopher (1939–1941), Christina (born December 1, 1941), Catalina (born November 21, 1942), Duncan (born August 4, 1945), and Valentina (born December 26, 1952). Their first child, Christopher, aged two, drowned in the lily pond of next-door neighbor W. C. Fields.

In 1965, Quinn and DeMille were divorced, because of his affair with Italian costume designer Jolanda Addolori, whom he married in 1966. They had three children: Francesco Quinn (March 22, 1963 – August 5, 2011), Danny Quinn (born April 16, 1964), and Lorenzo Quinn (born May 7, 1966).

In the 1970s, during his marriage to Addolori, Quinn also had two children with an event producer in Los Angeles named Friedel Dunbar: Sean Quinn (born February 7, 1973), a New Jersey real estate agent, and Alexander Anthony Quinn (born December 30, 1976).

By the 1990s, Quinn then had two children with his secretary, Katherine Benvin; daughter Antonia Patricia Rose Quinn (born July 23, 1993) and son Ryan Nicholas Quinn (born July 5, 1996). His marriage with Addolori finally ended in divorce in August 1997. He then married Benvin in December 1997. Quinn and Benvin remained married until his death, in June 2001.

 

Death

Quinn spent his last years in Bristol, Rhode Island. He died of respiratory failure, pneumonia and throat cancer on June 3, 2001 in Boston, Massachusetts at the age of 86.

His funeral was held in the First Baptist Church in America in College Hill, Providence, Rhode Island. Late in life, he had rejoined the Foursquare evangelical Christian community. He is buried in a family plot in Bristol, Rhode Island.

 

Tributes/legacy

 

In his birth place Chihuahua, Mexico, there is a statue of Quinn doing his famous “Zorba the Greek” dance. A 70-foot high mural, entitled “Anthony Quinn” or more commonly “The Pope of Broadway” (1984) by Eloy Torrez, is at 259 W. Third Street, Los Angeles, California.

On January 5, 1982, the Belvedere County Public Library in East Los Angeles was renamed in honor of Anthony Quinn. The present library sits on the site of his family’s former home.

There is an Anthony Quinn Bay and Beach in Rhodes, Greece, just 2.7 miles (4.3 km) south of the village of Faliraki (aka Falirakion or Falirákion). The land was bought by Quinn during the filming of The Guns of Navarone in Rhodes; however, it was reclaimed by the Greek government in 1984 due to a change in property law.

Since 2002, the National Council of La Raza has given the Anthony Quinn Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures as an ALMA Award.

 

 

Anthony Quinn

Anthony Quinn

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 as an Indian warrior in The Plainsman (1936), which was directed by the man who later became his father-in-law, Cecil B. DeMille.

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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.

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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 The Road(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).

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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) 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.

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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.