Mad Anthony Quinn — Actor (1937) 🇺🇸

Anthony Quinn (1937) |

March 07, 2022

A versatile young man has become a veritable Caesar of the Cinema. He came — he saw — he conquered. And this story gives you the reasons.

by David Bramson

His friends call him “Mad Anthony” because of those mysterious calls which come to this handsome son of an Irish mining engineer and an Aztec mother seemingly out of the blue. There is no other explanation for them except as Anthony himself says, “Some people might call them hunches, but whatever they are and whenever they come, I have no other course but to obey them blindly, the urge is so strong. So far, I have never regretted following any of them, especially the one which brought me back to Hollywood.”

It was only last year that two stalwart youths were sitting on the dock at picturesque Ensenada waiting to “ship out” on the steamer bound for Mexico City when one of them picked up a newspaper dropped by a Portuguese fisherman, in the drama section he read that Cecil B. DeMille was going to produce The Plainsman. Turning to his companion, Tony Quinn said, “I belong in that picture. I’m going back to Hollywood.” A side-door pullman was his coach-and-four.

It was three days before he discovered the whereabouts of the noted producer. When at last DeMille himself came through the main gate at Paramount, Tony walked up to him. And then a strange thing happened. DeMille discovered Anthony Quinn! “My boy,” he exclaimed, before the tall dark youth could open his mouth, “where have you been hiding yourself? I’ve been looking everywhere for some one of your type.” Again Tony Quinn had answered his call.

DeMille later confirmed his snap appraisal by including Anthony in his selection of the ten best supporting actors of 1936.

The studio received so many letters from fans inquiring the identity of the unknown Indian in The Plainsman, that Tony was given a role requiring expert histrionic ability in “Swing High, Swing Low.” You all saw him sock and be socked by Fred MacMurray in the picture, and although he appeared on the screen for less than two minutes, the avalanche of fan mail piled high in his dressing room indicated that already Tony Quinn was definitely entrenched in the hearts of the great theatre going public.

As a result of this widespread acclaim, he was awarded a long term contract by Paramount. He next portrayed the young Kanaka friend of Bing Crosby in “Waikiki Wedding,” and was then given the most important role in “The Last Train From Madrid,” with Helen Mack and Dorothy Lamour.

Do not think for one moment that the road to cinematic fame lies in merely being seen by a Hollywood producer. Remember that Anthony Quinn had much more than that to offer. He has overcome countless obstacles and made many sacrifices. He discarded a college career and a chance to enter his stepfather’s contracting business for the comparatively uncertain profession of acting. His faith in his hunches was responsible for that.

“I had just graduated from Polytechnic High in Los Angeles,” Tony explains it, “and my father gave me the money to enroll in the University of Southern California. From somewhere came that urge to become an actor, so instead of the university I enrolled in a little theatre. I was doing fine until my father found out that I wanted to be an actor. Well, from then on I was on my own.”

A ramshackle hut in the gulley on Maltman Street which rented for the staggering sum of $8.50 per month, unfurnished, was Tony’s first residence. “And don’t think that $8.50 wasn’t important money to me in those days. What I didn’t do to pay the rent on time!”

“What did you use for furniture?” we asked.

“Made it from some old apple boxes,” was his reply. “And the same pieces are still doing parlor duty for me.”

“But you had to eat?” we asked.

“Easy,” was the laconic reply. For an actor to find means of providing regular nourishment in the best of times is no small accomplishment. But it was easy for Tony!

“Four a. m. found me hard at work in the produce markets helping the boys load crates of vegetables. They used to give me a big sackful for helping them. How can you starve when you’ve got vegetables? By the way, drop around any night if you like vegetable soup. The Quinn cuisine is never without it. I make it myself.”

“What did you do with your spare time?”

“What spare time?” Tony countered. “Remember that I also had to earn enough money for my clothing, and other incidentals during the day so I could continue with my little theatre work at night. I washed dishes to pay the rent.”

Today,  in spite of his meteoric rise on the silver screen, he is still the eager youngster, draining the cup of life by mastering in a short span of years as many of the creative arts as possible. His play, 33 Men, is slated for Broadway production. He is a sculptor and painter of no mean ability and his works will soon be exhibited in a prominent San Francisco art gallery.

He is the only actor in Hollywood today who spends a greater proportion of his salary on books and records than he does on clothes.

A talk with him reveals that although the spirit of creative expression is strong within him, he is not aware of the impelling force behind it. That is his heritage. With the deep introspection and philosophy handed down by those ancient masters of culture — the Aztecs — Anthony searches the horizon of life and selects an ideal... a dream. Then the banshees of his Irish ancestry give vent to a war cry and show him the way to make this dream a reality. Else how can one account for the restless urges that spur this twenty-two-year-old youngster to accomplish over a short span of years, in four great fields of art, achievements that most of us never accomplish in one during an entire lifetime?

Much will be written about Anthony Quinn, the Actor, before another of those calls takes him from the realm of the screen into another field of creative art, because he will not be satisfied until he has contributed something thoroughly worth while in motion pictures. And from present indications it looks as though he will.

Fritz Leiber, veteran Shakespearean star now in pictures, exhibits his first seven Shakespearean masks of himself. Lieber’s most recent film role was that of Father Andrew in "The Prince and the Pauper."

Collection: Hollywood Magazine, September 1937