In case you did not see the most recent issue of the wonderful Czech culture and heritage newspaper, Czech Slavnosti, we bring you a fun and interesting bit of Czech trivia.
Enjoy this fun story.
Don’t Leave Home Without this Czech!
Question: What do General Omar Bradley, Father Corrigan from On the Waterfront, Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire, American Express travelers checks, The Streets of San Francisco, and Mladen Sekulovich all have in common?
Answer: Bohemia! Well, actually the son of a Bohemian mother and a Serbian father. You see Mladen Sekulovich is much better known by this screen name as none other than the wonderful and talented actor Karl Malden.
Mladen Sekulovich, known as ‘Sukie’ to his early friends, or as we know him, Karl Malden, was born in Chicago, Illinois on March 22, 1912. He was the eldest of three sons born to his Serbian father, Petar Sekulovich (1886-1975) from the small village of Bileca, Hercegovina, and his Czech mother, Minnie (nee Sebera) Sekulovich, who was a talented tailor. His father worked most of his life as a milkman.
Karl grew up in Gary, Indiana, and could only speak Serbian until he was in kindergarten. He continued to speak Serbian his entire life.
Karl went from working in the steel mills of Gary to the silver screen of Hollywood and to the small screen of television and met with wonderful success in his career. His earliest acting in New York City drew the attention of famed director, Elia Kazan, a man who would continue to be Karl’s mentor all his life.
Lest anyone believe Karl’s name change had anything to do with Ellis Island (ha-ha), he changed his name at the suggestion of director Kazan. He switched the order of two letters in Mladen for Malden and took Karl, which was the given name of his maternal grandfather.
In 1951, Karl won the Oscar for ‘Best Supporting Actor’ for his portrayal of Mitch in A Streetcar Named Desire. If you don’t remember Karl from that role, you might recall he was Father Corrigan in On the Waterfront, where he acted with none other than Marlon Brando. Two of my personal favorite roles he played were as General Omar Bradly in Patton and as the title character, Skag, in the all too short-lived TV series Skag.
While many actors have failed to make the move from the big screen of Hollywood to the small screen of television, Karl did it with aplomb. In 1972, he approached producer Quinn Martin and sold himself as the actor who should star as Lt. Mike Stone in the new series The Streets of San Francisco, where he was paired with young actor, Michael Douglas. This series ran from 1972 to 1977 and amassed an impressive 119 hour-long episodes.
Karl became so well-known from this series he was approached by the American Express Company to act as their television spokesman and to utter the now ultra-famous words “Don’t leave home without it!”
Later in his storied career, Karl was elected President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and received the Screen Actors’ Guild’s ‘Life Achievement Award’.
Karl was married to Mona Greenberg for nearly 71 years, making it one of the longest lasting marriages in Hollywood. They had two daughters, Mila and Carla.
Now, if you want to have some real fun thanks to Karl, here is something you can do. In almost every show, movie, etc., Karl acted in he managed to insert his real surname, Sekulovich, into the script, often ‘on the fly’. From Patton to Streets, it is there, so watch for it now that you know.
Oh, and just in case you are wondering, as I am, where in Bohemia Karl’s mother was born, I am still in the process of working to find this tidbit out from Karl’s widow, Mona. When I do you’ll read about it first in Czech Slavnosti.