Mike Mazurki

Mike Mazurki (December 25, 1907 – December 9, 1990) was a Ukrainian-American actor and professional wrestler who appeared in more than 142 films. His 6 ft 5 in (196 cm) presence and face had him typecast as often brainless athletes, tough guys, thugs, and gangsters. His roles included Splitface in Dick Tracy (1945), Yusuf in Sinbad the Sailor (1947), and Clon in It's About Time (1966–1967).

Mike Mazurki
Mike Mazurki in Dick Tracy (1945).jpg
Mazurki as Splitface in Dick Tracy (1945)
Markiyan Yulianovich Mazurkevich

(1907-12-25)December 25, 1907
Kupchyntsi (Купчинці), Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria,
Austria-Hungary (now Ternopil Raion, Ternopil, Ukraine)
DiedDecember 9, 1990(1990-12-09) (aged 82)
Alma materManhattan College
Fordham University
  • Actor
  • professional wrestler
Years active1934–1990
Height6 ft 5 in (196 cm)
  • Jeanette Briggs
    (m. 1943; div. 1950)
  • Sylvia Weinblatt
    (m. 1968)

Early yearsEdit

Mazurki was born Markiyan Yulianovich Mazurkevich (Ukrainian: Маркіян (Михайло) Мазуркевич) (Polish: Markijan (Mychajlo) Mazurkiewicz) in the village of Kupchyntsi (in present-day Ternopil Raion), near what was then Tarnopol, Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now Ternopil, Ukraine).[1] In 1913, he emigrated with his family to the United States, living in Cohoes, New York, just outside Albany, in old mill housing on Olmstead Street with his mother.[citation needed]

Mazurki attended LaSalle Institute in Troy, for high school. Upon finishing school, he changed his name to "Mike". He played football[2] and basketball at Manhattan College,[3] where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1930.[4]

After earning his bachelor's degree, Mazurki graduated from Fordham Law School and became an attorney. He later said he took up professional wrestling because he could earn around ten times what he could as a lawyer. Mazurki was also a professional American football and basketball player.[5][6]


Trained as a professional wrestler he turned to acting after serving as Mae West's bodyguard. Mazurki was discovered by Josef von Sternberg and given a bit part in his film The Shanghai Gesture (1941).[6] This led to a long film and television career. Possibly his best known role was as the slow-witted but dangerously obsessed thug Moose Malloy in the lurid film noir Murder, My Sweet (1944). He portrayed the psychotic, knife-wielding murderer Splitface in the original Dick Tracy (1945). (Mazurki would play a cameo role, 45 years later, in the 1990 Warren Beatty film version of the same name.) He played a wrestler nicknamed "The Strangler" in Night and the City (1950) and a role imitating the manner of a George Raft henchman in the Billy Wilder comedy, Some Like It Hot (1959). He continued to wrestle during his acting career. His slurred speech was reportedly due to a wrestling injury to his Adam's apple.[5]

In addition to his film work, Mazurki made guest appearances on many popular television shows, among them My Friend Flicka (as a wrestler facing Gene Evans's character "Rob McLaughlin"), The Untouchables, Bachelor Father, Daniel Boone, Gilligan's Island, The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, Bonanza, and Gunsmoke, to name just a few. In 1964, he played Cully Barstow, a yacht hand, in "The Case of the Missing Button", an episode of Perry Mason in which he threatened Mason and Paul Drake with a set of brass knuckles. He also played Arthur Jacks in the episode "The Case of the Deadly Verdict" (1963). He was a regular as well on the short-lived sitcom The Chicago Teddy Bears. In 1966–67, he performed as the caveman "Clon" in It's About Time. [5]

In 1965, he co-founded and became the first president of the Cauliflower Alley Club, an association of professional wrestlers. A photograph of his cauliflower ear forms the logo of the organization. He was posthumously awarded the New York State Award in 2005 by the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum for founding the club.[citation needed]

In 1972, he landed his only starring role in a film as Trapper in Challenge to Be Free. As he aged, acting opportunities for Mazurki began to slow in the 1970s and 1980s; nevertheless, he continued working until his death on December 9, 1990. His final film role, that of "Don Taglianeti", is in the low-budget comedy Mob Boss, which was released just two months before he died. Along with his film and television appearances, Mazurki was seen in the hit Rod Stewart music video "Infatuation", playing the bodyguard protecting a woman (played by Kay Lenz) from a stalker (played by Stewart). In the end, he succeeds, punching out Stewart.




  1. ^ Daniel, Douglass K. (September 22, 2017). Anne Bancroft: A Life. ISBN 9780813169705.
  2. ^ "Joe Schwarzer to Build Anew at Manhattan". Daily News. New York City. September 16, 1928. p. 69. Retrieved September 8, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.  
  3. ^ "Dartmouth Quintet Takes Annual Xmas Jaunt". Daily News. New York City. December 19, 1926. p. 31. Retrieved September 8, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.  
  4. ^ Oliver, Greg (March 6, 2006). "Mike Mazurki: Wrestling's acting champ". Slam Wrestling. Retrieved November 3, 2020.
  5. ^ a b c "Social Security Death Index (search by name)". Retrieved December 1, 2009.
  6. ^ a b "Mike Mazurki Biography". Yahoo! Movies. Archived from the original on June 4, 2011.

Further readingEdit

  • Alistair, Rupert (2018). "Mike Mazurki". The Name Below the Title : 65 Classic Movie Character Actors from Hollywood's Golden Age (softcover) (First ed.). Great Britain: Independently published. pp. 165–167. ISBN 978-1-7200-3837-5.

External linksEdit