Palance, Jack

Enlarge picture
Jack Palance as Dracula.

Palance, Jack (1928–2006)

(pop culture)

Jack Palance, who played the title role in the made-for-television movie Dracula (1973) was born Vladimir Palahnuik on February 18, 1928, in Lattimer, Pennsylvania. In 1947 he made his Broadway debut and three years later appeared in his first Hollywood movie, Panic in the Streets. He became famous following his appearance in Shane. For his role as the villain, he won an Oscar nomination as best supporting actor, the second time he had received that honor.

Palance’s movie career was largely determined by his physical build (he had a brief career in professional boxing), his distinctive voice, and the plastic surgery he received following the crash of his airplane during World War II. He quickly emerged as a one of Hollywood’s great heavies. It limited his starring roles, but he became famous as one of the industry’s outstanding character actors. Therefore, he was a natural consideration for the title role as Dracula when Dan Curtis, fresh on the heels of his successful vampire-oriented Dark Shadows series, decided to make a new version of Dracula. Curtis’s Dracula was the first remake of the classic tale following the introduction of Vlad the Impaler, (also known as Vlad Dracul).

Palance portrayed a Dracula who had lost his love four centuries before, but rediscovered her in the person of Lucy Westenra, whose picture was carried by Jonathan Harker when he appears at Castle Dracula at the beginning of the film. Leaving Harker to be attacked by the women at the castle, Dracula went in search of his lost love. He turned her into a vampire, but she was killed by Abraham Van Helsing and her fiancé Arthur Holmwood. Enraged, Dracula sought revenge by attacking Mina Murray, Harker’s fiancé. Dracula was chased back to his castle and finally destroyed.

The Palance version first aired on CBS on February 8, 1974, and was then released to theaters in Europe. It subsequently took its place as one of the finer versions of Dracula and has been released on both VHS and DVD. Palance continued with his active career, which included hosting the popular television series Ripley’s Believe It or Not. He died in 2006.

Sources:

Holte, James Craig. Dracula in the Dark: The Dracula Film Adaptations. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1997. 161 pp.
Jones, Stephen. The Illustrated Vampire Movie Guide. London: Titan Books, 1993. 144 pp.