Precious Bodily Fluids

Karl Malden


“Death comes unexpectedly.” This is what I first think of when I think of Karl Malden. Reason being, as a little tyke with sisters, one ends up watching Pollyanna (with Hayley Mills) many times over. Malden stood out in that film as a timid pastor/priest whose support from the town matraiarchs gave him a boldness at the pulpit to proclaim lots of bad news to his congregants, such as the statement above. That character’s transformation into a less timid but “gladder” person, affected positively by Mills’ Pollyanna, felt inevitable in light of Malden’s always loveable persona. Incidentally, his role as a priest again in Elia Kazan’s On the Waterfront was subtly nuanced enough to keep the poor guy from being stereotyped. That, along with playing sexually frustrated characters in Kazan’s other films A Streetcar Named Desire and Baby Doll. Dying at the ripe old age of 97, Malden represents one of the last traces of old Hollywood, of the just-post-golden years of American cinema. He was sort of an antithesis to the like of Robert Mitchum, Glenn Ford, and Kirk Douglas. A humble supporting actor who always forced the stars to work harder, his presence was assuring to the audience and instantly redeeming, no matter how Kazan-esque the film might be.


This entry was published on July 2, 2009 at 3:45 pm. It’s filed under 1950s Cinema, 1960s Cinema, Obits and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “Karl Malden

  1. A.Ho on said:

    Gah, he was so tragic in Streetcar…

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