August 10, 1933 – April 16, 2020
Born in Pekin, Illinois, Jack Wallace got his start in the legendary Chicago Organic Theatre Company of the 1970s. As he told it to the Tribune back in 1985, he grew up on some of Chicago’s meaner streets, served a term for working as a roofer when he stumbled into a Chicago theater, drunk and looking for a bathroom, and ended up with a role in the play. He went on to a long and fruitful career on Broadway and in countless films.
“I had the pleasure to have him as a friend and fellow actor for close to 50 years,” Joe Mantegna told the Chicago Tribune. “From the student film ‘Medusa Challenger’ we did together in the mid-70s, through the run of Dave Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross in 80s, to a multitude of films together, including the film Lakeboat which I directed in 1999. That’s where Jack met his dear wife Margot, who was at his side when he passed.
“He was a huge fixture not just in my life, but in so many others. Damon Runyon would have built a statue of him. He was a man-child the likes of which we may seldom see again.”
It was Stuart Gordon who invited Wallace to join the Organic, along with the likes of Joe Mantegna, Dennis Franz, William J. Norris and Andre DeShields (Gordon passed away in March, just a few weeks before Wallace). Among Wallace’s more noteworthy performances were those in The People vs. Ranchman, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Bleacher Bums, and dozens of others, including the cop in Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, which went on to Broadway and for which he shared a Drama Desk Award for Best Ensemble.
In a social media post, another Organic pal, Bruce Hickey, who directed Wallace in five plays, wrote, “He never saved it or held back, never left it behind, never phoned it in, or was waiting for opening night. Every night was opening night to him. Every audience, be it 1,000 on Broadway or 15 in a pub theater, were all special to him and gave them a ‘performance.’ That was his gift.”
Wallace died on April 16 in Los Angeles from multiple health issues, with his wife Arlene at his side.