updated 06/25/2014 AT 12:30 PM ET
•originally published 06/25/2014 AT 6:30 AM ET
Eli Wallach, a gravelly voiced character actor who appeared alongside such giants as Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits, Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Al Pacino in The Godfather: Part III, died Tuesday, his daughter Katherine told The New York Times. He was 98.
A recognizable screen presence since the 1950s, Wallach had beginnings that were anything but star-studded. He was born Dec. 7, 1915, and grew up Jewish in a mostly Italian Brooklyn neighborhood.
His immigrant Polish parents pushed him to become a teacher – he received his master’s in education from the College of the City of New York – but the acting bug bit him. He studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse in Manhattan, where one of his classmates was Tony Randall.
After two years of Army service during World War II, Wallach debuted on Broadway in 1945 and won a Tony Award for Tennessee Williams’s 1951 The Rose Tattoo. Williams also wrote the script for Wallach’s movie debut, the 1956 Baby Doll, costarring Carroll Baker and Karl Malden and directed by Elia Kazan.
Oddly, Wallach often played Mexican bandits in movies, most memorably in 1960’s The Magnificent Seven, in which his ornery character threatened Steve McQueen and Yul Brynner.
Wallach also graced TV with various roles, both on dramatic specials and such series as 77 Sunset Strip.
Special Oscar in 2010
Honored with a special Oscar in 2010, Wallach noted in his acceptance speech, “As an actor I’ve played more bandits, thieves, warlords, molesters and Mafiosi than you could shake a stick at.” But, he noted, as a civilian his hobbies included quietly collecting antique clocks and watching tennis.
He also said that he had recently received a letter from the Pope, who told Wallach his favorite movie was The Magnificent Seven.