Anthony Quinn – Mexican to Greek

Anthony Quinn

Anthony Quinn

Anthony Quinn - Mexican to Greek

Anthony Quinn was born in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1915. The family moved to Los Angeles where Quinn attended but eventually dropped out of high school. Quinn spent some time boxing and then studied architecture with Frank Lloyd Wright. Wright encouraged Quinn to try acting and by 1936 he was in Hollywood.

Quinn’s first role in tinsel town was The Plainsman (1936) directed by his future father-in-law Cecil B. DeMille. That’s one way to make it big. As part of the studio system at Paramount Quinn was given many ethnic bit parts. Since he was not a US citizen he did not serve in WWII but received extra roles as many actors were away.

At the end of his contract he returned to the stage to sharpen his skills. Elia Kazan cast Quinn and Marlon Brando as brothers in Viva Zapata! (1952). Quinn won the Oscar for best-supporting actor and became the first Mexican-American to win one of the golden statuettes. Quinn wasn’t done as he got his second one for Lust for Life (1956), opposite the great Kirk Douglas. He continued to work in the US and Italy. In 1957, he received a third nomination, this time for best actor, Wild Is the Wind (1957). In 1961, Quinn was cast as a Greek in The Guns of Navarone (1961). He played a down and out boxer in Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962). One of his two greatest roles was that of an Arab leader in Lawrence of Arabia (1962). The other was Zorba the Greek (1964) where he was again nominated for best actor.

In 1968 Quinn had a hit and a miss. He hit with his portrayal of a humble pope in The Shoes of the Fisherman (1968) but he missed with The Magus (1968). The 70s found him forced to return to small ethnic roles. He continued to act into the 90s before retiring to run a restaurant in Rhode Island. He died at the age of 86.

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