St. Petersburg Times Online: World&Nation
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather

printer version

Zorba the Greek' star Anthony Quinn dies

The 86-year-old actor appeared in more than 100 feature films and won two Academy Awards.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 4, 2001

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Anthony Quinn, the barrel-chested Oscar winner remembered for his roles as the earthy hero of Zorba the Greek and the fierce Bedouin leader in Lawrence of Arabia, died Sunday (June 3, 2001). He was 86.

Mr. Quinn died of respiratory failure at a Boston hospital, said Providence Mayor Vincent "Buddy" Cianci, a friend. Mr. Quinn lived in nearby Bristol.

"He was larger than life," Cianci said. "I was proud to call him a friend."

Mr. Quinn, who appeared in more than 100 feature films, won Academy Awards for best supporting actor in Viva Zapata! and Lust for Life.

Born in Mexico and raised in poverty in East Los Angeles, Mr. Quinn went from stage and B-movie roles to become an international leading man renowned for his big-man sensitivity and honest acting style.

In a film career that spanned more than 50 years, Mr. Quinn portrayed characters including kings, Indians, a pope, a boxer and an artist.

"I never get the girl," Mr. Quinn once joked in an interview. "I wind up with a country instead."

Anthony Rudolph Oaxaca Quinn was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, to Frank Quinn of Irish descent and Manuella Oaxaca of Mexican and Indian heritage, both of whom fought in the Mexican Revolution with Pancho Villa. Fearing for his life from federal troops, Mr. Quinn's father escaped to the United States. Manuella, carrying the infant Anthony in her arms, soon followed.

After living in El Paso, Frank Quinn moved his family to California, where they traveled up and down the San Joaquin and Napa valleys picking fruit. Mr. Quinn worked alongside his parents at ages 4 and 5, earning 10 cents an hour.

Mr. Quinn took courses in art and architecture at Polytechnic High School, but never earned a degree. Largely self-educated, as a young man he embarked on a self-improvement program in which he read a book, listened to a new symphony and familiarized himself with a different artwork each week.

He once met architect Frank Lloyd Wright and showed him plans he had drawn for a supermarket. But Wright's advice had nothing to do with art. He told the youth to have an operation to remove the excess skin that attached his tongue to the floor of his mouth so he would have proper elocution.

Wright, who remained a lifelong friend, also pointed Mr. Quinn toward acting lessons after the surgery so that he could practice proper speech.

Mr. Quinn had a stint as a professional boxer that included 16 straight victories, but hung up his gloves after he was knocked out in his 17th fight, feeling he lacked the "killer instinct."

Mr. Quinn made his acting debut in 1936 at age 21 in Mae West's play Clean Beds, imitating John Barrymore, for whom the role was originally written.

On opening night in Los Angeles, Barrymore came to see the play, throwing the cast and director into a panic. After the show, Barrymore came backstage to praise the young man who had portrayed him.

Barrymore became a friend and mentor.

In 1937, Mr. Quinn married Cecil B. de Mille's adopted daughter, Katherine, whom he met on the set of Plainsman. Mr. Quinn and de Mille had five children.

Their eldest son, Christopher, drowned in 1941 as a toddler when he wandered onto the estate of W.C. Fields -- down the street from the Quinn residence -- and fell into the fish pond.

Mr. Quinn and de Mille divorced in 1965 when it was revealed that Mr. Quinn had a child by Iolanda Addolori, a wardrobe assistant on the set of Barabbas, a film Mr. Quinn made in Italy. He later married Addolori.

Thrice a husband and a reported 13 times a father (according to this year's version of Celebrity Biographies), Mr. Quinn told the Chicago Tribune last year: "I love, love, love women." He also had well-known dalliances with actors such as Carole Lombard, Rita Hayworth, Ingrid Bergman and her daughter Pia Lindstrom among others.

Mr. Quinn appeared in numerous films between 1936 and 1947, usually in bit parts. He made his Broadway debut in 1947 in Gentleman from Athens, and followed this with a successful two-year stint as Stanley Kowalski in the road company of Elia Kazan's production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

Mr. Quinn achieved stardom as a film actor in the 1950s. His breakthrough role -- as well as first Oscar -- came in the 1952 film Viva Zapata! playing opposite Marlon Brando as the older brother of the great Mexican revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata.

Mr. Quinn then went to Italy in search of starring roles he could not seem to 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. He was on screen in the film for only eight minutes.

Mr. Quinn cemented his position as a major film star in the early 1960s, appearing in such films as The Guns of Navarone, Lawrence of Arabia and Requiem for a Heavyweight.

The performance Mr. Quinn is most associated with, however, came in 1964 as Alexis Zorba, the Greek peasant in Zorba the Greek. Nearly 20 years later, he reprised the role on Broadway, eventually taking the show on a three-year U.S. tour that spanned more than 1,200 performances and grossed more than $48-million, making it one of the most lucrative revivals in theater history.

It was as the Broadway Zorba that he finally came to grips with his son's death more than 40 years before. Zorba also lost a son, and refers to him twice in the course of the show.

"I have never, never, never talked about my son's death," Mr. Quinn said. "I've never used the term death in connection with my son. But every night doing the show I had to say, "He's dead.'

"At first I cut the line out of the play," he said. "The director came to me and said: "It's wrong. I know how painful it is but you'll have to do it.' He loved his son very much, this Zorba. He left his family because he couldn't bear being with them after the loss of his son.

"Zorba and I are very much alike."

As his film career slowed in recent years, Mr. Quinn devoted most of his time to painting and sculpting.

Cianci said Mr. Quinn had moved to Bristol because "he wanted to get away from all that New York stuff, all the Hollywood hustle and bustle."

He had recently worked in television, appearing in a 1990 TV movie based on Ernest Hemingway's classic The Old Man and the Sea and the 1996 HBO movie, Gotti.

Mr. Quinn said in a 1987 interview that he reached most of the goals he set for himself as a young boy.

"I never satisfied that kid, but I think he and I have made a deal now," he said, referring to his younger self. "It's like climbing a mountain: I didn't take him up Mount Everest, but I took him up Mount Whitney.

"And I think that's not bad."

Mr. Quinn is survived by his third wife, Kathy Benvin, whom he married in 1997 after divorcing Addolori, and his children: Christina, Kathleen, Valentina and Duncan from his marriage with de Mille; Francesco, Daniele and Lorenzo with Addolori; Antonia and Ryan with Benvin; Alex and Sean with an unidentified German woman, and an unidentified son with an unidentified French woman.

-- Information from the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times was used in this report.

Anthony Quinn's film career

Movies in which Quinn appeared (some foreign productions not included):

Parole!, 1936

Sworn Enemy, 1936

Night Waitress, 1936

The Plainsman, 1937

Swing High Swing Low, 1937

Waikiki Wedding, 1937

Last Train From Madrid, 1937

Partners in Crime, 1937

Daughter of Shanghai, 1937

The Buccaneer, 1938

Dangerous to Know, 1938

Tip-Off Girls, 1938

Hunted Men, 1938

Bulldog Drummond in Africa, 1938

King of Alcatraz, 1938

King of Chinatown, 1939

Union Pacific, 1939

Island of Lost Men, 1939

Television Spy, 1939

Emergency Squad, 1940

Road to Singapore, 1940

Parole Fixer, 1940

The Ghost Breakers, 1940

City for Conquest, 1940

Texas Rangers Ride Again, 1940

Blood and Sand, 1941

Knockout, 1941

Thieves Fall Out, 1941

Bullets for O'Hara, 1941

They Died With Their Boots On, 1941

The Perfect Snob, 1941

Larceny Inc, 1942

Road to Morocco, 1942

The Black Swan, 1942

The Ox-Bow Incident, 1943

Guadalcanal Diary, 1943

Buffalo Bill, 1944

Roger Touhy-Gangster, 1944

Ladies of Washington, 1944

Irish Eyes Are Smiling, 1944

China Sky, 1945

Back to Bataan, 1945

Where Do We Go From Here? 1945

California, 1947

Sinbad the Sailor, 1947

The Imperfect Lady, 1947

Black Gold, 1947

Tycoon, 1947

The Brave Bulls, 1951

Mask of the Avenger, 1951

The Brigand, 1952

World in His Arms, 1952

Against All Flags, 1952

Viva Zapata, 1952

Ride Vaquero, 1953

City Beneath the Sea, 1953

Seminole, 1953

Blowing Wild, 1953

East of Sumatra, 1953

Angels of Darkness, 1954

Attila, 1954

Fatal Desire, 1954

The Long Wait, 1954

La Strada, 1954

Ulysses, 1954

Magnificent Matador, 1955

Naked Street, 1955

Seven Cities of Gold, 1955

Lust for Life, 1956

Man From Del Rio, 1956

The Wild Party, 1956

The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 1956

The Ride Back, 1957

Wild Is the Wind, 1957

The River's Edge, 1957

Attila the Hun, 1958

Hot Spell, 1958

The Black Orchid, 1958

Last Train From Gun Hill, 1959

Warlock, 1959

Heller With a Gun, 1959

Savage Innocents, 1959

Heller in Pink Tights, 1960

Portrait in Black, 1960

Guns of Navarone, 1961

Becket, 1961

Barabbas, 1962

Requiem for a Heavyweight, 1962

Lawrence of Arabia, 1962

Behold a Pale Horse, 1964

The Visit, 1964

Zorba the Greek, 1964

High Wind in Jamaica, 1965

Marco the Magnificent, 1965

Lost Command, 1966

The 25th Hour, 1967

The Happening, 1967

The Rover, 1967

Guns for San Sebastian, 1968

The Shoes of the Fisherman, 1968

The Magus, 1968

The Secret of Santa Vittoria, 1969

A Dream of Kings, 1969

Flap, 1970

A Walk in the Spring Rain, 1970

RPM, 1970

The City, 1971

Jesus of Nazareth, 1971

Across 110th Street, 1972

Arruza, 1973

Deaf Smith and Johnny Ears, 1973

The Don Is Dead, 1973

The Destructors, 1974

The Inheritance, 1976

High Rollers, 1976

Tigers Don't Cry, 1976

Mohammed Messenger of God, 1977

Caravans, 1978

The Children of Sanchez, 1978

The Greek Tycoon, 1978

The Inheritance, 1978

The Passage, 1979

Lion of the Desert, 1979

High Risk, 1981

The Salamander, 1981

Treasure Island, 1986

Revenge, 1990

Ghosts Can't Do It, 1990

A Star for Two, 1991

Only the Lonely, 1991

Jungle Fever, 1991

Mobsters, 1991

Last Action Hero, 1993

A Walk in the Clouds, 1995

Somebody to Love, 1996

Seven Servants, 1996

Ringside, 1999

Back to World & National news
Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
Special Links
Susan Taylor Martin

From the Times wire desk
  • Democrats to fight Bush with gasoline
  • Zorba the Greek' star Anthony Quinn dies

  • From the AP
    national wire
    From the AP
    world desk