Mazurki as Splitface in Dick Tracy (1945)
December 25, 1907
|Died||December 9, 1990
Glendale, California, U.S.
|Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale|
|Spouse(s)||Jeanette Briggs (1943-1950; divorced; 2 children)
Sylvia Weinblatt (1968-1990; his death)
Mike Mazurki (December 25, 1907 – December 9, 1990), born Mikhaił Mazurkiewicz, was an Austrian-born American actor and professional wrestler who appeared in over 100 films. His towering 6' 5" presence and intimidating face usually got him roles playing tough guys, thugs, strong men and gangsters.
Life and career
Mazurki was born in Tarnopol, Galicia, Austria-Hungary (now Ternopil, Ukraine). He emigrated with his family to the United States at the age of six, living in Cohoes, New York, just outside of Albany, in old mill housing on Olmstead Street with his mother. He attended LaSalle Institute in Troy, for high school. He later graduated from Manhattan College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1930. He became a professional athlete in three sports, primarily wrestling but also American football and basketball.
He was discovered by Josef von Sternberg and given a bit part in his film The Shanghai Gesture (1941). This led to a long film and television career. Possibly his most memorable role was that of slow-witted thug Moose Malloy in the 1944 film noir Murder, My Sweet, opposite Dick Powell. He portrayed the psychotic, knife wielding murderer, Splitface, in the original Dick Tracy (1945). He played a wrestler called "The Strangler" in Night and the City (1950). One of his last well-known film roles was that of a George Raft henchman in the classic 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, I Dream of Jeannie, Bonanza and Gunsmoke, to name just a few. In 1964 he played Cully Barstow, a yacht hand, in an episode of Perry Mason titled, "The Case of the Missing Button," in which he threatened Mason and Paul Drake with a set of brass knuckles. He also played Arthur Jacks in the memorable 1963 episode, "The Case of the Deadly Verdict." He was a regular on a short-lived sitcom, The Chicago Teddy Bears.
Along with his film and television works, Mazurki starred 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 Stewart out. Later, Mazurki said that he met more famous people in the making of that video than in any of the feature films or TV shows in which he had starred. In 1966-67 he starred 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. In 2005, he was posthumously awarded the New York State Award by the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame and Museum for founding the club.
- Mike Mazurki at the Internet Movie Database
- Find-A-Grave profile for Mike Mazurki
- Mike Mazurki on Hollywood Archæology
- Mike Mazurki papers, Margaret Herrick Library, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences