Jack Warden was a character actor from the 1950s to 2000. He made his acting debut at the age of 30 and worked steadily until he was 80 years old. He appeared in over one hundred movies, typically playing gruff cops, sports coaches, soliders, trusted friends and similar type roles. His career spanned six decades and the peak of his career was when he was in his 60s. He also had a career on Broadway and in television.
Jack Warden was born John H. Lebzelter on September 18, 1920 in Newark, New Jersey to Jack Warden Lebzelter and Laura Costello. Jack Warden was raised in Louisville, Kentucky.
At the age of 17, young Jack, was expelled from school for fighting. Good with his fists, he turned professional boxer as a welterweight under the name Johnny Costello.
Since there was not much money in boxing, Jack left the ring and began working as a bouncer in a night club. He also worked as a lifeguard before signing with the U.S. Navy in 1938. He served in China with the Yangtazee River Patrol before joining the Merchant Marine in 1941.
Dissatisfied with life on a ship, he quit in 1942 in order to enlist in the U.S. Army. He was a paratrooper with the elite 101st Airborne Division and missed the June 1944 invasion of Normandy due to a broken leg he suffered during a practice jump shortly before D-Day. After he recovered, he did gone on to fight in the Battle of the Bulge.
While recovering with the broken leg (he spent almost a year in the hospital) he read a Clifford Odets play and decided to become an actor.
After World War II, he moved to New York City and pursued an acting career on the G.I. Bill. He joined the company of the Dallas Alley Theater and performed on the stage for five years. After several years in small, local productions, he made his Broadway debut in 1952 in Golden Boy.
He made his television debut in 1948, on The Philco Television Playhouse. He also would go on to appear in such television shows as Studio One, Mr. Peepers, The Twilight Zone, Bewitched, Dr. Kildare and Crazy Like A Fox.
In 1971, he won an Emmy award for supporting actor for his performance as Chicago Bears coach George Halas in Brian's Song. He also received two Emmy nominations for Lead Actor in a Comedy Series for Crazy Like a Fox.
Jack Warden made his film debut in 1950 in a bit part in an uncredited role in The Asphalt Jungle.
Jack Warden appeared in such films as From Here to Eternity (1953), Edge of the City (1953), 12 Angry Men (1957), Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), Donovan's Reef (1963), Shampoo (1975), All The President's Men (1976), Heaven Can Wait (1978), And Justice for All (1979), Used Cars (1980), The Verdict (1982), Problem Child (1990), While You Were Sleeping (1995) and Dirty Work (1998).
At the age of 80, his final film appearance would be in the The Replacements (2000).
Jack Warden was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performances in Shampoo (1975) and Heaven Can Wait (1978).
Jack Warden passed away on July 19, 2006 at the age of 85 from heart and kidney failure.