Oscar-winning actor Karl Malden dies at 97

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Actor Karl Malden wins the Life Achievement Award at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2004. Before starring in the TV series "The Streets of San Francisco," the actor made a name for himself opposite Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront.

Oscar-winning actor Karl Malden died Wednesday at his home in Brentwood. He was 97.

KPCC’s Nick Roman says Malden sparkled as a leading man and a supporting character during a career that spanned almost 60 years.

Karl Malden was Gary, Indiana-bred – a steelworker as a young man – and in many of his roles, he reflected the workingman qualities of the Midwest.

Marlon Brando and Lee J. Cobb were the fury in "On The Waterfront." Malden was the moral center as a priest who stands up to a corrupt dock boss. In "Patton," George C. Scott was imperious and vain as General Patton. Malden played the "GI’s General" – Omar Bradley.

But Malden could play tough, too. He did that as a prison warden in "The Birdman of Alcatraz." And he could play naïve. That got him an Oscar as the suitor who chased Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) in "A Streetcar Named Desire."

Malden is best-known role as police Lieutenant Mike Stone in TV's "The Streets of San Francisco." Co-star Michael Douglas still gives Malden credit for teaching him to be an actor. Malden parlayed the image of Mike Stone into a 21-year role as the spokesman for American Express travelers checks. He'd recite the famous tag line at the end of each commercial: "Don't leave home without them."

Malden's last TV role was eight years ago on NBC's "The West Wing." He played a priest invited to the White House to help President Jed Bartlet (Martin Sheen) decide whether to allow a federal prisoner to be executed.

In nearly every one of his movies or TV shows, Malden got the director to include a character named "Sekulovich." That was Karl Malden’s given name: Mladen Sekulovich, just a working stiff from Gary, Indiana.

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