LOS ANGELES – Seven decades after he left a steady income in the steel mills of Gary, Ind., to try acting, Karl Malden (search) was honored by his colleagues Sunday for a lifetime of memorable roles in film and television.
The Oscar- and Emmy-winning actor was given the Screen Actors Guild's life achievement award, presented annually since 1964 to an actor who upholds the ideals of the profession.
"To the wonderful Screen Actors Guild, for all the actors and actresses in our country and to this moment for everybody here, let me say I'm thankful for this moment in my career," said Malden, who turns 92 in March. "And if I may say so, I'm thankful to you, this life of mine, this is the peak for me."
In the 1930s, Malden could only put $300 toward the $900 tuition at Chicago's Goodman Theatre (search), where the director encouraged him to attend for three months and, if he didn't belong, he'd be told. He proved himself and earned a full scholarship for three years.
Malden won a supporting actor Oscar in 1951 for "A Streetcar Named Desire," appearing opposite Marlon Brando (search). He received an Emmy in 1985 for the miniseries "Fatal Vision."
The SAG award was presented by Michael Douglas, Malden's co-star in the 1970s detective series "The Streets of San Francisco." (search) Douglas received his own career achievement award at the recent Golden Globes, and Malden was there to support him.
"Karl, we had a lot of fun," said Douglas, who kissed and embraced Malden as he took the stage to a standing ovation.
Born Mladen George Sekulovich to Serbian immigrants, Malden went to the New York stage in 1937 and made his film debut in 1940.
Some of his most memorable movie roles include "On the Waterfront" with Brando, "Birdman of Alcatraz" opposite Burt Lancaster; "I Confess" with Montgomery Clift; "How the West Was Won"; and "The Cincinnati Kid."
He is also well known to a younger generation for his 1970s American Express traveler's check commercials in which he cautioned viewers, "Don't leave home without them."
"Thank you, Karl. We never left home without it," Douglas said.
Malden served on the SAG board of directors from 1963-72.