Mike Mazurki (25 December 1907 – 9 December 1990) was an American actor and professional wrestler who appeared in more than 100 films. His towering 6 ft 5 in (196 cm) presence and intimidating face usually got him roles playing tough guys, thugs, strong men, and gangsters.
Mazurki as Splitface in Dick Tracy (1945)
25 December 1907
|Died||9 December 1990 (aged 82)|
Glendale, California, U.S.
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale|
|Occupation||Actor, Professional wrestler|
|Spouse(s)||Jeanette Briggs (1943–1950; divorced; 2 children)|
Sylvia Weinblatt (1968–1990; his death)
Mazurki was born Markiyan (Mykhailo) Mazurkevych (Ukrainian: Маркіян (Михайло) Мазуркевич) (Polish: Markijan (Mychajo) Mazurkiewicz) in Kupchyntsi (, now Kozova Raion), near what was then Tarnopol, Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now Ternopil, Ukraine). He was from an ethnic Ukrainian family. He emigrated with his family to the United States at the age of six, living in Cohoes, New York, just outside Albany, in old mill housing on Olmstead Street with his mother.
Mazurki attended LaSalle Institute in Troy, for high school. Upon finishing school, he changed his name to "Mike". He played football and basketball at Manhattan College, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1930. After earning his bachelor's degree, he graduated from Fordham Law School and became an attorney. He 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.
Mazurki was discovered by Josef von Sternberg and given a bit part in his film The Shanghai Gesture (1941). This led to a long film and television career. Possibly his most memorable role was that of slow-witted thug Moose Malloy in the film noir Murder, My Sweet (1944), opposite Dick Powell. He portrayed the psychotic, knife-wielding murderer Splitface in the original Dick Tracy (1945). 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.
Mazurki made guest appearances on many well-known television shows, among them My Friend Flicka (as a wrestler facing Gene Evans's character of 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.
Along with his film and television works, Mazurki appeared in the hit Rod Stewart music video "Infatuation", playing the bodyguard protecting a woman from a stalker (played by Stewart). In the end, he succeeds, punching out Stewart. In 1966–67, he performed as the caveman Clon in It's About Time.
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.
In 1975 he landed his only starring role as Trapper in Challenge to be Free. The film went largely unnoticed, but Mazurki drew praise for his convincing performance as a solitary-minded, nature-loving wilderness man accused of manslaughter.
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.
- Belle of the Nineties (1934) as New Orleans Audience Admirer (uncredited)
- Black Fury (1935) as Security Force Applicant (uncredited)
- The Last Alarm (1940) as Onlooker (uncredited)
- The Shanghai Gesture (1941) as The Coolie
- Dr. Renault's Secret (1942) as Rogell (uncredited)
- The Moon and Sixpence (1942) as Tough Bill (uncredited)
- That Other Woman (1942) as Thug (uncredited)
- Gentleman Jim (1942) as Jake Kilrain (uncredited)
- It Ain't Hay (1943) as Bouncer (uncredited)
- Prairie Chickens (1943) as Henchman Charlie (uncredited)
- Taxi, Mister (1943) as Henchman Joe
- Mission to Moscow (1943) as Russian Machinist Workman (uncredited)
- Bomber's Moon (1943) as Kurt (scenes deleted)
- Behind the Rising Sun (1943) as Japanese Wrestler (uncredited)
- Thank Your Lucky Stars (1943) as Olaf (uncredited)
- Swing Fever (1943) as Wrestler (uncredited)
- Henry Aldrich Haunts a House (1943) as The Goon (uncredited)
- Whistling in Brooklyn (1943) as Henchman on Ship (uncredited)
- Lost Angel (1943) as Fighter (uncredited)
- Shine On, Harvest Moon (1944) as Bouncer (uncredited)
- Summer Storm (1944) as Tall Policeman Bending Over Petroff (uncredited)
- The Canterville Ghost (1944) as Metropolus
- The Missing Juror (1944) as Cullie – Masseur (uncredited)
- The Princess and the Pirate (1944) as Pirate (uncredited)
- Murder, My Sweet (1944) as Moose Malloy
- The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945) as Bass Player / Humphrey Rafferty
- The Spanish Main (1945) as Erik Swaine
- Abbott and Costello in Hollywood (1945) as Klondike Pete
- Dick Tracy (1945) as 'Splitface'
- Dakota (1945) as "Bigtree' Collins
- The Thin Man Goes Home (1945) as First Man outside barber shop (uncredited)
- Live Wires (1946) as Patsy 'Pat' Clark
- Mysterious Intruder (1946) as Harry Pontos
- The French Key (1946) as Sam Cragg
- Sinbad the Sailor (1947) as Yusuf
- Killer Dill (1947) as Little Joe
- Unconquered (1947) as Bone
- Nightmare Alley (1947) as Bruno
- I Walk Alone (1948) as Dan
- Relentless (1948) as Jake
- The Noose Hangs High (1948) as Chuck
- Neptune's Daughter (1949) as Mac Mozolla
- Come to the Stable (1949) as Sam
- Rope of Sand (1949) as Pierson
- The Devil's Henchman (1949) as Rhino
- Abandoned (1949) as Hoppe
- Samson and Delilah (1949) as Leader of Philistine soldiers
- Night and the City (1950) as The Strangler
- Dark City (1950) as Sidney Winant
- He's a Cockeyed Wonder (1950) as 'Lunk' Boxwell
- Pier 23 (1951) as Ape Danowski
- Criminal Lawyer (1951) as 'Moose' Hendricks
- Ten Tall Men (1951) as Roshko
- The Light Touch (1951) as Charles
- My Favorite Spy (1951) as Monkara
- The Egyptian (1954) as Foreman, House of Death (uncredited)
- New York Confidential (1955) as Arnie Wendler
- New Orleans Uncensored (1955) as Big Mike
- Blood Alley (1955) as Big Han
- Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (1955) as Bigfoot Mason
- Davy Crockett and the River Pirates (1956) as Bigfoot Mason
- Kismet (1955) as Chief Policeman
- Comanche (1956) as Flat Mouth
- Around the World in 80 Days (1956) as Hong Kong Drunk
- Man in the Vault (1956) as Louie
- Hell Ship Mutiny (1957) as Ross
- The Man Who Died Twice (1958) as Rak
- The Buccaneer (1958) as Tarsus
- Some Like It Hot (1959) as Spats's henchman #1
- Alias Jesse James (1959) as Dirty Dog Tough (uncredited)
- The Facts of Life (1960) as First Husband in Motel Room
- Swingin' Along (1961) as Bookie
- The Errand Boy (1961) as Blonde 'Movie Siren'
- Pocketful of Miracles (1961) as Big Mike
- Zotz! (1962) as Igor
- Five Weeks in a Balloon (1962) as Slave Captain
- Donovan's Reef (1963) as Sgt. Monk Menkowicz
- It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) as Miner bringing medicine to his wife
- 4 for Texas (1963) as Chad
- Cheyenne Autumn (1964) as Senior First Sergeant Wichowski
- The Disorderly Orderly (1964) as Moving Van Passenger (uncredited)
- 7 Women (1966) as Tunga Khan – Bandit Leader
- The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin (1967) as Mountain Ox
- Which Way to the Front? (1970) as Rocky (uncredited)
- Centerfold Girls (1974) as The Caretaker
- Challenge to Be Free (1975) as Trapper
- Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1976) as Studio Guard
- Paesano: A Voice in the Night (1977) as Bodyguard
- The Magic of Lassie (1978) as Apollo
- The One Man Jury (1978) as Kayo's Handler
- Gas Pump Girls (1979) as Moiv
- Alligator (1980) as Gatekeeper
- The Man with Bogart's Face (1980) as Himself
- ...All the Marbles (1981) as Referee in Chicago (uncredited)
- Doin' Time (1985) as Bruno
- Amazon Women on the Moon (1987) as Dutch (segment "Reckless Youth")
- Dick Tracy (1990) as Old Man at hotel
- Mob Boss (1990) as Don Taglianeti (final film role)
- "Joe Schwarzer to Build Anew at Manhattan". Daily News. New York, New York City. September 16, 1928. p. 69. Retrieved September 8, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Dartmouth Quintet Takes Annual Xmas Jaunt". Daily News. New York, New York City. December 19, 1926. p. 31. Retrieved September 8, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Mike Mazurki: Wrestling's acting champ".
- "Social Security Death Index (search by name)". Retrieved 2009-12-01.
- "Mike Mazurki Biography". Yahoo! Movies.
- "The Policeman's Gun". Classic TV Archives. Retrieved October 21, 2016.[permanent dead link]