Anthony Quinn was a 2-time Academy Award-winning Mexican-American actor, as well as a painter and writer. Anthony Quinn starred in numerous critically acclaimed and commercially successful films, including Zorba the Greek and Federico Fellini’s La strada. Anthony Quinn also appeared in Lawrence of Arabia, Viva Zapata!, Lust for Life, Barabbas, Requiem for a Heavyweight, Mohammad, Messenger of God, The Shoes of the Fisherman, and The Guns of Navarone.
Anthony Quinn’s mother, Manuela “Nellie” Oaxaca, was of Aztec ancestry. Anthony Quinn’s father, Francisco Quinn, was born in Mexico to an Irish father and a Mexican mother. Frank Quinn rode with Pancho Villa, but later moved to Los Angeles and became an assistant cameraman at a movie studio. In Anthony Quinn’s autobiography The Original Sin: A Self-Portrait by Anthony Quinn he denied being the son of an “Irish adventurer” and attributed that tale to Hollywood publicists.
When he was 6 years old, Anthony Quinn attended a Catholic church (even thinking he wanted to become a priest). At the age of 11, however, he joined the Pentecostals in the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (the Pentecostal followers of Aimee Semple McPherson).
Anthony Quinn grew up first in El Paso, Texas, and later the Boyle Heights and the Echo Park areas of Los Angeles, California. Anthony Quinn attended Hammel St. Elementary School, Belvedere Junior High School, Polytechnic High School and finally Belmont High School but left before graduating. Tucson High School in Arizona years many later awarded him an honourary high school diploma.
As a young man Anthony Quinn boxed professionally to earn money, then studied art and architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright, both at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arizona residence and his Wisconsin studio, Taliesin. The 2 very different men became friends. When Anthony Quinn mentioned he was drawn to acting, Frank Lloyd Wright encouraged him. Anthony Quinn said he had been offered $800 a week by a film studio and didn’t know what to do. Frank Lloyd Wright replied, “Take it, you’ll never make that much with me.”
After a short time performing on the stage, Anthony Quinn launched his film career performing character roles in the 1936 films Parole (his debut) and The Milky Way. Anthony Quinn played “ethnic” villains in Paramount films such as Dangerous to Know (1938) and Road to Morocco. By 1947, he had appeared in over 50 films and had played Indians, Mafia dons, Hawaiian chiefs, Filipino freedom-fighters, Chinese guerrillas, and Arab sheiks, but was still not a major star. Anthony Quinn returned to the theater, even playing Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway.
In 1947, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. Anthony Quinn came back to Hollywood in the early 1950s, specialising in tough roles. Anthony Quinn was cast in a series of B-adventures such as Mask of the Avenger (1951). Anthony Quinn’s big break cane from playing opposite Marlon Brando in Elia Kazan’s Viva Zapata! (1952). Anthony Quinn’s supporting role as Zapata’s brother won Anthony Quinn an Oscar. Anthony Quinn was the 1st Mexican-American to win any Academy Award. Anthony Quinn appeared in several Italian films starting in 1953, turning in one of his best performances as a dim-witted, thuggish and volatile strongman in Federico Fellini’s La strada (1954) opposite Giulietta Masina. Anthony Quinn won his 2nd Oscar for Best Supporting Actor by portraying the painter Gauguin in Vincente Minnelli’s Van Gogh biopic, Lust for Life (1956). The award was remarkable as he was onscreen for only 8 minutes. The following year, he received a Oscar nomination for his part in George Cukor’s Wild Is the Wind. In The River’s Edge (1957), he played the husband of the former girlfriend (played by Debra Paget) of a killer (Ray Milland), who turns up with a stolen fortune and forces Anthony Quinn and Paget at gunpoint to guide him safely to Mexico. Anthony Quinn starred in The Savage Innocents 1959 (film) as Inuk, an Eskimo who finds himself caught between 2 clashing cultures.
Anthony Quinn as Wogan in the trailer for The Black Swan(1942)as the decade ended, Anthony Quinn allowed his age to show and began his transformation into a major character actor. Anthony Quinn’s physique filled out, his hair grayed, and his once smooth, swarthy face weathered became more rugged. Anthony Quinn’s demeanor made him a convincing Greek resistance fighter in The Guns of Navarone (1961), an ideal ex-boxer in Requiem for a Heavyweight, and a natural for the role of Auda ibu Tayi in Lawrence of Arabia (both 1962). That year he also played the title role in Barabbas, based on a novel by Pär Lagerkvist. The success of Zorba the Greek in 1964 was the high water mark of his career and resulted in another Oscar nomination. Other successes include La Vingt-cinquième heure (1967, The Twenty Fifth Hour), with Virna Lisi; The Magus (1968), with Michael Caine and Candice Bergen, and based on the novel by John Fowles; and The Shoes of the Fisherman, where he played a Russian pope. In 1969, he starred in The Secret of Santa Vittoria with Anna Magnani.
Anthony Quinn appeared on Broadway to great acclaim in Becket, as King Henry II to Laurence Olivier’s Thomas Becket in 1960. An erroneous story arose in later years that during the run, Anthony Quinn and Laurence Olivier switched roles and Anthony Quinn played Becket to Laurence Olivier’s King. In fact, Anthony Quinn left the production for a film, never having played Becket, and director Peter Glenville suggested a road tour with Laurence Olivier as Henry. Laurence Olivier happily acceded and Arthur Kennedy took on the role of Becket for the tour and brief return to Broadway.
In 1971, after the success of a TV movie named The City, where Anthony Quinn played Albuquerque Mayor Thomas Jefferson Alcala, he starred in the short-lived (1-season) television drama spin-off The Man in the City. Anthony Quinn’s subsequent television appearances were sporadic (among them Jesus of Nazareth).
In 1977, Anthony Quinn starred in the movie Mohammad, Messenger of God (aka The Message), about the origin of Islam, as Hamzah, a highly revered warrior instrumental in the early stages of Islam. In 1982, he starred in the Lion of the Desert, together with Irene Papas, Oliver Reed, Rod Steiger, and John Gielgud. Anthony Quinn played the real-life Bedouin leader Omar Mukhtar who fought Mussolini’s Italian troops in the deserts of Libya. The film, produced and directed by Moustapha Akkad, is now critically acclaimed, but performed poorly at the box office because of negative publicity in the West at the time of its release, stemming from its having been partially funded by Libya’s Muammar al-Gaddafi. In 1983, he reprised his most famous role, playing Zorba the Greek for 362 performances in a successful revival of the Kander and Ebb musical Zorba.
Anthony Quinn’s film career slowed during the 1990s, but Anthony Quinn nonetheless continued to work steadily, appearing in Revenge (1990), Jungle Fever (1991), Last Action Hero (1993), and A Walk in the Clouds (1995). In 1994, he played Zeus in the five TV movies that led to the syndicated series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. (However, he did not continue in the actual series, and the role was eventually filled by several other actors).
Throughout his teenage years he won various art competitions in California and focused his studies at Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles on drafting. Later, Anthony Quinn studied briefly under Frank Lloyd Wright through the Taliesin Fellowship—an opportunity created by winning 1st prize in an architectural design contest. Through Frank Lloyd Wright’s recommendation, Anthony Quinn took acting lessons as a form of post-operative speech therapy, which led to an acting career that spanned over 6 decades.
Apart from art classes taken in Chicago during the 1950s, Anthony Quinn never attended art school; nonetheless, taking advantage of books, museums, and amassing a sizable collection, he managed to give himself an effective education in the language of modern art. Although Anthony Quinn remained mostly self-taught, intuitively seeking out and exploring new ideas, there is observable history in his work because he had assiduously studied the modernist masterpieces on view in the galleries of New York, Mexico City, Paris, and London. When filming on location around the world, Anthony Quinn was exposed to regional contemporary art styles exhibited at local galleries and studied art history in each area.
In an endless search for inspiration, he was influenced by his Mexican ancestry, decades of residency in Europe, and lengthy stays in Africa and the Middle East while filming in the 1970s and 1980s.
By the early 1980s, his work had caught the eyes of various gallery owners and was exhibited internationally, in New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and Mexico City. Anthony Quinn’s work is now represented in both public and private collections throughout the world.
Anthony Quinn wrote 2 memoirs, The Original Sin (1972) and One Man Tango (1997), a number of scripts, and a series of unpublished stories currently in the collection of his archive.
Anthony Quinn’s personal life was as volatile and passionate as the characters he played in films. anthony Quinn’s 1st wife was the adopted daughter of Cecil B. DeMille, the actress Katherine DeMille, whom he married in 1937. The couple had 5 children, they are Christopher (born 1939), Christina (born 1 December, 1941), Catalina (born 21 November, 1942), Duncan (born 4 August, 1945), and Valentina (born 26 December, 1952). One of their sons, Christopher, age 2, drowned in the swimming pool of next-door neighbor W.C. Fields. Anthony Quinn and DeMille were divorced in 1965.
The next year, he married costume designer Iolanda Quinn (Jolanda Addolori). They had 3 children they are Francesco (born 22 March, 1962), Danny (born 16 April, 1964), and Lorenzo (born 7 May, 1966). The union ended in 1997, after Anthony Quinn fathered a child with his secretary, Kathy Benvin. Anthony Quinn then married Benvin, with whom he had 2 children, Antonia (born 23 July, 1993) and Ryan Nicholas (born 5 July, 1996). Anthony Quinn and Kathy Benvin remained together until his death.
Anthony Quinn also fathered 3 other children out of wedlock: Alexander Anthony (born 30 December, 1976), Valentina, and Sean Quinn, a New Jersey real estate agent.
Anthony Quinn spent his last years in Bristol, Rhode Island. Anthony Quinn died aged 86 in Boston, Massachusetts from pneumonia and respiratory failure while suffering from throat cancer shortly after completing his role in his last film, Avenging Angelo (2002).
Anthony Quinn’s funeral was held in a Baptist church; late in life, he had joined the Foursquare evangelical Christian community. Anthony Quinn is buried in a family plot near Bristol.
On 5 January, 1982, the Belvedere County Public Library in East Los Angeles was renamed in honour of Anthony Quinn. The present library sits on the site of his family’s former home.
There is an Anthony Quinn Bay and Beach in Rhodes, Dodecanese, Greece, just 2.7 miles (4.3 km) south of the village of Faliraki (aka Falirakion or Falirákion).
The National Council of La Raza gives the Anthony Quinn Award for excellence in motion pictures as an ALMA Award.
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