Oscar-winning Actor Karl Malden Dies at 97

July 1, 2009 at 8:50 PM EDT

JIM LEHRER: Finally tonight, the works of actor Karl Malden, who died today at his home in Los Angeles. Malden began his career onstage in the 1930s and appeared in more than 50 films, including “On the Waterfront” and “Patton.” He reached a wide new audience as Lt. Mike Stone in the 1970s television series “The Streets of San Francisco.”

He was also a familiar pitchman for American Express’s “don’t leave home without it” ad for many years. Here he is in one of his best-known roles, an Oscar-winning performance as Mitch, in Blanche DuBois’ suitor, in the 1951 film version of “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

KARL MALDEN, actor: Last Christmas, I was given a membership to the New Orleans sports club.

VIVIEN LEIGH, actress: Oh, good.

KARL MALDEN: It was the finest present I was ever given. I work out there with the weights, and I swim. I keep myself fit. When I started there, I was soft in the belly, but now my belly is hard. It’s so hard now, a man can punch me in the belly and it don’t hurt me. Punch me. Go ahead. Go. Punch. Come on.


KARL MALDEN: You see? Blanche, Blanche, guess how much I weigh.

VIVIEN LEIGH: Why, I’d say in the vicinity of 180 pounds?

KARL MALDEN: No, guess again.

VIVIEN LEIGH: Not too much?

KARL MALDEN: No, more.


KARL MALDEN: I weigh 207 pounds. I’m six-feet-one-and-one-half-inches tall in my bare feet without shoes on, and that’s what I weigh stripped.

VIVIEN LEIGH: Oh, my goodness. It’s awe-inspiring.

KARL MALDEN: But my weight is not a very interesting subject to talk about. What’s yours?

VIVIEN LEIGH: Uh, my weight?


VIVIEN LEIGH: You guess.

KARL MALDEN: Let me lift you.

VIVIEN LEIGH: Samson, go on. Lift me.

KARL MALDEN: Why, you’re light as a feather.

VIVIEN LEIGH: You may release me now.


VIVIEN LEIGH: I said unhand me, sir. Mitch, Mitch, we’re in public. Mitch, you must behave like a gentleman.

KARL MALDEN: Just give me a slap whenever I step out of bounds.

VIVIEN LEIGH: Oh, it won’t be necessary. You’re a natural gentlemen, one of the few left in the world. I don’t want you to think that I’m severe or old maid school teacher or anything. It’s just, well, I — I guess I have old-fashioned ideals.

JIM LEHRER: Karl Malden in “A Streetcar Named Desire.” He died today at age 97.