Anthony Quinn Estate
“Someone once said if I was left on an island, I’d reconstruct the rocks. I have a need to say I was here.”
And such did Anthony Quinn spend his life – leaving his mark on the world. His creative mind and spirit continue to move us and enrich our lives through his art and acting.
He was born under the gunfire of the revolution in Chihuahua, Mexico in 1915 to a half-Irish father, Frank Quinn and a Mexican-Indian mother, Manuela Oaxaca, who both marched under the banner of Pancho Villa. Manuela and Frank were separated when she became pregnant with Anthony and was forced to leave the battlefield. When Quinn was only eight months old, his mother hid him in a coal wagon and escaped to El Paso, Texas. They would not find Frank Quinn again until Anthony was almost three years old. A second child was born less than a year later, a sister, Stella. Poverty led them to search for work as fruit pickers in California and they eventually settled in East Los Angeles where Frank worked at Zelig’s Studio taking care of the animals and training as a cameraman.
Anthony’s interest in art developed early and recognition was quick to follow. At age nine he began sculpting and within three years entered a California statewide competition and won it with his plaster bust of Abraham Lincoln. He began drawing sketches of movie stars he would see when his father would take him along to the studio. He mailed one sketch to Douglas Fairbanks and much to his surprise received a check for twenty-five dollars in return.
When Anthony was 11, tragedy struck. Frank Quinn was killed outside their home in East Los Angeles by a passing automobile. Anthony vowed to support his mother, sister and grandmother. He started skipping school and working at odd jobs in order to help support the family. Before the age of 18, he had worked as a migrant farm worker, a newsboy, preacher and taxi driver. He also made five and ten dollars a fight as a welterweight boxer.
Anthony entered another contest during his junior year in high school, with an architectural plan for a marketplace and again he was named a winner — the prize was to study and work with the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright — an encounter which was to change Anthony’s life forever.
Wright taught him that the average man does not know how to live, and that it is the job of the architect to build, not to the physical size of the man, but to the size of man’s spirit.
Wright also taught Quinn that a good architect must be able to convince people of how they ought to live, and sent him to the Katherine Hamil acting school to improve his speech. He worked as a janitor to pay for his lessons and when one young actor fell ill, the teacher asked Anthony to take his part in the school play. He received wonderful reviews and thus began his career as an actor. When he began to get small parts in plays and in films and earn as much as seventy five dollars a day, he asked Wright whether he should continue to act or to pursue his career as an architect – Wright told him that there was always time to become an architect later.
After more than sixty years of performing — on stage, for television and films — a career that included the creation of truly classic characters in La Strada, Viva Zapata, Lust for Life, Requiem for a Heavyweight and Zorba the Greek — and as recipient of two Academy He had always sculpted small pieces of stone and wood he found while he was working on location in the deserts of North Africa and in the Middle East. In the 80’s he began to enlarge these “maquettes” into full-sized sculptures with the intention of decorating his home. To his surprise, people started asking him where they could buy the artwork. He was given a one-man exhibition at a gallery in Honolulu, Hawaii and every piece in the show was sold.
He continued making movies and in his free time would forage among the dunes gathering and saving stones, pieces of rock and scraps of wood. During his time off and between scenes, he would transform the objects – which most people would consider just rocks and stones, into works of art. In everything he saw he found beauty
Anthony finished his last motion picture, Avenging Angelo, with Sylvester Stallone, in Toronto in May 2001. In June of the same year, he died of respiratory failure at the age of 86. He was survived by his sister Stella, his wife Katherine and twelve children.