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Latest update : 2009-07-01

US actor Karl Malden, best known for roles in "On the Waterfront" and "A Streetcar Named Desire," for which he won an Academy Award for his performance alongside Marlon Brando, died in California on Wednesday. He was 97.

REUTERS - Oscar-winning actor Karl Malden, best known for roles in "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "On the Waterfront" and the TV series "The Streets of San Francisco," died on Wednesday at age 97, his agent said.

Malden, also remembered as the commercial spokesman in a trench coat for American Express travelers checks, died in his sleep at about 2:30 a.m. (0930 GMT) in his Los Angeles area home, said the agent, Budd Moss.

Malden, who won his Academy Award for his performance alongside Marlon Brando in the 1951 classic "A Streetcar Named Desire," had been in failing health in recent years.

He was known to younger audiences through his American Express commercials, where he sternly warned tourist "Don't leave home without them."

In a career spanning seven decades, Malden made his mark portraying plain-spoken men of gruff, coarse manner, although he was noted for bringing an understated, natural dignity to many of his roles.

His talents earned him a place in the works of playwrights Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, as well as directors Elia Kazan, Alfred Hitchcock and John Frankenheimer. He shared the screen with the likes of Vivien Leigh, Montgomery Clift, Rod Steiger and George C. Scott.

He was born Mladen George Sekulovich in Chicago to parents of Serb and Czech origins, grew up in Gary, Indiana, and worked at a steel mill before moving to New York City in 1937 to pursue acting.

His stage debut came that year in "Golden Boy" and he later appeared in the original cast of Miller's "All My Sons."

Malden landed his first big-screen part in the 1940 drama "They Knew What They Wanted," starring Carole Lombard and Charles Laughton, and went on to appear in some 50 movies in the next 40 years.

He had a memorable turn as General Omar Bradley in "Patton" in 1970 before becoming a prime-time TV fixture and earning four Emmy nominations as police detective Mike Stone on the 1970s drama "The Streets of San Francisco." Then-budding actor Michael Douglas co-starred as his young partner.

Date created : 2009-07-01