- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 2, 2009

LOS ANGELES (AP)| Karl Malden, 97, the Academy Award-winning actor whose intelligent characterizations on stage and screen made him a star despite his plain looks, died Wednesday at his Brentwood home, his family said.

Mr. Malden won a supporting-actor Oscar in 1951 for his role as Blanche DuBois’ naive suitor Mitch in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” a role he had created when the play opened on Broadway in 1947.

He was nominated again in for his performance as Father Corrigan, a fearless, friend-of-the-working-man priest in 1954’s “On the Waterfront.”

He was president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1989 to 1992.

Mr. Malden was known for his authenticity in grittier roles and for his bulbous nose, which, he said, was broken a couple of times playing basketball or football. He joked that he was “the only actor in Hollywood whose nose qualifies him for handicapped parking.”

He was born Mladen Sekulovich in Chicago and worked for a time in the steel mills of Gary, Ind., after dropping out of college. He quit his steel job 1934 to study acting at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre “because I wasn’t getting anywhere in the mills,” he recalled.

“When I told my father, he said, ‘Are you crazy? You want to give up a good job in the middle of the Depression?’ ” he said in a 1982 Associated Press interview.

Mr. Malden was known for his meticulous preparation, studying a script carefully long before he stepped into his role.

“I not only figure out my own interpretation of the role, but try to guess other approaches that the director might like. I prepare them, too,” he said in the interview. “That way, I can switch in the middle of a scene with no sweat.

“There’s no such thing as an easy job, not if you do it right,” he added.

Among Mr. Malden’s more than 50 film credits were: “Patton,” in which he played Gen. Omar Bradley; “Pollyanna;” “Fear Strikes Out;” “The Sting II;” “Bombers B-52;” “Cheyenne Autumn;” and “All Fall Down.”

One of his most controversial films was “Baby Doll” in 1956, in which he played a dullard husband whose young bride is exploited by a businessman. The story was written by “Streetcar” playwright Tennessee Williams.

Mr. Malden gained perhaps his greatest fame as Lt. Mike Stone in the 1970s television show “The Streets of San Francisco,” in which Michael Douglas played the veteran detective’s junior partner.

During the same period, Mr. Malden gained a lucrative 21-year sideline and a place in pop culture with his “Don’t leave home without it” ads for American Express.

“The Streets of San Francisco” earned him four Emmy nominations. He won one for his role as a murder victim’s father out to bring his former son-in-law to justice in the 1984 miniseries “Fatal Vision.”

Mr. Malden made his Broadway debut in 1937 with a small part in Clifford Odets’ “Golden Boy.” About that time he met Elia Kazan, who later was to direct him in “Streetcar” and “Waterfront.”

He steadily gained more prominent roles, with time out for service in the Army in World War II (and a role in an Army show, “Winged Victory”).

In 2004, Mr. Malden received the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award, telling the group in his acceptance speech that “this is the peak for me.”

Mr. Malden and his wife, Mona, a fellow acting student at the Goodman, had one of Hollywood’s longest marriages, having celebrated their 70th anniversary in December. He also is survived by two daughters.

• Polly Anderson contributed to this report.

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