Karl Malden (born Mladen George Sekulovich; March 22, 1912 – July 1, 2009) was an American actor. In a career that spanned over seven decades, he featured in classic Marlon Brando films such as A Streetcar Named Desire, On the Waterfront and One-Eyed Jacks. Among other notable film roles are Archie Lee Meighan in Baby Doll, Zebulon Prescott in How the West Was Won and General Omar Bradley in Patton. His best-known role was on television as Lt. Mike Stone on the 1970s crime drama, The Streets of San Francisco. During the 1980’s he was spokesperson for American Express, reminding cardholders “Don’t leave home without it”.
He eventually traveled to New York City, and first appeared as an actor on Broadway in 1937. He did some radio work and in a small role made his film debut in They Knew What They Wanted. He also joined the Group Theatre, where he began acting in many plays and was introduced to a young Elia Kazan, who would later work with him on A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) and On the Waterfront (1954).
His acting career was interrupted by World War II, during which he served as a noncommissioned officer in the 8th Air Force. While in the service, he was given a small role in the U.S. Army Air Forces play and film Winged Victory. After the war ended in 1945, he resumed his acting career, playing yet another small supporting role in the Maxwell Anderson play Truckline Cafe, with a then-unknown Marlon Brando. He was given a co-starring role in the Arthur Miller play All My Sons with the help of director Elia Kazan. With that success, he then crossed over into steady film work.
Film career: 1950s to 1970s
Malden resumed his film acting career in the 1950s, starting with The Gunfighter (1950) and Halls of Montezuma (1950). The following year, he was in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), playing Mitch, Stanley Kowalski‘s best friend who starts a romance with Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh). For this role, he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Other films during this period included On the Waterfront (1954), where he played a priest who influenced Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando) to testify against mobster-union boss Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). In Baby Doll (1956), he played a power-hungry sexual man who had been frustrated by a teenage wife. He starred in dozens of films from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, such as Fear Strikes Out (1957), Pollyanna (1960), Birdman of Alcatraz (1962), Gypsy (1962), How the West Was Won (1962), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), and Patton (1970), playing General Omar Bradley. After Summertime Killer (1972), he appeared in the made-for-television film The Hijacking of the Achille Lauro (1989) (as Leon Klinghoffer).
The Streets of San Francisco
In 1972, Malden was approached by producer Quinn Martin about starring as Lt. Mike Stone in The Streets of San Francisco. Although the concept originated as a made-for-television movie, ABC quickly signed on to carry it as a series. Martin hired Michael Douglas to play Lt. Stone’s young partner, Inspector Steve Keller.
Malden’s father was delighted about this series being in San Francisco, as he had intended to settle in that city, but had to change his plans as he’d arrived on the day of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
On Streets, Malden played a widowed veteran cop with more than 20 years of experience who is paired with a young officer recently graduated from college. During its first season, it was a ratings winner among many other 1970s crime dramas, and served as ABC’s answer to such shows as Hawaii Five-O, Adam-12, Ironside, Barnaby Jones, Kojak, McMillan and Wife, Police Woman, The Rockford Files, and Switch.
During the second season, production shifted from Los Angeles to San Francisco. For his work as Lt. Stone, Malden was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor – Drama Series four times between 1974 and 1977, but never won. After two episodes in the fifth season, Douglas left the show to act in movies; Douglas had also produced the film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in 1975. Lt. Stone’s new partner was Inspector Dan Robbins, played by Richard Hatch. The show took a ratings nosedive, and ABC canceled it after five seasons and 119 episodes.
In 1980, Malden starred in Skag, an hour-long drama that focused on the life of a foreman at a Pittsburgh steel mill. Malden described his character, Pete Skagska, as a simple man trying to keep his family together. The pilot episode for the series had Skag temporarily disabled by a stroke, and explored the effects it had on his family and co-workers. While Skag met with poor ratings, critics praised it, even taking out full page ads to keep it on the air. It was nevertheless canceled after several episodes.
The West Wing
Malden’s last role in film or television was in 2000 in the highly acclaimed first season episode of the The West Wing titled “Take This Sabbath Day“. Malden portrayed a Catholic priest and used the same Bible he had used in On the Waterfront.
Malden famously delivered the line “Don’t leave home without it!” in a series of U.S. television commercials for American Express Travelers Cheques in the 1970s and 1980s.
Malden died at his home in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles on July 1, 2009 at the age of 97. He is said to have died of natural causes. Malden’s manager said “It could be many things. I mean, he was 97 years old!” A service will be held for Malden in the next 3–4 weeks. He is said to have been in poor health for several years. 
Malden won the 1951 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for A Streetcar Named Desire and was nominated in 1954 for his supporting role in On the Waterfront. Malden was a past president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In October 2003, he was named the 40th recipient of the Screen Actors’ Guild‘s Life Achievement Award for career achievement and humanitarian accomplishment.
On November 11, 2004, his ex-Streets of San Francisco co-star Michael Douglas presented Malden with the Monte Cristo Award of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Connecticut, for the Lifetime Achievement Award. Among the recipients besides Malden were Jason Robards, Zoe Caldwell, Edward Albee, August Wilson and Brian Dennehy.
On November 12, 2005, the United States House of Representatives authorized the U.S. Postal Service to rename the Los Angeles Barrington Postal Station as the Karl Malden Postal Station in honor of Malden’s achievements. The bill, H.R. 3667, was sponsored by Representatives Henry Waxman and Diane Watson.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Karl Malden has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6231 Hollywood Blvd. In 2005, he was inducted into the Western Performers Hall of Fame at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.