Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rest In Peace - But Not For Awhile

Karl Malden died Wednesday at the age of 97. For those who don't remember him, he was a longtime actor who was on the TV show "The Streets of San Francisco" as the older, wise police partner of a young Michael Douglas and who won an Academy Award in 1951 for "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Malden was also extraordinarily famous for doing all of those commercials in which he scolded anyone who thought of leaving home without American Express travelers' checks. Those commercials were so good that to this day, there aren't many people who can name another brand of travelers' checks.

TigerBlog's two favorite Karl Malden performances were as the tough priest in "On The Waterfront" and as Omar Bradley, the title character's conscience in "Patton." If you've never seen "On The Waterfront," it's something of required viewing. Malden, who was nominated for an Oscar for OTW as well, has several scene-stealing moments, especially when he gets Marlon Brando to give him the gun and then sits down at the bar and barks "gimme a beer" and then looks at Brando and says "you want one too? Make it two."

As for Patton, Malden's best line was when he was ducking behind a tank during the invasion of Sicily, when a private asks who's in charge. Malden, whose character was in charge, says: "I don't know, but they oughta hang him."

Anyway, TigerBlog learned a great deal about Malden by reading his obit last night. Learned he was born Mladen George Sekulovich in Gary, Indiana, and that he hated to have to change his name when he got into acting (in fact, the character played by Fred Gwynne in "On The Waterfront" was named Mladen Sekulovich and obviously "Malden" came from the letters in "Mladen". He worked in the steel mills and left there to pursue acting during the Depression, and he had served in the Army in World War II. Said he'd gotten his famous nose, described as "bulbous," from playing football.

Malden's obit was nearly 1,000 words long, and it appeared moments after his death was announced. It's not as if Malden died and then someone said "hey, we need his obit."

In fact, there is a stockpile of obits just waiting to be used when famous people die. TigerBlog remembers the rather ghoulish project of working with Frank Litsky of the New York Times to write obituaries of famous Princetonians, to be used when they died.

That wasn't the only experience TB has had with writing obituaries of perfectly healthy high-profile Princetonians. Between all those projects, TB came up with Pete Carril's obituary, as well as others for Dick Kazmaier, Bill Bradley and several others. TB also started to write an obit for Harvey Yavener of the Trenton Times, who turns 80 this October, but he backed off on that one, figuring that when the time comes, he'll know what to say.

There's something completely freaky, by the way, about writing the obituary of someone and then seeing them shortly thereafter.

Only one of the advance obits TB has worked on, Thatcher Longstreth's, has actually been used to date. TigerBlog always thinks of those experiences when he reads an obit like Malden's, which was actually written years ago.

TB was talking to Carril yesterday in the Jadwin lobby for a few moments when Carril mentioned he was on the way back to California to work with the Sacramento Kings' summer league team. Carril was talking about the trouble he was having with his knees, that kind of stuff.

As he walked away, he said he would be gone for awhile, so TB wished him a happy birthday, which will be coming up in a few days as he turns 79.

Even though it's just a click away, hopefully his obit won't be needed for quite some time still.

No comments: