Anthony Quinn was often thought of as being larger than life. He was a talented actor who played many diverse roles and is now a Hollywood legend.
Anthony Quinn was born Anthony Rudloph Oaxaca Quinn on April 12, 1915 in Chihuahua, Mexico of a Mexican-Indian mother and an Irish father. When he was four years old, his family moved to California, where he was raised in poverty in East Los Angeles and shined shoes and sold newspapers.
Before he launched his acting career, Quinn worked at a variety of odd jobs including a boxer, butcher, street corner preacher and a worker in a slaughterhouse. At one point, he had even been a painter before trying his hand at acting. He launched his film career playing small character roles in several movies in 1936, including his debut in a movie called Parole. He also had small parts in Sworn Enemy and Night Waitress in 1936 before signing with Paramount, where he had an exclusive contract until 1940, generally playing gangsters and Indians. Some of the films he did for Paramount, include The Plainsman in 1936, which was directed by Cecil B. DeMille, who eventually became Quinn's father-in-law, Waikiki Wedding, The Last Train from Madrid, Daughter of Shanghai, all done in 1937, The Buccaneer, Tip-Off Girls, Bulldog Drummond in Africa, King of Alcatraz, all done in 1938, King of Chinatown, Television Spy, Union Pacific, all done in 1939 and Parole Fixer, The Ghost Breakers and Road to Singapore, all done in 1940.
In 1937, Quinn married director Cecil B. DeMille's daughter Katherine DeMille. Perhaps he though that this would help further his career but he was still relegated to playing all types of ethnic villians in films for Paramount through the 1940s. According to Quinn about his early career, he said, "They said all I was good for was playing Indians."
In the 1940s, Quinn became a naturalized citizen. During the World War II years, Quinn did most of his work at Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox, although he did return to Paramount to do Road to Morocco with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby.
Quinn was still being cast as a character player but his assignments were becoming increasingly more important and he was getting into bigger and better pictures, including City for Conquest in 1940, Blood and Sand and Manpower, both in 1941, They Died with Their Boots On in 1941 as Chief Crazy Horse, the Black Swan and Larceny in 1942, the Ox-Bow Incident and Guadalcanal Diary both in 1943, Buffalo Bill, Roger Touhy, Gangster and Irish Eyes Are Smiling in 1944 and Where Do We Go From Here and Back to Bataan, where he costarred with John Wayne in 1945.
By 1947 he was a veteran of over 50 films and had played Mafia dons, Indians, soldiers, Hawaiian chiefs and comical Arab sheiks. But he was still not considered a major star. He continued to be cast as the swarthy and powerfully built, rugged exotic characters of varying backgrounds. Quinn decided to try and return to the theater, where he found success for a three-year stint playing Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Also in 1947, Quinn starred in a low-budget movie, Black Gold with his wife Katherine for Allied Artists. Once again, he played an Indian, proud but kind, who discovers oil on his property and allows a Chinese refugee to race his prize thoroughbred. Quinn did an excellent job and this performance ranks among one of his best. He appeared in several other films after this movie, including a terrific movie called The Brave Bulls about bullfighting in 1951. But it was in 1952 that Anthony Quinn got his first big break in Viva Zapata with Marlon Brando. He won his first Academy Award playing the brother of the famed Mexican revolutionary. Starring opposite Brando, Quinn made his first significant mark on his potential career as a Hollywood star. He held his own against the screen presence and charisma of Brando and held firm against his moodiness. His powerful scenes showed emotion and rendered emotion from the audience. Perhaps it was Quinn's own real life credo when he knowingly and believably states, "I have loved with all my heart 100 women that I never want to see again." Perhaps he was painting a picture of what it was like to be a young and virile Anthony Quinn. Although his escapades continued well into his later years.
After winning the Oscar, Quinn's career picked up and he got better roles and began to have continuous work. During the remainder of the next decade, he worked on several notable films.
In 1954, he starred in La Strada, a classic Fellini film about a brutish strongman who tours with an acrobat. In 1956, he played Paul Gauguin in Lust for Life and won his second Best Supporting Actor Oscar and in 1957, he played the hunchback in The Hunchback of Notre Dame and won great acclaim for playing the demanding and unglamorous role of Quasimodo. He made several other films in the 1950s including Mask of the Avenger in 1951, The World in His Arms in 1952, Seminole, City Beneath the Sea and Blowing Wind, all made in 1953, The Long Wait in 1954, The Magnificent Matador, and the Seven Cities of Gold in 1955 the Wild Party in 1956, the River's Edge and Wild is the Wind in 1957, Hot Spell in 1958 and Warlock and Last Train from Gun Hill in 1959.
In 1958, his father-in-law let him direct a remake of The Buccaneer, which ended up being a commercial disappointment. It starred Yul Brenner and Charlton Heston in a big road show production. Although Quinn did a good job, he did not elect to try his hand again at directing. The experience obviously did not meet his expectations.
Quinn had a fierce hunger for life and this was portrayed in many of his screen roles, as well as in real life. Some critics said he overacted but it was just his vitality for life that became part of his performances. He had great energy and a great presence and both came though in his acting abilities.
Anthony Quinn had a strong presence. With a well built body and a deep voice and hearty laugh, he never failed to make a screen impression. He had a very distinctive look just as John Wayne had a distinctive walk and this became part of his trademark. Quinn is probably most remembered for his larger than life roles, like Zorba the Greek, in which he plays an outgoing island peasant who befriends a visiting Englishman and teaches him how to live life. His free spirit and lust for life captured audiences.
He also lent credibility to the roles of a foot soldier in Back to Bataan and Guadacanal Diary. In China Blue, he played a Chinese officer who was battling the Japanese. His versatility as an actor was becoming very clear during this time. In the Ox-Bow Incident, Quinn gave a fine performance as the victim of a lynch mob. With Tyrone Power in Blood and Sand, Quinn excelled at brandishing a saber with great gusto and The Black Sawn touted his ability to don pirate garb and provide support for Power again.
But it was after wining his Oscar that Quinn began to gain international popularity. He was incredible in La Strada and he gave a sensitivity to this simple-minded and often pathetic strongman. He also starred in Attila, another Italian film in which he starred opposite Sophia Loren. He played against Kirk Douglas in Ulysses, which may have given Vincente Minnelli the idea to sue him in Lust for Life. It is a tribute to Quinn's ability that he earned an Oscar for eight minutes of acting time in this film.
In 1959, Quinn added a memorable role as an Eskimo to his repertoire in the movie, The Savage Innocents. At this point in time, he his appearance had changed a bit and his face had taken on a craggy look, not to mention that affluence had added to his weight. This made him a good candidate for the role of a former prizefighter who is relinquished to being a wrestler in Requiem for a Heavyweight in 1962. In 1964, he won his second Oscar for his starring role in Zorba the Greek as the earthy peasant, a role he would later revive on Broadway nearly a quarter-century after his success in the movie.
Quinn's personal life was almost as flamboyant as some of the roles that he played on screen. And in some instances, things were not changing for the better. In 1965, he divorced his wife Katherine, of twenty-six years with whom he had fathered three children. His marriage to Katherine had an bitter break-up after he had two children out of wedlock with an Italian costume designer. After the divorce, Quinn legitimized his relationship with Yolanda Addolari and they stayed together for 31 years.…