Karl Malden, who spent 21 years as a pitchman for American Express, died today at age 97. The Oscar-winning actor is most famous in the advertising world for his earnest delivery of the AmEx tagline: "Don't leave home without it."
Clad in a fedora and dark suit, Mr. Malden's fact-filled intonations for AmEx from 1973 to 1994 have been praised for their simplicity in both delivery and message.
"He owned every role he ever touched, even his American Express commercials felt real," wrote a blogger paying tribute on Mock Paper Scissors. (Creatives, take note.)
Mr. Malden was born in Chicago, but grew up in Gary, Ind., childhood home of another celebrity who died earlier this week, Michael Jackson. He won an Oscar for his portrayal of Mitch in the 1951 film "Streetcar Named Desire," and was nominated four times for an Emmy for his lead role in "The Streets of San Francisco" in the 1970s, a series that helped establish his AmEx portrayal.