People Staff
November 27, 2006 12:00 PM

Playing bad guys and steely gunslingers in westerns like Shane, Jack Palance showed no fear. And offscreen he was so macho that when he won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1992 for City Slickers, the actor, then 73, famously dropped to the floor to do one-armed push-ups. “It was one of those magic moments you pray for,” recalls Jeff Margolis, who directed that Academy Awards telecast. But then Palance, who died Nov. 10 at 87, was a tough guy until the final curtain. Three days before his death he was resting after a bout of pneumonia at his daughter Holly’s Montecito, Calif., home. “When the nurse was trying to change his pajamas, he [playfully] threw a punch at her,” says Holly. “In character to the end!”

But there was more to Palance than a gravelly voice, craggy features and roles like the cantankerous Curly in City Slickers. “He was very sensitive and kind,” says actor Edward James Olmos, a pal. Born to Ukrainian immigrant parents in Lattimer Mines, Pa., Palance (then named Vladimir Palahniuk) was a coal miner, boxer and Marlon Brando’s Broadway understudy in A Streetcar Named Desire before finding Hollywood success. Still, the twice-divorced actor often shied away from the spotlight, preferring instead to dote on daughters Holly, 56, Brooke, 54, and son Cody, who died in 1998 of malignant melanoma. “He never played the game,” says Holly. “So few people have the courage to do that.”

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