Anthony Quinn was born in Chihuahua, Mexico in April 1915 during the Mexican Revolution to a Mexican-Indian mother, Manuela Oaxaca, and a half-Irish father, Francesco, or Frank, whose father had immigrated from Cork, Ireland to work for the Union Pacific Railroad. When Anthony was only eight months old, his mother hid him in a coal wagon and escaped to El Paso, Texas. His father, a soldier for Pancho Villa, found them later. Poverty led the Quinns to search for work as fruit pickers in California. The family eventually settled in East Los Angeles, where Frank worked at a movie studio taking care of the animals and training as a cameraman.
Anthony’s interest in the arts developed early. At age nine he began sculpting, and within three years won a California statewide competition with his plaster bust of Abraham Lincoln. He also began drawing sketches of the movie stars he saw when his father took him to the studio.
During his junior year in high school, Anthony won a national drawing contest devising an architectural plan for a marketplace. His prize was to study with the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright–an encounter which changed Anthony’s life forever. Wright taught him 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. Anthony made this the motto by which he would live.
Wright also advised Quinn to seek medical treatment for a speech impediment. Anthony thereupon went for surgery and then worked as a janitor at a local acting school to pay for post-surgical speech lessons. When a young actor fell ill, the teacher asked Anthony to take his part in the play, and thus began Quinn’s career as an actor.
Anthony performed for more than sixty years ” on stage, for television, and in films. His career included the creation of truly classic characters in La Strada, Viva Zapata, Lust for Life, Requiem for a Heavyweight, and Zorba the Greek ” and earned him two Academy Awards and six nominations as well as international acclaim and the respect of his peers and the public. Quinn will always be remembered as the consummate actor.
Throughout his life, Anthony continued to develop his skills as an artist creating hundreds of paintings and sculptures that made him an internationally recognized artist. Besides his achievements in acting, sculpting and painting, Anthony also wrote two autobiographies, The Original Sin (1974) and One Man Tango (1994).
In 1994, Anthony moved to Bristol, Rhode Island with his wife Katherine and their one-year old daughter Antonia. Two years later, their son Ryan was born. After a lifetime of living in exotic places around the world, Anthony told interviewer Larry King that he “finally found a place he could call home.” In the last seven years of his life, Anthony became part of the fabric of Rhode Island and was involved in numerous cultural events and fundraisers around the state. He and his family, who still live in Rhode Island, took daily walks and bicycle rides around local parks and beaches and frequented local shops and restaurants.
In June 2001, Anthony died of respiratory failure, and according to his wishes, he was buried on his beloved Bristol estate.