Monday, July 26, 2010

"Iron" Mike Mazurki, the Wrestler

My guess is that you will know Mike Mazurki from his photo.  He played in over 150 roles in the movies and TV, from 1934 to 1990, the year of his death.

He stood six and a half feet tall, and started his working career as a wrestler, football and basketball player.  His size and his face got him some small roles in the movies, and then his acting career took off.  He continued to wrestle as well.

He worked in 14 films as an uncredited thug, wrestler or fighter, before his big break came in 1945's Murder, My Sweet starring Dick Powell.  He used his physical characteristics to become a gangland thug on film, but he was also great in bringing his character into comedies. 

That same year he was also in The Thin Man Goes Home and Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Hollywood.  He played Splitface in the 1945 version of Dick Tracy, and appeared as well in the 1990 version by the same name, starring Warren Beatty.  For another change of pace, look for him in Neptune's Daughter with Esther Williams and Red Skelton. 

Mazurki was at home doing film-noir, as well as sit-coms.  After TV became popular, Iron Mike started appearing on the small screen and also continued in movies.  He appears several times in "Have Gun - Will Travel." "The Untouchables" and "Perry Mason" where you would expect to see him, but he also worked on "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," "The Munsters," "Mister Ed" and "Gilligan's Island."

In 1959 he worked with Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot, and then in 1963 he had a small role in It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World with almost every great comedian who was alive at the time.

He found a lot of work in westerns, on TV and the big screen.  He also appeared in a comedy/sci-fi TV series in 1966-1967 called "It's About Time" but I have never heard of it.  I guess I was wrapped up in "Star Trek" at that time.

Although Mazurki continued to work up to 1990, he only had small roles after 1975 and Challenge to be Free, a true story with Mike in the lead as a trapper accused of murder.  I guess his age was catching up to him.  He brought a lot to movies and TV, and I am pleased to write about this great Bit Part Actor.

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