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'Zorba' Dies at 86

4 Jun, 2001 By: Hive News

Anthony Quinn, the Academy Award-winning actor whose life-affirming character in Zorba the Greek and as the patriarch in The Children of Sanchez made him a megastar to millions, died Sunday, at 86.

Quinn, who lived in Bristol near Providence, R.I., died of respiratory failure in a Boston hospital.

Quinn earned two Oscars as best supporting actor, the first in 1952 for Viva Zapata! and the second four years later for his portrayal of painter Paul Gauguin in Lust for Life.

Anthony Rudolph Oaxaca Quinn was born in Chihuahua, Mexico, to Frank Quinn of Irish descent and Manuella Oaxaca of Mexican and Native American heritage.

Quinn made his acting debut in 1936 in Mae West's play Clean Beds. Quinn's film debut also came in 1936, a 45-second cameo as a convict who gets stabbed in Parole. Next, he played a Cheyenne Indian in the Cecil B. de Mille film Plainsman that starred Gary Cooper.

Quinn appeared in numerous films between 1936 and 1947, usually in bit parts and none of them noteworthy. He made his Broadway debut in 1947 in Gentleman From Athens, and followed it with a successful two-year stint as Stanley Kowalski in the road company of Elia Kazan's production of A Streetcar Named Desire.

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

Quinn then went to Italy in search of the starring roles he could not 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.

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

The performance 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 included more than 1,200 performances and grossed more than $48 million, making it one of the most lucrative revivals in theater history.

Looking back on his career, Quinn was especially proud of his portrayal of Mexican and Native American roles, which he believed helped broaden his audience's understanding. "I fought early to go beyond the stereotypes and demand Mexicans and Indians be treated with dignity in films," he said.

Among Quinn's more recent roles were his 1988 TV portrayal of the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in "Onassis: The Richest Man in the World," his 1990 turn as the old man in a TV production of Ernest Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" and the 1994 CBS TV movie with Katharine Hepburn, "This Can't Be Love." He also appeared in such 1990s films as A Walk in the Clouds and The Last Action Hero.

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