Warden, Jack

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Warden, Jack, was born John Warden Lebzelter, 18-09-1920 in Newark, New Jersey, the son of Laura M Costello and John Warden Lebzelter, who was an engineer and technician. He was of Irish and Pennsylvania Dutch ancestry. Raised in Louisville, Kentucky, he was expelled from high school for fighting and eventually fought as a professional boxer under the name Johnny Costello. He had 13 welterweight bouts but earned little money. Warden worked as a nightclub bouncer, tugboat deckhand and lifeguard before joining the United States Navy  in 1938. He was stationed in China for three years with the Yangtze River Patrol. In 1941, he joined the United States Merchant Marine but, quickly tiring of the long convoy runs, he switched to the United States Army in 1942 where he served as a paratrooper in the famous 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment  (see Frederick “Fritz” Niland) (see Maxwell Taylor) (see Anthony McAuliffe), with the elite 101st Airborne Division during World War II.  In 1944, on the eve of the D-Day invasion, during which many of his friends died, Staff Sergeant (Lebzelter) Warden shattered his leg by landing in a tree during a night-time practice jump in England. After almost eight months in the hospital, during which time he read a Clifford Odets play and decided to become an actor, he was sent back to the United States. Although his paratrooper buddies phone him from the 501st regimental reunion each year, he refuses to meet them at the reunions. He feels he doesn’t belong, because he had to leave the 501 before combat. His buddies have the utmost pride and affection for him, and wish he would attend. Life is short, but such is Jack Warden’s personal code of honor Ironically in That Kind of Woman Warden played a paratrooper from the 101st‘s rivals: the 82nd Airborne Division. After leaving the military with the rank of master sergeant, he moved to New York City and pursued an acting career on the G.I. Bill. He joined the company of the Dallas Alley Theater and performed on stage for five years. In 1948 he made his television debut on The Philco Television Playhouse and Studio One. He made an unaccredited film debut in 1951 in You’re in the Navy Now, a movie which also featured the film debuts of Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson. Jack Warden married French actress Vanda Dupre  in 1958 and had one son, Christopher. Although they separated in the 1970s, they never divorced.

Death and burial ground of Warden, Jack.

   Actor Jack Warden suffered from declining health in his last years, and died of heart and kidney failure in a New York hospital on 19-07-2006. He was 85 years old. 101 Airborne warrior Jack Warden was cremated and the ashes cremated given to family or friend.

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