HollywoodChicago.com RSS   Facebook   HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter   Free Giveaway E-mail   

Film News: Popular Character Actor Charles Durning Dies at 89

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionE-mail page to friendE-mail page to friendPDF versionPDF version
No votes yet

NEW YORK – In a movie world of cops, mugs, southern governors, priests and Irish pals who had your back, there was none better than Charles Durning, a man that defined character in the term “character actor.” Durning died December 24th in New York City. He was 89 years old.

He had significant roles in classic films like “The Sting,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Tootsie” and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?,” plus made a mulitude of guest appearances in TV series, mini-series and dramas. But what is less known about Durning is his heroic service in World War II, for which he was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star and Purple Heart, and participated in the invasion of Normandy on D-Day, June 6th, 1944.

Charles Durning, Al Pacino
Early Role: Charles Durning as Sgt. Eugene Moretti with Al Pacino in ‘Dog Day Afternoon’
Photo credit: Warner Home Video

Charles Durning was born in Highland Falls, New York, into a large Irish family. He was drafted during World War II at the age of 21, and was in a glider that overshot the landing zone during D-Day. He was wounded twice in battle, and actually relived a bit of his veteran experience on the TV show “NCIS” in 2004, when he portrayed an ex-soldier with lingering effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

His performance career began on the New York stage, and after a decade of small parts in TV shows – including “All in the Family” in 1972 – he got a big break when he portrayed Lt. Snyder in the Best Picture Oscar winner “The Sting” (1973), memorably chasing Robert Redford on a Chicago EL platform. This began a string of character parts in 1970s films and TV, including”The Front Page” (1974), “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975), the miniseries “Captain and the Kings” (1976), “The Choirboys” (1977) and “The Muppet Movie” (1979). He defined the term “working actor” with 14 credits from 1977 to ’79.

Charles Durning, Dustin Hoffman
Durning Takes Dustin Hoffman for a Ride in ‘Tootsie’
Photo credit: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

In the 1980s he had high profile roles in “Sharkey’s Machine” (1981) and “Tootsie,” (1982), plus scored his two Oscar nominations, for “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” (1982) – in which he displayed his roots as a dance instructor – and “To Be or Not to Be” (1983). From there he played character roles as diverse as the Pope, Santa Claus (five times), John Kennedy’s grandfather, a suicidal executive (“The Hudsucker Proxy”) and Dr. Harlan Ellridge in the Burt Reynold’s sitcom “Evening Shade” (1990-94). Although he played a high profile and memorable southern politician in “O Brother Where Art Thou?” (2000), it didn’t mean he slowed down. Post the millennium, Charles Durning had over 50 roles on TV and in film, including the voice of Peter’s Dad in “Family Guy,” a priest on “Everyone Loves Raymond” and Dennis O’Leary’s father in “Rescue Me.” In 2013, he is listed as portraying Dylan Frier in “Scavenger Killers.”

Charles Durning had two marriages, and is survived by three children. Talking about his 200 plus parts on stage, screen and TV, he said, “Of course, I’m not often the top dog, but sometimes it’s better not to be top dog, because you last longer. If a movie or play flops, you always blame the lead. They say: ‘He couldn’t carry it.’ They always blame him. But they rarely blame the second or third banana.”

Source material for this article came from the Wikipedia and imdb. Charles Durning, 1923-2012.

HollywoodChicago.com senior staff writer Patrick McDonald

By PATRICK McDONALD
Senior Staff Writer
HollywoodChicago.com
pat@hollywoodchicago.com

© 2012 Patrick McDonald, HollywoodChicago.com

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.

Hot stories on the Web


User Login

Free Giveaway Mailing

TV, DVD, BLU-RAY & THEATER REVIEWS

  • Drunk History Seasons 1 & 2, 2014

    CHICAGO – The awesomeness of history loses any of its stuffiness with the incredibly fun, indeed educational show “Drunk History” from Comedy Central, its two seasons now released on DVD. Hosted by its creator Derek Waters, the show is a celebration of various historic figures and their under-appreciated true tales, as expressed by funny people narrating in the universal language of inebriation; their recounts are then reenacted by famous actors working with their given dialogue, dressed with the comic cheapness of a bloated biopic.

  • Happy Christmas

    CHICAGO – “Drinking Buddies” director Joe Swanberg’s latest release of the same star wattage is “Happy Christmas,” an even lower-fi story than the Olivia Wilde beer comedy, steered even more by the casting that it was able to assemble. However, with this movie Swanberg doesn’t so much worry about having a story that could be confused with a more mainstream romantic comedy if it were to have a bigger budget.

Advertisement


HollywoodChicago.com on Twitter

archive

HollywoodChicago.com Top Ten Discussions
referendum
tracker