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Subject: Archive: Mike Mazurki, Dec. 9, 1990

Character actor
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Date Posted: Sunday, December 09, 04:16:25pm

Mike Mazurki (25 December 1907 9 December 1990) was an American actor and professional wrestler who appeared in more than 100 films. His towering 6 ft 5 in (196 cm) presence and intimidating face usually got him roles playing tough guys, thugs, strong men, and gangsters.

Early years

He was born Markiyan (Mykhailo) Mazurkevych, now Kozova Raion), near what was then Tarnopol, Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now Ternopil, Ukraine). He was from an ethnic Ukrainian family. He emigrated with his family to the United States at the age of six, living in Cohoes, New York, just outside Albany, in old mill housing on Olmstead Street with his mother.

Mazurki attended LaSalle Institute in Troy, for high school. Upon finishing school, he changed his name to "Mike". He played football and basketball at Manhattan College, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1930. He became a professional athlete in three sports, primarily wrestling but also American football and basketball.


Mazurki was discovered by Josef von Sternberg and given a bit part in his film The Shanghai Gesture (1941).[5] This led to a long film and television career. Possibly his most memorable role was that of slow-witted thug Moose Malloy in the film noir Murder, My Sweet (1944), opposite Dick Powell. He portrayed the psychotic, knife-wielding murderer Splitface in the original Dick Tracy (1945). He played a wrestler nicknamed "The Strangler" in Night and the City (1950) and a role imitating the manner of a George Raft henchman in the Billy Wilder comedy, Some Like it Hot (1959). He continued to wrestle during his acting career. His slurred speech was reportedly due to a wrestling injury to his Adam's apple.

Mazurki made guest appearances on many well-known television shows, among them My Friend Flicka (as a wrestler facing Gene Evans's character of Rob McLaughlin), The Untouchables, Bachelor Father, Daniel Boone, Gilligan's Island, The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, Bonanza, and Gunsmoke, to name just a few. In 1964 he played Cully Barstow, a yacht hand, in "The Case of the Missing Button", an episode of Perry Mason in which he threatened Mason and Paul Drake with a set of brass knuckles. He also played Arthur Jacks in the episode "The Case of the Deadly Verdict" (1963). He was a regular as well on the short-lived sitcom The Chicago Teddy Bears.

Along with his film and television works, Mazurki appeared in the hit Rod Stewart music video "Infatuation", playing the bodyguard protecting a woman from a stalker (played by Stewart). In the end, he succeeds, punching out Stewart. In 196667, he performed as the caveman Clon in It's About Time.

In 1965 he co-founded and became the first president of the Cauliflower Alley Club, an association of professional wrestlers. A photograph of his cauliflower ear forms the logo of the organization. He was posthumously awarded the New York State Award in 2005 by the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum for founding the club.

In 1975 he landed his only starring role as Trapper in Challenge to be Free. The film went largely unnoticed, but Mazurki drew praise for his convincing performance as a solitary-minded, nature-loving wilderness man accused of manslaughter.

Acting opportunities for Mazurki began to slow in the 1970s and 1980s; nevertheless, he continued working until his death on December 9, 1990. His final film role, that of "Don Taglianeti", is in the low-budget comedy Mob Boss, which was released just two months before he died.

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Always loved Mazurki's cameo in Rod Stewart's music video "Infactuation" back in 1984! Mazurki later said that he met more famous people in the making of this video than in any of the feature films or TV shows in which he'd starred! ...VIDEOSunday, December 09, 07:44:03pm

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