Karl Malden 1912-2009

The tough-guy character actor leaves behind a memorable career in movies and TV -- and then there's "Sekulovich"

Topics: Beyond the Multiplex, Marlon Brando, Movies,

Karl Malden 1912-2009

AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, file

In this Feb. 22, 2004 file photo, actor Karl Malden accepts the life achievement award at the 10th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles.

Amid the celebrity death party of the last few days, let’s spare at least a brief thought for Karl Malden, the iconic broken-nosed character actor and American Express pitchman whose pugnacious working-class demeanor kept him going in show business for more than 50 years. Malden died Wednesday at age 97, which means he was 46 years old when Michael Jackson was born in 1958.

For someone of my generation, Malden will always be identified with Lt. Mike Stone of the long-running 1970s TV series “The Streets of San Francisco” (whose sidekick was played by Michael Douglas). For younger viewers, I guess he’ll always be the “Don’t leave home without it” guy from more than 20 years of American Express commercials. But of course Malden was an established film actor long before those gigs. He played opposite Marlon Brando several times, winning an Oscar as the likable Mitch in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and playing the sympathetic priest in “On the Waterfront.” He also played Gen. Omar Bradley in “Patton” and the prison warden in “Birdman of Alcatraz,” but my personal favorite is probably Malden’s vicious crook-turned-sheriff in the terrific revenge western “One-Eyed Jacks” (another Brando film, and the only one he ever directed).



Malden was born in Chicago as Mladen Sekulovich, the son of a Serbian father and Czech mother, and spoke no English until he went to school. This heritage is the source of his great gift to pop-culture trivia collectors, since Malden went to great lengths to include his original name in the dialogue of his films and TV shows. In “The Streets of San Francisco,” Stone frequently employed an informer called Sekulovich. In the courtroom scene of “On the Waterfront,” one of the union officials’ names read aloud is Mladen Sekulovich. Under fire in Sicily, Malden’s Gen. Bradley in “Patton” barks, “Hand me that helmet, Sekulovich.” And so on. There are a few other examples in Malden’s Wikipedia entry, but I just know somebody out there must have a definitive list.

Go in peace, Sekulovich. I don’t think they take American Express cards where you’re going. Just this once, it was OK to leave home without it.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails
    Burger King Japan

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Burger King's black cheeseburger: Made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, arguably a symbol of meat's destructive effect on the planet. Only available in Japan.

    Elite Daily/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    McDonald's Black Burger: Because the laws of competition say that once Burger King introduces a black cheeseburger, it's only a matter of time before McDonald's follows suit. You still don't have to eat it.

    Domino's

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Domino's Specialty Chicken: It's like regular pizza, except instead of a crust, there's fried chicken. The company's marketing officer calls it "one of the most creative, innovative menu items we have ever had” -- brain power put to good use.

    Arby's/Facebook

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Arby's Meat Mountain: The viral off-menu product containing eight different types of meat that, on second read, was probably engineered by Arby's all along. Horrific, regardless.

    KFC

    2014's fast food atrocities

    KFC'S ZINGER DOUBLE DOWN KING: A sandwich made by adding a burger patty to the infamous chicken-instead-of-buns creation can only be described using all caps. NO BUN ALL MEAT. Only available in South Korea.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Waffle Taco: It took two years for Taco Bell to develop this waffle folded in the shape of a taco, the stand-out star of its new breakfast menu.

    Michele Parente/Twitter

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger: Only attendees at the San Diego County Fair were given the opportunity to taste the official version of this donut-hamburger-heart attack combo. The rest of America has reasonable odds of not dropping dead tomorrow.

    Taco Bell

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Taco Bell's Quesarito: A burrito wrapped in a quesadilla inside an enigma. Quarantined to one store in Oklahoma City.

    Pizzagamechangers.com

    2014's fast food atrocities

    Boston Pizza's Pizza Cake: The people's choice winner of a Canadian pizza chain's contest whose real aim, we'd imagine, is to prove that there's no such thing as "too far." Currently in development.

    7-Eleven

    2014's fast food atrocities

    7-Eleven's Doritos Loaded: "For something decadent and artificial by design," wrote one impassioned reviewer, "it only tasted of the latter."

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>