Karl Malden dead at 97

Jul 01, 2009 by Ian Evans

Oscar®-winning actor Karl Malden has died of natural causes. He was 97. He and his wife, Mona, celebrated their 70th anniversary in December.

Malden made his Broadway debut in 1937’s Golden Boy before working with director Elia Kazan as part of the Group Theater. He appeared in shows like All My Sons and A Streetcar Named Desire. He also worked with Kazan on the 1951 screen version with Marlon Brando. The role of Mitch earned Malden a Best Supporting Actor Oscar®. He reteamed with Brando and Kazan for 1954’s On the Waterfront and again with Kazan in 1956’s Baby Doll.

TV audiences knew Malden from his 1972-1977 stint at as Lieutenant Mike Stone opposite Michael Douglas on The Streets of San Francisco and from his role as the American Express spokesman for 21 years. He once told the Chicago Tribune that, “After 50 years of doing all those other things in the business, wherever I go, the one thing people will say to me is, ‘Don’t leave home without it.’ What am I going to say? It’s kind of frustrating in a way, but at the same time, American Express has been very good to me, and it’s given me independence.”

Malden, who served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1989 to 1992, pushed for Kazan to receive a salute at the 1999 Oscars, a move which was controversial given that Kazan had cooperated with the House UnAmerican Activities committee in 1952, which led to the blacklisting of supposed communists in Hollywood.

Malden was presented with the Screen Actors Guild lifetime achievement award in 2004.