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Jack Pelance: Ukrainian who won an Oscar and refused to be named People's Artist of Russia

Lyudmila GrabenkoNews
Jack Pelance, being an ethnic Ukrainian, was able to realize the American dream

Jack Pelance, an ethnic Ukrainian, was able to realize the American dream by rising from the social bottom to the top of the social hierarchy, becoming a star of the Golden Age of of Hollywood. Despite the creative pseudonym he adopted when he started acting in Dream Factory, Pelance always remembered his roots and did not renounce them, even for the title of People's Artist of Russia.

It happened in 2004 during the Russian Nights festival in Los Angeles. "I am Ukrainian, not Russian," Pelans said at the time, "my parents came to America from Ukraine. I have nothing to do with Russian cinema, and it turns out that I walked into the wrong door by mistake, and it would be better if my friends and I left this meeting."

The famous actor was a Ukrainian not only in words but also in deeds: one of the six languages he knew was Ukrainian, which he often spoke with his fellow Ukrainians. For many years, Pelans was the honorary president of the Trident Foundation, which united American filmmakers of Ukrainian descent. He was very fond of Ukrainian cinema and called Oleksandr Dovzhenko, Serhiy Parajanov, and Yuri Ilyenko his idols, and he had always dreamed of playing Taras Bulba and Hetman Mazepa, as he admitted during his visit to Kyiv in 1996.

The son of Ukrainian immigrants

Jack Pelance (born Volodymyr Ivanovych Palahniuk) was born on February 18, 1919 (in some sources - in 1920) in Latimer Mines, Pennsylvania, which is called the "coal capital" of the United States. His parents were Ukrainian immigrants: his father, Ivan Palahniuk, came from the village of Ivan-Zolote in the Ternopil region, and his mother, Hanna Hramiak, was from Lviv. The boy lost his father early on: Ivan, who worked at a coal mine, died of lung cancer, leaving his wife to take care of their six children. Volodymyr himself seemed to have no other choice, as he had been working at the mine since his youth.

Sports career

Athletics, which he had been involved in since childhood, was the lucky ticket that allowed him to escape his sad fate. Volodymyr was a member of the winning team at the University of North Carolina, and after receiving a scholarship and the opportunity to get an education, he quickly dropped out to pursue a career in professional boxing. In the ring, Palahniuk fought under the name "Jack Brazzo," and he won his first 15 fights, 12 of which ended in knockout. On December 17, 1940, Volodymyr lost in the fourth round to Joe Baxi by a decision of the judges.

Jack Pelance: Ukrainian who won an Oscar and refused to be named People's Artist of Russia
Jack Pelance: Ukrainian who won an Oscar and refused to be named People's Artist of Russia

The Second World War put an end to Palahniuk's sports career - he joined the US Air Force and became a B-24 bomber pilot. He was injured and burned (his face was particularly badly damaged), and was awarded orders and medals, including the famous Purple Heart. After demobilization, he continued his education: he studied journalism at Stanford University College, worked as a sports columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle and as a radio host. It's hard to say what his fate would have been if Palahniuk hadn't contracted actor's disease.

"A promising debut"

Volodymyr made his stage debut in 1947, playing a small role in the play The Big Two. His brutality, which later defined his Hollywood roles, impressed not only directors and producers but also the audience, so his next job was to participate in the second cast of A Streetcar Named Desire, where Palahniuk, in the role of Stanley Kowalski, dubbed Marlon Brando himself, later taking over the role completely. After playing in several other Broadway shows, Palahniuk got a role in the play "South Pacific," which was awarded the highest category - the Theater World Award in the category "Promising Debut."

Jack Pelance: Ukrainian who won an Oscar and refused to be named People's Artist of Russia

Hollywood's "main villain"

The cinema also paid attention to the aspiring actor - he was signed by the 20th Century Fox studio. A facial burn sustained in a plane crash and the plastic surgery that followed, as well as a hoarse voice resulting from a throat injury during a boxing match, came in handy for the aspiring actor, who turned out to be an ideal performer of movie villains. His tall stature, haughty posture, meaningful gaze, and the smile of a killer shark (as critics wrote about his facial expressions) made him irresistible - there were simply no competitors for the role of attractive villains for Walter Jack Pelance, who had already taken on this pseudonym by the time he took on the role.

Jack Pelance: Ukrainian who won an Oscar and refused to be named People's Artist of Russia

In his first film, Panic in the Streets, Pelans did not get lost even against the backdrop of his famous partners - the powerful cast of the film included Richard Undmark, Zero Mostel and Paul Douglas. Having used his boxing skills and military experience in The Hills of Montezuma, the actor soon became a performer without whom no western or war film in Hollywood could do without, including The Big Knife, Sudden Fear, and Second Chance.

Jack Pelance: Ukrainian who won an Oscar and refused to be named People's Artist of Russia

However, Pelance's film career included a lot of passable, uninteresting films that even film historians would not remember today. It is not for nothing that the actor himself later said in an interview that his credits include a lot of garbage made by mediocre directors. The "main villain" of Hollywood always dreamed of playing in a comedy, which he managed to do only in his old age. For his role as Curly Washburn in the movie City Dudes, he received the long-awaited Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. In his youth, Pelance was twice nominated for the main cinematic award, but never won it. The actor ended his film career in a rather symbolic way, playing John Silver in Treasure Island.

Jack Pelance: Ukrainian who won an Oscar and refused to be named People's Artist of Russia

Scrooge and Dracula

Jack Pelance was also in demand in European cinema, where he played many roles in films of various genres, including biblical epics, war stories, and spaghetti westerns. But on television, he returned to the role of "vile villains", playing Mr. Hyde in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Ebenezer Scrooge in the television version of Dickens' story and Dracula in the television show of the same name.

Jack Pelance: Ukrainian who won an Oscar and refused to be named People's Artist of Russia

A kind and intelligent "villain"

In his private life, the "Hollywood's greatest villain" was a kind, gentle, intelligent, modest, and unspoken man. He owned his own cattle ranch, where he spent all his free time - it was almost impossible to meet him at social events. Pelans was fond of painting and poetry: his paintings were exhibited at vernissages, and his poems were published in literary collections. The actor had a wonderful, subtle sense of humor - for example, he once joked that he was a favorite of women because his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is located opposite the Frederick of Hollywood lingerie store.

Jack Pelance: Ukrainian who won an Oscar and refused to be named People's Artist of Russia
Jack Pelance: Ukrainian who won an Oscar and refused to be named People's Artist of Russia

Pelance's best friend was the famous actor and director Clint Eastwood, in none of whose films he played: perhaps the two great men did not want to mar their friendship by creative differences.

Jack Pelance: Ukrainian who won an Oscar and refused to be named People's Artist of Russia
Jack Pelance: Ukrainian who won an Oscar and refused to be named People's Artist of Russia

Pelance was married twice; his three children, daughters Holly and Brooke and son Cody, born to his first wife (actress Virginia Baker), became actors. His last years were overshadowed by both his deteriorating health and the death of Cody, who died in 1998 of melanoma. Later, Pelance himself was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Hollywood's "main villain" died at the home of his daughter Holly in Santa Barbara on November 10, 2006, the cause of his death was a stroke.

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