Childhood & Early Days
Karl Malden was born Mladen George Sekulovich, on March 22, 1912, in Chicago. He was raised in Gary. His father, Petar Sekulovic, worked in steel mills. His mother, Minnie, was a seamstress and actress. Malden was the eldest of the three sons of his parents. He was of Serbian and Czech ancestry.
Malden’s father produced Serbian plays at his church. Young Malden performed in those plays. During his school years, he was active in dramatics. In 1931, he graduated from the ‘Emerson High School.’ In 1934, Malden left home to receive training in drama, from the ‘Goodman School.’ Later, he was associated with the ‘Goodman Theatre.’ In 1937, he graduated from the ‘Chicago Art Institute.’
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In 1937, Karl Malden made his ‘Broadway’ debut. In 1940, he made his film debut with a small role in ‘They Knew What They Wanted.’ He joined the ‘Group Theatre,’ and performed in their plays.
At the age of 22, Malden changed his name from Mladen Sekulovich, to Karl Malden.
Malden’s acting career took a backseat during the ‘World War II,’ as he was called for duty. He served as a non-commissioned officer with the ‘United States Army Air Corps.’ In 1944, while Malden was still on duty, he was offered a small role in the film and play, ‘Winged Victory,’ which was produced by the ‘U.S. Army Air Forces.’ After the war, Malden was back to acting.
In 1950, Malden starred as ‘Mac’ in ‘The Gunfighter,’ and also as ‘Lt. Thomas’ in ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends.’
In 1951, Malden bagged one of the most prominent roles of his career. He was selected to portray ‘Harold “Mitch” Mitchell,’ in the drama movie ‘A Streetcar Named Desire.’ It was the story of a girl who was a victim of mental instability due to her personal losses. ‘Mitch’ was an important character in the movie. Malden performed the part brilliantly. For his performance in the film, Malden won the ‘Academy Award for the Best Supporting Actor.’
In 1952, Malden played supporting roles in ‘The Sellout,’ ‘Diplomatic Courier,’ and ‘Operation Secret.’ In 1953, he was seen as ‘Inspector Larrue,’ in the film ‘I Confess.’ It was directed by Alfred Hitchcock.
In 1954, Karl Malden portrayed ‘Father Barry’ in the crime drama movie ‘On the Waterfront.’ ‘Father Barry’ was a peace-loving priest, who convinced the workers to refrain from violence. Malden’s performance earned him an ‘Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor’ Nomination.
In 1956, Malden starred in the black comedy ‘Baby Doll.’ It was the story of two rival cotton gin owners, and the efforts made by one of them to seduce the virgin wife of the other. Malden played ‘Archie Lee Meighan,’ was one of the gin owners. For his performance in this movie, Malden was nominated for the ‘Golden Globe Award for Best Actor- Motion Picture Drama.’
In 1957, Malden directed the film ‘Time Limit.’ It was his only directorial attempt. The movie was based on a ‘Broadway’ play of the same name. It told the story of an army officer investigating a treason committed by his subordinate. Though the movie was not a huge success, Malden received favorable reviews from critics.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Karl Malden appeared in several movies, including ‘Parrish,’ ‘Come Fly With Me,’ ‘Hot Millions,’ and ‘Wild Rovers.’ In 1963, he won a ‘Golden Globe Award’ nomination for his performance in the movie ‘Gypsy.’
From 1972 to 1977, Malden performed as ‘Det. Lt. Mike Stone,’ in the TV series ‘The Streets of San Francisco.’ For his performance, Malden was nominated for a ‘Primetime Emmy’ award as well as ‘Golden Globe Award.’ In (3)1985, he won the ‘Primetime Emmy’ award for ‘Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series,’ for his portrayal of ‘Freddy Kassab,’ in the mini-series ‘Fatal Vision.’
In 2000, Malden made his last onscreen appearance, for an episode of the TV series ‘The West Wing.’
Family & Personal Life
Karl Malden was married to actress Mona Greenberg, whom he met while working with the ‘Goodman Theatre.’ They got married in 1938. The couple has two daughters, Mila and Carla.
On July 1, 2009, Malden breathed his last, at his home in Los Angeles. He was 97 at the time of his death. He was survived by his wife and daughters.
In 1997, Malden published his autobiography, ‘When Do I Start?’
Malden was honored with a star on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame.’
In 2018, a monument of Karl Malden was constructed in Belgrade, Serbia.