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Anthony Quinn: 1915–2001: Actor , Artist, Writer

Debuted On Stage And Screen

In 1936 Quinn debuted on stage in Mae West's play Clean Beds, playing a role originally written for John Barrymore. The legendary actor made a surprise appearance on opening night, complimenting twenty-one-year-old Quinn on his performance. Over the years, Barrymore would become a friend and mentor. "Many people remember Jack Barrymore as either a wit or a drunk, but what impressed me was his courage of conviction," Quinn told the Los Angeles Times. "He used to tell me that you can only be as right as you dare to be wrong. That you must be willing to take chances to achieve superiority in your craft. He gave me his armor from 'Richard III.' He was like a retiring matador, who gives his sword to the most promising newcomer he knows."

That same year, Quinn signed on with Paramount and made his film debut as a convict in Parole!. This would lead to a string of movies in which he appeared in the "ethnic" roles, including the Cheyenne chief in Cecil B. DeMille's The Plainsman (1936), starring Gary Cooper. It wasn't long before Quinn married DeMille's daughter Katherine, whom he met during the filming. Their first son, Christopher, drowned in 1941 after falling into a fishpond on the estate of W.C. Fields. They would go on to have four more children: Christina, born in 1941; Catalina in 1942; Duncan in 1945; and Valentina in 1952.

Quinn appeared in a number of B-movies between 1936 and 1947, including: King of Alcatraz (1938), King of Chinatown, (1939) and Island of Lost Men (1939), but he felt constrained by Hollywood. "I was the bad guy's bad guy," he told the Guardian."Irarely made it to the final reel without being dispatched by a gun or knife or a length of twine, typically administered by a rival hood." He moved to New York City and made his debut on Broadway in 1947 in Gentleman From Athens, following it with a successful two-year run in Elia Kazan's production of A Streetcar Named Desire, replacing Marlon Brando, who had gone into films.

Part of the reason Quinn moved to New York in 1947 was due to the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee investigating him along with other big names in Hollywood. Quinn was always a political man, sometimes taking stances considered radical at the time. He got involved in the 1942 "Sleepy Lagoon" trial, helping 22 Mexican youths from Los Angeles appeal a gang-related murder conviction. "Probably it's the Irish in me that makes me speak out," he told the Los Angeles Times. "But there are about 800 boys in my profession who have a political ideal and want to express it. How can an actor be real in his work if he hasn't some convictions regarding the problems in the world around him?"

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Jan Peck Biography - Personal to David Randall (1972–) Biography - PersonalAnthony Quinn: 1915–2001: Actor , Artist, Writer Biography - Escaped The Mexican Revolution, Debuted On Stage And Screen, Offered More Rewarding Roles, Focused On Other Talents