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Jack Warden

Sport: Boxing

Born: September 18, 1920

Died: July 9, 2006

Town: Newark

John Warden Lebzelter Jr. was born September 18, 1920 in Newark. The son of an engineer, Jack grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, where he showed little interest in education. Quick with his fists, Jack enjoyed enough success in local bouts to turn pro as a 5’9” welterweight and fought 13 tomes under the moniker Johnny Costello (taking his mother’s maiden name). There wasn’t much money in regional prizefighting, so Jack joined the Navy when he was 18 and served on a gunboat with the Yangtze Patrol, later made famous by the film The Sandpebbles.

During World War II, Jack was an Army paratrooper, attaining the rank of staff sergeant. Prior to D-Day, he broke his leg in a night jumping exercise and was in the hospital during the invasion. During his convalescence, Jack read a play by Clifford Odets and decided to try acting after the war. He studied in New York for five years and became Jack Warden. The camera liked him—leading to choice roles in From Here to Eternity and 12 Angry Men. He was also a regular guest star on hit TV series, including The Twilight Zone. Jack played Mouth McGarry of the Hoboken Zephyrs, the manager of a robot, in “The Mighty Casey.” In the 1970s he played Buttermaker in the TV version of The Bad News Bears.

Jack was nominated for an Emmy as George Halas in ABC’s TV movie Brian’s Song and as the title character on the CBS detective series Crazy Like a Fox. He earned Oscar nominations for his roles in Shampoo and Heaven Can Wait, playing LA Rams coach Max Corkie. Jack passed away in New York at the age of 86.


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