Page last updated at 10:05 GMT, Thursday, 2 July 2009 11:05 UK

Hollywood actor Karl Malden dies

Oscar winner Karl Malden's film highlights

US actor Karl Malden, best known for his roles in films such as A Streetcar Named Desire and On the Waterfront, has died at home in Los Angeles aged 97.

He was arguably best known for playing Lt Mike Stone in the long-running TV series The Streets of San Francisco, opposite a young Michael Douglas.

Malden was twice nominated for an Oscar, winning best supporting actor in 1951 for A Streetcar Named Desire.

The actor, who died of natural causes, had been in poor health for many years.

Malden served as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences from 1989 to 1992.

"Karl lived a rich, full life," said Academy president Sid Ganis.

"He has the greatest and most loving family; a career that has spanned the spectrum of the arts from theatre to film and television, to some very famous commercial work."

Malden was born Mladen Sekulovich in Chicago on March 22, 1912 to a Czech mother and a Serbian father.

He changed his name in order to become an actor, but insisted that Fred Gwynne's character in On the Waterfront be named Sekulovich to honour his heritage.

Early on in his career, Malden said he realised that his average looks and distinctive nose - twice broken on the sports field - were unlikely to make him a leading man.

He liked to say he had "an open-hearth face".

'Tremendous discipline'

Many of his more memorable performances - both on stage and screen - came in supporting roles.

"He was the consummate actor and he loved acting," said Eve Marie Saint, who co-starred with Malden in On The Waterfront, for which he received his second Oscar nomination in 1954, playing Father Corrigan.

"He was dear and smart. Whatever he did he enjoyed life."

Buoyed by awards success, Malden's film career flourished in the 1950s and 60s, with parts in films such as Birdman of Alcatraz, How the West Was Won, Gypsy, The Cincinnati Kid and Patton.

Karl Malden and Michael Douglas in 2004
Malden starred with Michael Douglas in The Streets of San Francisco

He avoided moving into television for many years, but succumbed to the role of the gruff homicide detective Mike Stone in The Streets of San Francisco, which ran from 1972 to 1977.

The role saw him cast opposite 28-year-old Michael Douglas, as on-screen police partner, Inspector Steve Keller.

"He was fantastic. He just had a tremendous discipline, tremendous ethics," Douglas told US TV news last month, ahead of a ceremony to honour Malden's lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute.

West Wing

Malden also became a household name fronting a long-running advertising campaign for American Express travellers cheques, with the slogan "Don't Leave Home Without Them".

The actor was nominated five times for an Emmy for his work on The Streets of San Francisco, finally winning in 1984 for the mini-series Fatal Vision.

Malden acted sparingly in recent years, appearing in 2000 in a small role on TV's The West Wing.

He was married to actress Mona Graham for more than 70 years, one of the longest partnerships in Hollywood history.

He is survived by his wife, daughters Mila and Cara, three granddaughters, and four great-grandchildren.

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