He was signed to play the part of Angelo Maggio in From Here To Eternity, but later withdrew. Frank Sinatra got the part and won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, reviving his own film career.
He was a very close friend of Arthur Miller for many years. He used to call Miller once every month to tell him a joke and hear a laugh.
He was 41 years old when he made his feature film debut in Baby Doll.
He is the subject of the song Eli Wallach, on the album "(Methods of Getting Rid of) Hiccups" by Australian singer/songwriter Darren Hanlon.
His performance as Alvaro Mangiacavallo in The Rose Tattoo opposite Maureen Stapleton as Serafina won him a Theare World Award and the 1951 Tony Award as Best Featured Actor in a Play.
He has worked with some of the biggest film stars of the the last sixty years including Charles Laughton, Edward G. Robinson, Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Robert Vaughn, Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Peter O'Toole, Clint Eastwood, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Kevin Bacon and Laurence Fishburne.
Despite the fact that he is a Jewish actor from New York who could barely speak a word of Spanish, he was cast as Mexicans in several different films including Baby Doll, The Magnificent Seven, The Misfits, How the West Was Won and THe Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
He was almost killed twice during the filming of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. He was almost poisoned on the set after drinking acid used to burn the bags filled with gold coin to make them rip open easier when struck with the spade. The acid was housed in a lemon soda bottle. He drank milk and filmed the scene with a mouth full of sores. He would have been decapitated during the train scene if he lifted his head up. You can see the step that would have knocked off his head in the wide-shot.
While attending the University of Texas in Austin in the 1930s, he appeared in plays with Walter Cronkite and future Governor of Texas John Connally.
He has a brother and two sisters, all of whom became teachers.
In the Murder, She Wrote episode "A Good Year for Murder", he played a dying man, Salatore Gambini, who committed a murder because he had nothing to lose. In the Law & Order episode "The Working Stiff", he played a character, Simon Vilanis, who was suspected of committing a murder for the same reason although he ultimately proved to be innocent.
He is best known for his role as the lead bandit Calvera in The Magnificent Seven. Although his character is eventually defeated in the film, he has outlived six of the seven stars, as Robert Vaughn is the only one who is still alive as of February 2006, despite the fact that he is older than all of them except for Yul Brynner. The youngest of them, Horst Buchholz, who died on March 3, 2003, was over 17 years younger than him.
He was named "King of Brooklyn" at the Welcome Back to Brooklyn Festival in 1998. His wife Anne Jackson was named "King of Brooklyn" at the same festival.
His son, Peter Wallach, is a special effects director.
Eli Wallach: (about his role as Mr. Freeze in Batman): "I did Mr. Freeze. I get more mail for him than anything I've ever done. I said, 'My God, Schwarzenegger just did the same part and he got 20 million.' So my wife said, 'Well, why don't you lift weights?'"
Eli Wallach: (about technology) "Where are you getting all this vitae about me? Off a computer? I don't know about privacy any more. I really don't. People send me stuff even I've forgotten. I still have a rotary phone. Over my objections, they put in a fax."
He earned his master's degree from the City College of New York in 1938 and received a scholarship to New York's Neighborhood Playhouse.
He attended the University of Texas in Austin. He graduated with a BA degree in 1936 and subsequently attended the City College of New York, planning to be a teacher.
He has three grandsons.
He served for five years in the Army's Medical Administrative Corps during World War II, eventually attaining the rank of captain.
Eli Wallach: "When I'm gone, I hope there's a theater in the next world where I can work."