Anthony Quinn

Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca (April 21, 1915 June 3, 2001),[1] known professionally as Anthony Quinn, was a Mexican-American actor, painter, writer and film director. He starred in numerous critically acclaimed movies, including La Strada, The Guns of Navarone, Zorba the Greek, Guns for San Sebastian, Lawrence of Arabia, The Shoes of the Fisherman, The Message, Lion of the Desert, Last Action Hero and A Walk in the Clouds.

Anthony Quinn
Anthony Quinn in c. 1955
Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca

(1915-04-21)April 21, 1915
Chihuahua, Mexico
DiedJune 3, 2001(2001-06-03) (aged 86)
Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.
OccupationActor, painter, writer, film director
Years active1936–2001
  • Katherine DeMille
    (m. 1937; div. 1965)
  • Jolanda Addolori
    (m. 1966; div. 1997)
  • Kathy Benvin (m. 1997)
Partner(s)Friedel Dunbar
AwardsAcademy Award (1952, 1956)
Hollywood Walk of Fame
ALMA Award
Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award

Quinn won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor twice: for Viva Zapata! in 1952 and Lust for Life in 1956. In addition, he received two Academy Award nominations in the Best Leading Actor category, along with five Golden Globe nominations. In 1987, he was presented with the Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award.

Early life

Quinn was born Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca on April 21, 1915, in Chihuahua, Mexico, during the Mexican Revolution to Manuela "Nellie" (née Oaxaca)[2] and Francisco "Frank" Quinn.[3][4] Frank Quinn was born to an Irish immigrant father from County Cork and a Mexican mother.[5] Frank reportedly rode with Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa,[3] then later moved to the East Los Angeles neighborhood of City Terrace and became an assistant cameraman at a movie studio. In Quinn's autobiography, The Original Sin: A Self-portrait by Anthony Quinn, he denied being the son of an "Irish adventurer" and attributed that tale to Hollywood publicists.

When he was six years old, Quinn attended a Catholic church (even thinking he wanted to become a priest). At age eleven, however, he joined the Pentecostals in the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (the Pentecostal followers of Aimee Semple McPherson).[6] For a time he played in the church's band and was an apprentice preacher with the renowned evangelist. "I have known most of the great actresses of my time, and not one of them could touch her", Quinn once said of the spellbinding McPherson, whom he credited with inspiring Zorba's gesture of the dramatically outstretched hand.[7]

Quinn grew up first in El Paso, Texas, and later in East Los Angeles and in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles, California. He attended Hammel Street Elementary School, Belvedere Junior High School, Polytechnic High School and finally Belmont High School in Los Angeles, with future baseball player and General Hospital star John Beradino, but left before graduating. Tucson High School in Arizona, many years later, awarded him an honorary high school diploma.[8]

As a young man, Quinn boxed professionally to earn money, then studied art and architecture under Frank Lloyd Wright, at Wright's Arizona residence and his Wisconsin studio, Taliesin. The two men became friends. When Quinn mentioned that he was drawn to acting, Wright encouraged him. Quinn said he had been offered $800 per week by a film studio and didn't know what to do. Wright replied, "Take it, you'll never make that much with me." During a 1999 interview on the show Private Screenings with Robert Osborne, Quinn said the contract was for only $300 per week.[9]


After a short time performing on the stage, Quinn launched his film career performing character roles in the 1936 films The Plainsman (1936) as a Cheyenne Indian after Custer's defeat with Gary Cooper, Parole (in which he made his debut) and The Milky Way. He played "ethnic" villains in Paramount films such as Dangerous to Know (1938) and Road to Morocco, and played a more sympathetic Crazy Horse in They Died with Their Boots On with Errol Flynn.[10]

A breakthrough in his career occurred in 1941 when he received an offer to play a matador in the bullfighting-themed Blood and Sand with Tyrone Power and Rita Hayworth. In 1942, he co-starred alongside Power in another critical and financial success, the swashbuckling adventure The Black Swan. In 1943, he had a role in the Oscar-nominated western The Ox-Bow Incident.

By 1947, he had appeared in more than fifty films and had played Indians, Mafia dons, Hawaiian chiefs, Filipino freedom-fighters, Chinese guerrillas, and Arab sheiks, but was still not a major star. He returned to the theater, replacing Marlon Brando as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire on Broadway. In 1947, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States.[4]

He came back to Hollywood in the early 1950s, specializing in tough guy roles. He was cast in a series of B-adventures such as Mask of the Avenger (1951). His big break came from playing opposite Marlon Brando in Elia Kazan's Viva Zapata! (1952). Quinn's performance as Zapata's brother won Quinn an Oscar while Brando lost the Oscar for Best Actor to Gary Cooper in High Noon.[10] He holds the distinction of being the first Mexican-American to win an Academy Award.

He traveled to Rome where he collaborated with several renowned Italian filmmakers. He worked with Dino De Laurentis and Carlo Ponti in the Kirk Douglas film, Ulysses and starred as Attila the Hun with Sophia Loren in Attila. In 1953, he turned in one of his best performances as a dim-witted, thuggish and volatile strongman in Federico Fellini's Oscar winning La Strada (1954) opposite Giulietta Masina. Quinn won his second Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of painter Paul Gauguin in Vincente Minnelli's Lust for Life (1956). He starred as Quasimodo in the French language film The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The following year, he received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his part in George Cukor's Wild Is the Wind. He starred in the film The Savage Innocents (1959) as Inuk, an Eskimo who finds himself caught between two clashing cultures.[10]

He appeared on Broadway to great acclaim in Becket, as King Henry II to Laurence Olivier's Thomas Becket in 1960. His performance earned him a Tony Award nomination for best leading actor and Becket received the award for best play. An erroneous story arose in later years that during the run Quinn and Olivier switched roles and Quinn played Becket to Olivier's King. In fact, Quinn left the production for a film, never having played Becket, and director Peter Glenville suggested a road tour with Olivier as Henry. Olivier happily agreed and Arthur Kennedy took on the role of Becket for the tour and brief return to Broadway.[11][12]

As the decade ended, Quinn allowed his age to show and began his transformation into a major character actor. His physique filled out, his hair grayed, and his once smooth, swarthy face weathered and became more rugged. He played a Greek resistance fighter in The Guns of Navarone (1961), an aging boxer in Requiem for a Heavyweight, and the Bedouin shaikh Auda abu Tayi in Lawrence of Arabia (both 1962). Lawrence of Arabia would go on to win the Oscar and Golden Globe for best picture, and Quinn received a Golden Globe nomination for best actor alongside co-star Peter O'Toole. He also played the title role in the 1961 film Barabbas, based on a novel by Pär Lagerkvist.[10] In 1962, he returned to Broadway, playing the role of Caesario Grimaldi in the Tony Award nominated Tchin-Tchin.

The success of Zorba the Greek in 1964 resulted in another Oscar nomination for Best Actor. Other films included The 25th Hour, The Magus, La Bataille de San Sebastian and The Shoes of the Fisherman.[10] In 1969, he starred in The Secret of Santa Vittoria with Anna Magnani; each was nominated for a Golden Globe Award.[13]

In 1971, after the success of a TV movie named The City, where Quinn played Mayor Thomas Jefferson Alcala, he starred in the television series, The Man and the City. Quinn's subsequent television appearances were sporadic, including Jesus of Nazareth.[10]

In 1972, he costarred with Yaphet Kotto in the blaxploitation film "Across 110th Street". He played NYPD Captain Frank Martelli, who along with Kotto, was investigating a robbery-homicide of Italian and Black gangsters in Harlem, New York City. He played the old racist violent Captain against Kotto’s modern, educated, enlightened Lieutenant.

In 1976, he starred in the movie Mohammad, Messenger of God (also known as The Message), about the origin of Islam, as Hamza, a highly respected uncle of Mohammad, the prophet of Islam.[10] In 1981, he starred in Lion of the Desert. Quinn played real-life Bedouin leader Omar Mukhtar who fought Benito Mussolini's Italian troops in the deserts of Libya.[10]

In 1983, he reprised his role as Zorba the Greek for 362 performances in a successful musical version, called Zorba, opposite fellow film co-star Lila Kedrova, reprising her role as Madame Hortense. Quinn performed in the musical both on Broadway and at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.[14]

In 1990, he starred in The Old Man and the Sea, a television movie based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway. Quinn's film career slowed during the 1990s, but he nonetheless continued to work steadily, appearing in Revenge (1990), Jungle Fever (1991), Last Action Hero (1993), A Walk in the Clouds (1995) and Seven Servants (1996).[10]

In 1994 Quinn played the role of Zeus in five television movies focusing on the legendary journeys of Hercules. These were, in order, Hercules and the Amazon Women, Hercules and the Lost Kingdom, Hercules and the Circle of Fire, Hercules in the Underworld, and Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur [10]


Quinn made an appearance at the John Gotti trial, according to John H. Davis, author of Mafia Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of the Gambino Crime Family. He told reporters he wanted to play Paul Castellano, the boss of the Gambino family after Carlo Gambino. Gotti had Castellano murdered, becoming the boss of the Gambino family thereafter. Gotti was on trial concerning a variety of felony charges when Quinn visited the courtroom.

Although he tried to shake hands with Gotti, federal marshals prevented him from doing so, Davis says. The actor interpreted the testimony of Sammy ("The Bull") Gravano, Gotti's underboss, against Gotti as "a friend who betrays a friend." He had not come to "judge" Gotti, Quinn insisted, but only because he wanted to portray Castellano, who inspired the actor because he had had a "thirty-year-old" mistress, which Quinn believed was "a beautiful thing". He would later portray Gambino family underboss Aniello Dellacroce in the 1996 HBO film Gotti as well as Joe Masseria in the 1991 film Mobsters.

Quinn was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance as Dellacroce.

Quinn had a personal relationship with New York City Mafia crime boss Frank Costello and other Genovese gangsters.[15][16]

Painting and writing

Art critic Donald Kuspit explains, "Examining Quinn's many expressions of creativity together—his art, collecting, and acting—we can see that he was a creative genius".[17]

Early in life Quinn had an interest in painting and drawing. Throughout his teenage years he won various art competitions in California and focused his studies at Polytechnic High School in Los Angeles on drafting. Later, Quinn studied briefly under Frank Lloyd Wright through the Taliesin Fellowship — an opportunity created by winning first prize in an architectural design contest. Through Wright's recommendation, Quinn took acting lessons as a form of post-operative speech therapy, which led to an acting career that spanned over six decades.

Apart from art classes taken in Chicago during the 1950s, Quinn never attended art school; nonetheless, taking advantage of books, museums, and amassing a sizable collection, he managed to give himself an effective education in the language of modern art. By the early 1980s, his work had caught the eyes of various gallery owners and was exhibited internationally, in Mexico City, Los Angeles, New York City and Paris, and. His work is now represented in both public and private collections throughout the world.[18]

He wrote two memoirs, The Original Sin (1972) and One Man Tango (1997), a number of scripts, and a series of unpublished stories currently in the collection of his archive.

Civil rights activism

Quinn, who experienced discrimination growing up in Los Angeles, participated in various civil rights and social causes. He provided funding for the Latino advocacy group, the Spanish-Speaking People's Congress.[19] He assisted in fundraising efforts for the legal defense of Mexican American youth in the racially charged Sleepy Lagoon murder trial in 1942. While in Paris, he and several other prominent Americans, composed a petition endorsing the 1963 March on Washington. The petition, which was reprinted in several high profile publications, was intended to rally support among Americans living abroad.[20] In 1969, he visited with Native American student activists occupying Alcatraz Island in protest, promising to offer assistance.[21] In 1970, Quinn was a panelist at the Mexican-American Conference.[22] In 1971, he narrated a documentary film by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discussing job discrimination faced by Hispanic Americans.[23] He was a supporter of the United Farm Workers organization led by his friend and labor activist Cesar Chavez.[24]

Personal life

Quinn's first wife was the adopted daughter of Cecil B. DeMille, the actress Katherine DeMille; they wed in 1937. The couple had five children: Christopher (19381941), Christina (born December 1, 1941), Catalina (born November 21, 1942), Duncan (born August 4, 1945), and Valentina (born December 26, 1952).[25] Their first child, Christopher, aged two, drowned in the lily pond of next-door neighbor W. C. Fields.[25]

In 1965, Quinn and DeMille were divorced, because of his affair with Italian costume designer Jolanda Addolori, whom he married in 1966. They had three children: Francesco Quinn (March 22, 1963 – August 5, 2011), Danny Quinn (born April 16, 1964), and Lorenzo Quinn (born May 7, 1966).

In the 1970s, during his marriage to Addolori, Quinn also had two children with an event producer in Los Angeles named Friedel Dunbar: Sean Quinn (born February 7, 1973) and Alexander Anthony Quinn (born December 30, 1976).

By the 1990s, Quinn then had two children with his secretary, Katherine Benvin; daughter Antonia Patricia Rose Quinn (born July 23, 1993) and son Ryan Nicholas Quinn (born July 5, 1996).[15][26] His marriage with Addolori finally ended in divorce in August 1997. He then married Benvin in December 1997. Quinn and Benvin remained married until his death, in June 2001.


Quinn spent his last years in Bristol, Rhode Island. He died of respiratory failure, pneumonia and throat cancer on June 3, 2001 in Boston, Massachusetts at the age of 86.[3]

His funeral was held in the First Baptist Church in America in College Hill, Providence, Rhode Island. Late in life, he had rejoined the Foursquare evangelical Christian community. He is buried in a family plot in Bristol, Rhode Island.

Tributes and legacy

In his birthplace Chihuahua, Mexico,[27] there is a statue of Quinn doing his famous "Zorba the Greek" dance. A 70-foot high mural, entitled "Anthony Quinn" or more commonly The Pope of Broadway (1984) by Eloy Torrez, is at 259 W. Third Street, Los Angeles, California.

On January 5, 1982, the Belvedere County Public Library in East Los Angeles was renamed in honor of Anthony Quinn. The present library sits on the site of his family's former home.[28]

There is an Anthony Quinn Bay and Beach in Rhodes, Greece, just 2.7 miles (4.3 km) south of the village of Faliraki (aka Falirakion or Falirákion).[29] The land was bought by Quinn during the filming of The Guns of Navarone in Rhodes; however, it was reclaimed by the Greek government in 1984 due to a change in property law.[30]

Since 2002,[31] the National Council of La Raza has given the Anthony Quinn Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures as an ALMA Award.[32] His wife Katherine Benvin Quinn established the Anthony Quinn Foundation which advocates the importance of arts in education.[33]



Year Film Role Awards
1952 Viva Zapata! Eufemio Zapata Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1956 Lust for Life Paul Gauguin Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
1957 Wild Is the Wind Gino Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actor
1962 Lawrence of Arabia Auda abu Tayi Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Drama
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Foreign Actor
1964 Zorba the Greek Alexis Zorba National Board of Review Award for Best Actor
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
1969 The Secret of Santa Vittoria Italio Bombolini Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1987 Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award
1988 Onassis: The Richest Man in the World Socrates Onassis Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
1992 Mobsters Joe Masseria Nominated—Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor
1996 Gotti[34] Aniello Dellacroce Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor - Series, Miniseries or Television Film

See also

  • Biography portal


  1. Scott L. Baugh, Latino American Cinema: An Encyclopedia of Movies, Stars, Concepts, and Trends, page 221 (Greenwood, 2012. ISBN 978-0-313-38036-5).
  2. "Anthony: The Mighty Quinn",, June 3, 2001; accessed March 7, 2015.
  3. Gates, Anita (June 4, 2001). "Anthony Quinn Dies at 86; Played Earthy Tough Guys". The New York Times.
  4. Profile,; accessed March 7, 2015.
  5. The films of Anthony Quinn. Google Books. 1975. Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  6. Anthony Quinn. –
  7. Stephen M. Silverman. "Macho Actor Anthony Quinn Made Passion His Compass" Archived April 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine,; accessed March 30, 2015.
  8. "Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona on June 6, 1987 · Page 34". Retrieved December 4, 2017.
  9. Private Screenings with Robert Osborne, Turner Classic Movies cable channel, re-aired April 21, 2009 (originally broadcast 1999).
  10. Anthony Quinn on IMDb
  11. "Henry the Second", Time Magazine, April 7, 1961.
  12. Spoto, Donald. Laurence Olivier: A Biography. New York: Harper Collins, pp. 360–68.
  13. Golden Globe awards: 1970,; accessed March 30, 2015.
  14. Anthony Quinn at the Internet Broadway Database
  15. Profile of Anthony Quinn Archived April 3, 2008, at the Wayback Machine,; accessed March 30, 2015.
  16. Transcript: "Remembering Anthony Quinn", Larry King Live, June 4, 2001; accessed May 12, 2008.
  17. Exhibitions: Feedback Archived May 11, 2008, at the Wayback Machine,; accessed March 30, 2015.
  18. "A Glance In The Mirror by Anthony Quinn - Art encounter". Art encounter. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  25. "Chronology of Anthony Quinn and Related World Events" Archived May 28, 2008, at the Wayback Machine; accessed March 30, 2015.
  26. McFarland, Jodi (May 6, 2008). "Mid-Michigan Hispanic Business Association hosts art reception honoring the late Anthony Quinn". mlive. Retrieved August 7, 2011.
  27. "Tips: Things to do in Chihuahua, Mexico". Retrieved January 7, 2012.
  28. Los Angeles County Anthony Quinn Public Library,; accessed March 30, 2015.
  29. Anthony Quinn Bay and Beach,; accessed March 30, 2015.
  30. Quinn's widow adopts legal battle,; accessed March 30, 2015.
  31. Associated Press (April 20, 2002). "Banderas Gets Anthony Quinn Award". Midland Reporter-Telegram. Archived from the original on July 20, 2018. Actor Antonio Banderas was on hand to accept the first Anthony Quinn Award for Excellence in Cinema and the Arts.
  32. Associated Press (May 8, 2006). "Garcia, Anthony Honored at Alma Awards". The Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved July 20, 2018. Marc Anthony and Andy Garcia were honored with special tributes at Sunday's 2006 ALMA Awards, which celebrated achievements by Hispanic artists from the worlds of music, television and film. Anthony received the Celia Cruz Award for Excellence in Music while Garcia took home the Anthony Quinn Award for Excellence in Motion Pictures.
  34. Gotti – awards – IMDb
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