“When you want to shoot, shoot, shoot, don’t talk.”
That is perhaps one of the most memorable line from a movie delivered in the 1966 Spaghetti Western The Good, The Bad and the Ugly by the ebullient bandit Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez, simply known as The Ugly.
Few actors engrave themselves in the minds of generations of film lovers like Eli Wallach managed to do without being so noisy about it. Not many people will remember his actual name, but most would remember his character.
After a long life on and off screen and in theathres, Wallach died June 24, 2014 in New York at the grand old age of 94. His acting career stretched from 1945 to 2010 when he featured in his last major role in the film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps alongside Michael Douglas and Shia Labeouf.
Though his career stretched almost interminably, he was never nominated for the Oscars despite outstanding roles as perhaps one of the stand out character actors in Hollywood and great performances in movies like Baby Doll (1956) The Godfather III (1990), and The Misfits (1961), The Magnificent Seven (1960) and of course as Tuco in The God, The Bad and The Ugly (1966).
He however got the Bafta for his breakout role in Baby Doll. He also received a Tony Award and an Emmy for his works and in 2010 he was given an honorary Oscar for his contribution to the film industry at the age of 94.
In Nigeria, Wallach is best remembered as the Mexican bandit Tuco and generations of Nigerians, reveled in the lines he delivered with his care free philosophy of a bandit who is determined to survive despite the odds.
Wallach was however not crazy about being on set, often preferring roles in the theatre, especially in early on in his career.
He was once quoted as saying, “What do I need a movie for? The stage is on a higher level in every way, and a more satisfying medium. Movies, by comparison, are like calendar art next to great paintings. You can’t really do very much in movies or in television, but the stage is such an anarchistic medium.”
He often appeared on stage alongside his wife for 66 years, Anne Jackson with whom he had three children.
Eli Wallach lives on.
Memorable Lines from Tuco Ramirez
- I like big fat men like you. When they fall they make more noise and sometimes they never get up!
- [To his brother Pablo] You think you’re better than I am? Where we came from, if one did not want to die of poverty, one became a priest or a bandit! You chose your way, I chose mine. Mine was harder. You talk of our mother and father. You remember when you left to become a priest? I stayed behind! I must have been ten, twelve. I don’t remember which, but I stayed. I tried, but it was no good. Now I am going to tell you something. You became a priest because you were… too much of a coward to do what I do!
- There are two kinds of people in the world, my friend. Those who have a rope around their neck and those who have the job of doing the cutting.