Downtown L.A. to Restore Mural Honoring Anthony Quinn, the First Mexican Actor to Win an Oscar

Lead Photo: Anthony Quinn in 'Zorba the Greek'
Anthony Quinn in 'Zorba the Greek'
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We all know Los Angeles as the city of sprawl. Highways, freeways, expressways and cars, lots of cars. It’s a city that truly came of age at a time when American society was rapidly suburbanizing and followed a model of expansive development that effectively left its urban core forgotten and underutilized. Now, thanks to some progressive urban policy coming out of the governor’s mansion, it seems L.A. is reimagining itself as a more traditional, walkable city with a vibrant downtown business district. And iconic Mexican-American actor Anthony Quinn will be overseeing its transformation. Literally.

Well, not exactly literally. A giant likeness of the trailblazing Latino actor who passed away in 2001 will be standing tall and proud on the wall of the Victor Clothing Co. building at 241 S. Broadway as the surrounding downtown area slowly springs back to life under current mayor Eric Garcetti. Angelinos might be tempted to point out that the “Pope of Broadway” mural of Quinn has actually been at that very spot for close to thirty years — and that would be true — but the real news is that the City of Los Angeles has undertaken a restoration of Quinn’s faded likeness in collaboration with its original author, muralist Eloy Torrez, as part of its effort to reinvigorate the city’s struggling downtown.

Born Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca in Chihuahua in 1915, Quinn was raised in El Paso, TX and Echo Park, Los Angeles before scoring some secondary roles as gangsters and Indians in a number of Hollywood productions throughout the 1930s. It was ultimately his role alongside Marlon Brando in Elia Kazan’s Viva Zapata! that won him an Academy Award and secured his place in the Hollywood pantheon. To this day he is considered one of the greatest actors of the classic Hollywood era.

The mural itself, capturing Quinn dancing in a moment of joyous abandon, recalls an iconic scene from Zorba the Greek in which Quinn’s eponymous character dances exuberantly in the face of a catastrophic outcome. His performance in the film garnered him another Academy Award nomination (though he lost to Rex Harrison), and the film ultimately picked up three Oscars in diverse categories.