The Many Lives of
An incredible individual whose journey started with a mobster father, to the gridiron of the NFL, to battling the likes of future heavyweight champions George Foreman and Ken Norton as a top ranked contender during the golden age of boxing in the 1970’s, searching for King Kong, to finally becoming a Kryptonian Villain who appeared in Superman The Movie and Superman II
By Alex and John Rinaldi
In 1983 filmmaker Woody Allen made a fictional documentary titled Zelig about a man who achieves fame for his rather strange ability to look and behave like anyone he meets. In essence, he became a human chameleon. The same can be said of Jack O’Halloran. Unlike Zelig, Jack is a human chameleon, who amazingly is for real.
Born the illegitimate son of famed mobster Albert Anastasia, who headed the notorious hit squad for Organized Crime known as Murder, Inc., Jack O’Halloran was only fourteen when he gazed upon the front page of the newspaper only to see his father’s bloodied and bullet-holed body lying lifeless by a barber chair.
It became a benchmark moment for young Jack. Interestingly enough, it was also the beginning of a connection with his late father that would continue to this day. Originally from Philadelphia, Jack and his mother eventually settled in the Philly suburb of Runnemede in southern New Jersey.
It was there where he grew into an enormous hulk of a man of 6’6” tall, in a time when the average American male was a full foot shorter. He had connections, he had people watching and protecting him, but most importantly, he had talent.
His first aptitude was football. The powerful Jack played professional football for the New York Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles before embarking in 1966 on a career in boxing that would put him squarely in the middle of arguably the greatest heavyweight division in the history of the sport.
Fighting as “Irish” Jack O’Halloran, the young battler was undefeated in his first sixteen fights as he slowly rose to a solid place in the top ten of the division. During all this time, he was also working as an Enforcer for several Unions and other jobs relating to his late father’s business.
On October 17, 1969, Jack KO’d the dangerous number one ranked heavyweight contender Manuel Ramos in seven rounds at the Inglewood Forum. With the impressive win, it looked like he had a clear direct road to the heavyweight title. Unfortunately, O’Halloran lost in his very next bout on January 26, 1970 to future two-time heavyweight champion George Foreman in Madison Square Garden after being stopped in the fifth round in a thrilling slugfest.
During the course of his colorful career, Jack later beat top ranked heavyweights such as Terry Daniels, Rahman Ali and Alvin “Blue” Lewis as well as former heavyweight challenger Cleveland “Big Cat” Williams.
In 1972, O’Halloran eventually battled future Hall of Famer and WBC heavyweight king Ken Norton and beat him up pretty good, only to lose the bout by a controversial decision in Norton’s hometown of San Diego.
Jack won the USA California State Heavyweight Title with a 12-round points win over leading contender Henry Clark on August 9, 1972 and retained his laurels in two defenses against top heavyweights Robie Harris (KO-5) and Charlie Reno (W-12). Jack eventually retired from boxing in 1974 with a 34-21-2 (17 KO’s) record, and was later inducted into both the California and New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fames.
If a Jack O’Halloran was boxing in recent years in the era of the Klitschko brothers, he would no doubt have been the heavyweight champion of the world. Sadly for him, he fought in an era when fistic immortals ruled the Earth.
It was after boxing that his fourth of his five talents came into play – acting. He initially was offered a role in the 1970 film, The Great White Hope, but turned it down to concentrate more fully on his boxing career.
With the urgings of his friend actor Steve McQueen, O’Halloran gave acting another chance.
Jack’s big break came in 1975 playing opposite the great actor Robert Mitchum in the classic film noir Farewell, My Lovely.
Playing the hulking character Moose Malloy to Mitchum’s famed Philip Marlowe, Jack gave a terrific performance and was nearly nominated for an Academy Award.
Robert Mitchum said of his huge co-star, “Jack was one great find on this picture. At least, he’s a find if we can ever find him again. They hired him for $500 a week. He looked perfect for the part. One time he hit the producer. One of the producers. We had seven of them. We called them the Magnificent Seven. Jack was swinging this poor bastard around his head like an Indian war club. I tried to explain to him: ‘The guy can be talked to, Jack.’ He shakes his head. ‘Mitch,’ he says, ‘I was crying too hard.’ O’Halloran gave a great performance in that film.”
He followed up that part with roles in King Kong (1976) and March or Die (1977), which brought him prestige in the acting community.
It was not until, however, he was cast as the Kryptonian villain Non in the wonderful Superman and Superman II films that Jack received lifetime fame. It was in those roles that O’Halloran became an icon and forever associated with the Superman franchise.
Jack later continued his acting in roles in such films as The Baltimore Bullet (1980), Dragnet (1987), Hero and the Terror (1988), Mob Boss (1990), and The Flintstones (1994).
O’Halloran also made guest star appearances in such TV shows as Cannon, Knight Rider, Hunter, Best of the West, Murder, She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, and the Perry Mason: The Case of the Defiant Daughter TV movie.
From football player, to boxer, to enforcer, to actor, to writer, Jack O’Halloran is arguably one of the most remarkable men who ever lived. His friends have included acting legends such as Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Robert Mitchum and Bruce Lee, along with mobsters such as Frank Costello and Meyer Lansky, additionally with boxing greats such Muhammad Ali, Rocky Marciano, Archie Moore, and Ken Norton. He is surely a man of a thousand faces – a true chameleon.
The USA Boxing News has an exciting and hard-hitting interview series with Jack O’Halloran in the past issues and into the next couple of issues.