|Date of Birth
||21 April 1915
|Place of Birth
Anthony Quinn was born Antonio Rudolfo Oaxaca Quinn on April 21, 1915 in Chihuahua, Mexico to an ethnic Irish Mexican father and an ethnic Mexican mother. After starting life in extremely modest circumstances in Mexico, his family moved to Los Angeles, California, where he grew up in the Boyle Heights and the Echo Park neighborhoods. In Los Angeles, he attended Polytechnic High School and later Belmont High, the latter of which he dropped out of. The young Quinn boxed (which stood him in good stead as a stage actor, when he played Stanley Kowalski to rave reviews in Chicago), then later studied architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright at the great architect's studio, Taliesin, in Arizona. Quinn was close to Wright, who encouraged him when Quinn decided to give acting a try. After a brief apprenticeship in theater, Quinn made his movie acting debut in 1936 in a variety of small roles in several films at Paramount, including playing a Native American in The Plainsman (1936), which was directed by the man who later became his father-in-law, Cecil B. DeMille.
As a contract player at Paramount, he mainly played villains and ethnic types, such as the Arab in the Crosby-Hope vehicle Road to Morocco (1942) (1942). As a Mexican national (he did not become naturalized until 1947), he was exempt from the draft: With many actors in the service fighting World War II, Quinn was able to move up into better supporting roles. He had married DeMille's daughter Katharine, which enabled him to move in the top circles of Hollywood society.
However, he was disenchanted with his career and did not renew his Paramount contract despite the advice of others, including his father-in-law (whom Quinn never felt accepted him due to his Mexican roots). Instead, he returned to the stage to hone his craft. His portrayal of Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) in Chicago and on Broadway (where he replaced the legendary Marlon Brando, who is forever associated with the role) made his reputation and boosted his film career when he returned to the movies.
Brando and Elia Kazan, who directed "Streetcar" on Broadway and on film, were critical to Quinn's future success. Kazan, knowing the two were potential rivals due to their acclaimed portrayals of Kowalski, cast Quinn as Brando's brother in his biographical film of Emiliano Zapata, Viva Zapata! (1952). Quinn won the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for 1952, making him the first Mexican-American to win an Oscar. It was not to be his lone appearance in the winner's circle: he won his second Supporting Actor Oscar in 1957 for his portrayal of Paul Gauguin in Vincente Minnelli' s autobiographical film of Vincent van Gogh , Lust for Life (1956), opposite Kirk Douglas.
Over the next decade, Quinn lived in Italy and became a major figure in world cinema, as many studios shot films in Italy to take advantage of the lower costs (not the first example of "runaway production" that had buffeted the industry since its beginnings in the Greater New York Metropolitan area in the 1910s). He appeared in several Italian films, giving one of his greatest performances as the circus strongman who brutalizes the sweet soul played by the Giulietta Masina in her husband, Federico Fellini's masterpiece Strada, La (1954).
Alternating between Europe and Hollywood, Quinn built his reputation and entered the front-rank of character actors and character leads. He received his third Oscar nomination (and first for Best Actor) for George Cukor's Wild Is the Wind (1957). He played a Greek resistance fighter in the huge hit The Guns of Navarone (1961) and kudos for his ex-boxer in the film version of Rod Serling's Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962). He went back to the ethnic drag parts, playing an Arab chieftain and warlord in David Lean's masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and played the eponymous lead in the sword and sandals blockbuster Barabba (1961). Two years later, he reached the zenith of his career, playing Zorba the Greek in the 1964 film of the same name (a.k.a. Alexis Zorbas (1964)), which brought him his fourth, and last, Oscar nomination, as Best Actor. The 1960s were kind to him: he played character leads in such major films as The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968/II) and The Secret of Santa Vittoria (1969). However, his appearance in the title role of the 1969 film of John Fowles' The Magus (1968) did nothing to save the film, which was one of that decade's notorious turkeys.
In the 1960s, Quinn told Life Magazine that he would fight against typecasting. Unfortunately, the following decade saw him slip into replaying a type, (the exuberant ethnic based on his own Zorba the Greek in such cinematic trash as The Greek Tycoon (1978).
He starred as the Hispanic mayor of a southwestern city in in the short-lived 1971 TV series "The Man and the City" (1971), but his career lost its momentum during the decade. Aside from portraying a thinly veiled Aristotle Onnassis in the cinematic roman-a-clef "The Greek Tycoon", his other major roles of the decade was as Hamza in the controversial 1977 movie The Message (1976) (a.k.a. "Mohammad, Messenger of God", as the Italian patriarch in Eredità Ferramonti, L' (1976), as yet another Arab in Caravans (1978) and as a Mexican patriarch in The Children of Sanchez (1978). In 1983, he reprised his most famous role, Zorba the Greek, playing it on Broadway in the revival of the musical "Zorba" for 362 performances. Though his film career slowed during the 1990s, he continued to work steadily in films and television.
Quinn lived out the latter years of his life in Bristol, Rhode Island, where he operated a restaurant. He died in hospital in Boston from pneumonia and respiratory failure linked to his battle with throat cancer. He was 86 years old.