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Oscar winner Jack Palance dead at 87

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LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Actor Jack Palance, who won an Oscar with his comedic self-parody in 1991's "City Slickers," died Friday.

He was 87, said spokesman Dick Guttman, and died of natural causes in his home in Montecito, California, surrounded by his family.

Known for hard, grizzled roles in numerous Westerns during his six-decade career, Palance gained a second wind of fame when he won the best supporting actor Oscar for playing Curly in "City Slickers." (Watch the "Shane" gunslinger turn into a comedy star -- 1:31 Video)

The actor clutched his Oscar in one hand and dropped to the ground for a round of vigorous one-handed push-ups.

The Academy Awards crowd laughed and applauded as he said, "That's nothing, really. As far as two-handed push-ups, you can do that all night, and it doesn't make a difference whether she's there or not."

It was a magic moment that epitomized the actor's 40 years in films. Always the iconoclast, Palance had scorned most of his movie roles.

"Most of the stuff I do is garbage," he once told a reporter, adding that most of the directors he worked with were incompetent, too.

"Most of them shouldn't even be directing traffic," he said.

Palance was born Vladimir Palaniuk in Pennsylvania. His family was Ukrainian and his father was a coal miner.

He was a professional heavyweight boxer in the early 1940s, but his career in the ring was halted by a stint in the military.

Palance was wounded in World War II and received a Purple Heart.

His acting break came after the war as Marlon Brando's understudy in "Streetcar Named Desire." He replaced Brando on stage as Stanley Kowalski, a working class construction worker with a fierce temper in Tennessee Williams' classic play.

According to the Internet Movie Database, Brando asked the actor if he would work with him on a punching bag but wound up with a sore nose when Palance missed the bag and hit the superstar.

Palance's portrayal of Kowalski earned him a contract with 20th Century Fox, the IMDB says.

He went on to positive reviews in a film career that included "Young Guns" in 1988 and "Batman" in 1989.

Palance also made guest appearances on numerous television shows, such as "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour," "Playhouse 90" and "Your Show of Shows."

Palance was nominated for an Academy Award in 1952 after portraying the ardent lover who stalks a terrified Joan Crawford in "Sudden Fear." In 1953, the Academy nominated him again for his role as Jack Wilson, the swaggering gunslinger who bullies peace-loving Alan Ladd into a barroom duel in the Western classic "Shane."

Palance also won an Emmy Award, for a role on "Playhouse 90," in 1957.

He is survived by his wife, Elaine Rogers; two children by his first wife, Holly Palance and Brook Palance Wilding; his brother, John; sister, Anne Despiva; and three grandchildren.

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Actor Jack Palance, who often played a craggy-face menace in films and won an Oscar for "City Slickers," is dead at age 87.

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