Anthony Quinn's earthy portrayals of such characters as Zorba the Greek and the patriarch in "The Children of Sanchez" made him larger than life to millions.
Personally lusty, passionate and rugged, the two-time Oscar winner had lived with his feet planted in two cultures, the Mexican and the Irish, and resisted categorization. In his lengthy career, he played a pantheon of nationalities, ranging from Mexican to Eskimo, Greek, Italian, Panamanian, Hawaiian, Chinese, Japanese and East Indian.
Quinn had a stint as a professional boxer that included 16 consecutive victories, but hung up his gloves after he was knocked out in his 17th fight, deciding he lacked the "killer instinct."
The future actor also dabbled in music, taking up the saxophone and forming a small orchestra that played for Los Angeles area dances. The music led him to the Foursquare Gospel Church of Aimee Semple McPherson, and he joined a band with Angelus Temple in Echo Park.
Quinn made his acting debut in 1936 in Mae West's play "Clean Beds," imitating John Barrymore, for whom the role was originally written.
Quinn's film debut also came in 1936, a 45-second cameo as a convict who gets stabbed in "Parole." Next, he played a Cheyenne Indian in the Cecil B. DeMille film "The Plainsman" that starred Gary Cooper. Quinn said he deceived DeMille into thinking he was Cheyenne to get the part, even speaking gibberish that passed for the Cheyenne dialect.
In 1937, Quinn married DeMille's adopted daughter, Katherine, whom he met on the set of "Plainsman." They had five children.
Quinn achieved stardom as a film actor in the 1950s. His breakthrough role—as well as his first Oscar—came in "Viva Zapata!" playing opposite Marlon Brando as the older brother of the great Mexican revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata.
Quinn then went to Italy in search of the starring roles he could not get in Hollywood. He appeared in "La Strada," directed by Federico Fellini, as the circus strongman Zampano. He also portrayed the artist Gauguin in "Lust for Life," earning his second Oscar.
Quinn cemented his position as a major film star in the early 1960s, appearing in such movies as "The Guns of Navarone," "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Requiem for a Heavyweight."
The performance Quinn is most associated with, however, came in 1964 as Alexis Zorba, the Greek peasant in "Zorba the Greek."
He earned two Oscars as best supporting actor, the first in 1952 for "Viva Zapata!" and the second four years later for his portrayal of painter Paul Gauguin in "Lust for Life."
|1952||Best Supporting Actor||Viva Zapata!||Win|
|1956||Best Supporting Actor||Lust for Life||Win|
|1957||Best Actor||Wild Is the Wind||Nomination|
|1964||Best Actor||Zorba the Greek||Nomination|