Karl Malden, an Oscar- and Emmy-winning actor and former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, died of natural causes today in Los Angeles at the age of 97. His long life and successful career were virtually free of scandal or controversy, and as an actor he was by all accounts a consummate professional. He and his wife, Mona, who survives him, were married for 70 years, which might literally be a show-business record.

Malden was born Mladen George Sekulovich in Chicago, the son of a Serbian father and Czech mother. He changed his name for obvious reasons when he went into acting (after working alongside his father in the steel mills), but often found a way for someone to mention the name "Sekulovich" in his films, as a tribute to his roots. He appeared in 21 Broadway productions between 1937 and 1957, including the premiere of A Streetcar Named Desire in 1947. He and several other cast members from the show, including Marlon Brando, reprised their roles for the 1951 film version, and Malden won an Oscar for best supporting actor. He was later nominated for On the Waterfront, in which he also appeared with Brando. Overall, he appeared in some 50 films, 19 in the 1960s alone.

In the 1970s, he earned four Emmy nominations as the star of The Streets of San Francisco, where he played an experienced cop working with rookie Michael Douglas. Malden also appeared in American Express TV commercials throughout the '70s ("Don't leave home without it"), an oft-parodied but long-remembered campaign that worked because of his familiar, trustworthy face. His bulbous nose, perhaps the most recognizable thing about him, was the result of sports injuries in his youth, and Malden joked about it frequently. He later won an Emmy for his work in the 1984 miniseries Fatal Vision.
categories Cinematical