85 (passed away Jul. 19th, 2006)
Sep. 18th, 1920
Newark, New Jersey
5' 10 1/2
Jack Warden's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
Jack Warden was born John H. Lebzelter on September 18, 1920 in Newark, New Jersey to Laura M. (Costello) and Jack Warden Lebzelter. His father was of German and Irish descent, and his mother was of Irish ancestry. Raised in Louisville, Kentucky, at the age of 17, young Jack Lebzelter was expelled from Louisville's DuPont Manual High School for repeatedly fighting. Good with his fists, he turned professional, boxing as a welterweight under the name "Johnny Costello", adopting his mother's maiden name. In 1938 he signed up with theU.S. Navy and served in China with the Yangtzee River Patrol for the best part of his three-year hitch before joining the Merchant Marine in 1941. he read a play by Clifford Odets and so after WWII he decided to become an actor, taking his father's middle name as his surname. With his athletic physique, he was routinely cast in bit parts as soldiers. In the 1950's he was in From Here to Eternity (1953), 12 Angry Men (1957), Edge of the City (1957) and, Run Silent Run Deep (1958). In the 1960s and early 70s, his most memorable work was on television, playing a detective in The Asphalt Jungle (1961), The Wackiest Ship in the Army (1965) and N.Y.P.D. (1967). He opened up the decade of the 1970s by winning an Emmy Award playing football coach "George Halas" in Brian's Song (1971), the highly-rated and acclaimed TV movie based on Gale Sayers's memoir, "I Am Third". He appeared again as a detective in the TV series, Jigsaw John (1976), in the mid-1970s, The Bad News Bears (1979). His collaboration with Warren Beatty in two 1970s films brought him to the summit of his career as he displayed a flair for comedy in both Shampoo (1975) and Heaven Can Wait (1978). He was married to French stage actress Wanda Ottoni, best known for her role as the object of Joe Besser's desire in The Three Stooges short, Fifi Blows Her Top (1958). She gave up her career after her marriage. They had one son, Christopher.
- Member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Actors Branch)
- Along with Gilbert Gottfried, one of only two actors to appear in all three Problem Child films. Unlike Gottfried, Warden did not participate in the animated series.
- Fought in The Battle of the Bulge during WWII.
- Separated from wife 'Vanda Dupre' (qv) some time in the mid 1970s. However, they never got divorced and were still legally married at the time of his death.
- Boxed as a welterweight under the name "Johnny Costello" in his youth.
- Moved to Louisville, Kentucky, as a youth to live with his grandparents. He graduated from Du Pont Manuel High School in Louisville.
- Fought on the same card as 'Charles Durning' (qv) in Madison Square Garden.
- He served in the U.S. Navy from 1938-1941 then joined the Merchant Marine as water tender in the engine room but disliked convoy duty because of Axis aircraft attacks and his location 3 decks below the main deck -- this, as he says, ended his "romance with the life of a sailor." He left the Merchant Marine in 1942, joined the Army and became a platoon sergeant and parachute jump master in the 101st Airborne. While hospitalized with a leg injury sustained in a jump, Warden read a play written by Clifford Odets and decided to be come an actor.
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