Malden died of natural causes surrounded by his family at his Brentwood
home, they told the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. He served as
the academy’s president from 1989-92.
“Karl lived a rich, full life,” Academy president Sid Ganis said. “He has
the greatest and most loving family; a career that has spanned the spectrum
of the arts from theater to film and television, to some very famous
While he tackled a variety of characters over the years, he was often seen
in working-class garb or military uniform. His authenticity in grittier
roles came naturally: He was the son of a Czech mother and a Serbian father,
and worked for a time in the steel mills of Gary, Ind., after dropping out
Malden said he got his celebrated bulbous nose when he broke it a couple of
times playing basketball or football, joking that he was “the only actor in
Hollywood whose nose qualifies him for handicapped parking.” He liked to say
he had “an open-hearth face.”
Malden won a supporting actor Oscar in 1951 for his role as Blanche DuBois’
naive suitor Mitch in “A Streetcar Named Desire”
He was nominated again as best supporting actor in 1954 for his performance
as Father Corrigan, a fearless, friend-of-the-workingman priest in “On the
Waterfront.” In both movies, he costarred with Marlon Brando.
Among his other memorable roles were: “Birdman of Alcatraz” opposite Burt
Lancaster; “I Confess” with Montgomery Clift; “How the West Was Won;” and
“The Cincinnati Kid” opposite Steve McQueen and Edward G. Robinson.
His more than 50 credits included “Patton,” in which he played Gen. Omar
Bradley, “Pollyanna,” “Fear Strikes Out,” “The Sting II,” “Bombers B-52,”
“Cheyenne Autumn,” and “All Fall Down.”
One of his most controversial films was “Baby Doll” in 1956, in which he
played a dullard husband whose child bride is exploited by a businessman. It
was condemned by the Catholic Legion of Decency for what was termed its
“carnal suggestiveness.” The story was by “Streetcar” author Tennessee
Malden gained perhaps his greatest fame as Lt. Mike Stone in the 1970s
television show “The Streets of San Francisco,” in which Michael Douglas
played the veteran detective’s junior partner.
Douglas was 28 when he earned his first major break on the detective series
with Malden, who was 60. Douglas saluted Malden last month as a key mentor
when the older actor received the American Film Institute’s Lifetime
Achievement Award, an event to be televised July 19 on the TV Land channel.
In the ’70s, Malden gained a lucrative 21-year sideline and a place in pop
culture with his “Don’t leave home without them” ads for American Express
“The Streets of San Francisco” earned him five Emmy nominations. He won one
for his role as a murder victim’s father out to bring his former son-in-law
to justice in the 1985 miniseries “Fatal Vision.” He and Saint played
husband and wife.
Malden played Barbra Streisand’s stepfather in the 1987 film “Nuts;” Adm.
Elmo Zumwalt Jr. in the 1988 TV film “My Father, My Son;” and Leon
Klinghoffer, the cruise ship passenger murdered by terrorists in 1985, in
the 1989 TV film “The Hijacking of the Achille Lauro.”
He acted sparingly in recent years, appearing in 2000 in a small role on
TV’s “The West Wing.”
In 2004, Malden received the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement
Award, telling the group in his acceptance speech that “this is the peak for
me.” He served on the acting union’s national board from 1963-72.
He was born Mladen Sekulovich in Chicago on March 22, 1912. Malden regretted
that in order to become an actor he had to change his name. He insisted that
Fred Gwynne’s character in “On the Waterfront” be named Sekulovich to honor
The family moved to Gary, Ind., when he was small. He quit his steel job
1934 to study acting at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre “because I wasn’t getting
anywhere in the mills,” he recalled.
“When I told my father, he said, ‘Are you crazy? You want to give up a good
job in the middle of the Depression?’ Thank god for my mother. She said to
give it a try.”
In 2005, the U.S. Postal Service honored Malden by naming the post office in
Brentwood to honor his achievement in film and his contributions to the
Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee, which meets to discuss ideas for stamp
Malden helped create the “Legends of Hollywood” stamp series that has
featured Marilyn Monroe, James Dean and Gary Cooper, and another celebrating
Hollywood’s behind-the-scenes workers.
“As a kid, all the letters that would come from the old country, he would
see the stamps and they always intrigued him,” said David Failor, executive
director of stamp services for the Postal Service. “He was such a regular
Malden and his wife, Mona, a fellow acting student at the Goodman, had one
of Hollywood’s longest marriages, having celebrated their 70th anniversary
“That was sort of the last goodbye,” said Saint, who attended a party in the
couple’s honor. “His wish was, ‘After I die, I don’t want you to do anything
but have a party.’ So another party is coming up.”
Besides his wife, Malden is survived by daughters Mila and Cara, his
sons-in-law, three granddaughters, and four great grandchildren.