Earthy and at times exuberant, Anthony Quinn was one of Hollywood's more colorful personalities. Though he played many important roles over the course of his 60-year career, Quinn's signature character was Zorba, a zesty Greek peasant who teaches a stuffy British writer to find joy in the subtle intricacies of everyday life in Zorba the Greek (1964), which Quinn also produced. The role won him an Oscar nomination and he reprised variations of Zorba in several subsequent roles.
Although he made a convincing Greek, Quinn was actually of Irish-Mexican extraction. He was born Antonio Rudolfo Oaxaca Quinn in Chihuahua, Mexico, on April 21, 1915, but raised in the U.S. Before becoming an actor, Quinn had been a prizefighter and a painter. He launched his film career playing character roles in several 1936 films, including Parole (his debut) and The Milky Way, after a brief stint in the theater. In 1937, he married director Cecil B. DeMille's daughter Katherine De Mille, but this did nothing to further his career and Quinn remained relegated to playing "ethnic" villains in Paramount films through the 1940s. By 1947, he was a veteran of over 50 films and had played everything from Indians, Mafia dons, Hawaiian chiefs, Chinese guerrillas, and comical Arab sheiks, but he was still not a major star. So he returned to the theater, where for three years he found success on Broadway in such roles as Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.