Eli Wallach, RIP


One of the finest character actors of his age, with a Texas link to him via an education at the University of Texas.

I am a huge fan of The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly and a big reason is Wallach’s acting masterpiece as Tuco. Lee Van Cleef as Angel Eye embodies the Bad, a pure menace on the screen. Tuco, on the other hand, had to walk a tightrope. He was a scoundrel, to be sure, but he wasn’t the malignant evil of Angel Eyes. Tuco was likable, even sympathetic. Sure, he might rob you or maybe even try to kill you, but it wasn’t personal. Maybe he would help save your life tomorrow.

Tuco had feelings, even a curious sense of honor (though pretty flexible).

He also could be hurt emotionally, as in the masterful scene where he confronts his priest brother.

As played by Wallach, it was Tuco’s lines I quoted the most, or lines said to Tuco that were remembered because the look Tuco gave in return.

The sublime Ecstasy of Gold graveyard sequence hasn’t a single word spoken by Wallach. it is driven by the actor entire body expressing Tuco’s greed-driven mania.

Eli Wallach’s was a life well lived. He made it to 98, triumphed on stage, screen, and TV. Married early, well, and forever. Oh, and he learned to ride a horse in Texas.

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