Open main menu

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.

Mike Mazurki
Mike Mazurki.gif
Mazurki as Splitface in Dick Tracy (1945)
Born
Markijan Mazurkiewicz

(1907-12-25)25 December 1907
Died9 December 1990(1990-12-09) (aged 82)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
OccupationActor, Professional wrestler
Years active1934–1990
Spouse(s)Jeanette Briggs (1943–1950; divorced; 2 children)
Sylvia Weinblatt (1968–1990; his death)
ChildrenMichelle Mazurki

Contents

Early yearsEdit

He was born Markiyan (Mykhailo) Mazurkevych (Ukrainian: Маркіян (Михайло) Мазуркевич) (Polish: Markijan (Mychajło) Mazurkiewicz) in Kupchyntsi (Купчинці, 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[1] and basketball at Manhattan College,[2] where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1930.[3] He became a professional athlete in three sports, primarily wrestling but also American football and basketball.[4][5]

CareerEdit

Mazurki was discovered by Josef von Sternberg and given a bit part in his film The Shanghai Gesture (1941).[5] 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.[4]

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.[4]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.

FilmographyEdit

TelevisionEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "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.  
  2. ^ "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.  
  3. ^ "Mike Mazurki: Wrestling's acting champ".
  4. ^ a b c "Social Security Death Index (search by name)". Retrieved 2009-12-01.
  5. ^ a b "Mike Mazurki Biography". Yahoo! Movies.
  6. ^ "The Policeman's Gun". Classic TV Archives. Retrieved October 21, 2016.[permanent dead link]

External linksEdit