Author Topic: Charles Durning, Jack Klugman die  (Read 430 times)

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Charles Durning, Jack Klugman die
« on: December 25, 2012, 08:12:23 AM »
Charles Durning, 'king of character actors,' dies
5:32a.m. EST December 25, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Charles Durning, the two-time Oscar nominee who was dubbed the king of the character actors for his skill in playing everything from a Nazi colonel to the pope, died Monday at his home in New York City. He was 89.

Durning's longtime agent and friend Judith Moss told The Associated Press that he died Monday of natural causes in his home in the borough of Manhattan.

Although he portrayed everyone from blustery public officials to comic foils to put-upon everymen, Durning may be best remembered by movie audiences for his Oscar-nominated, over-the-top role as a comically corrupt governor in 1982's "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas."

Many critics marveled that such a heavyset man could be so nimble in the film's show-stopping song-and-dance number, not realizing Durning had been a dance instructor early in his career. Indeed, he had met his first wife, Carol, when both worked at a dance studio.

The year after "Best Little Whorehouse," Durning received another Oscar nomination, for his portrayal of a bumbling Nazi officer in Mel Brooks' "To Be or Not to Be." He was also nominated for a Golden Globe as the harried police lieutenant in 1975's "Dog Day Afternoon."

He won a Golden Globe as best supporting TV actor in 1991 for his portrayal of John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald in the TV film "The Kennedys of Massachusetts" and a Tony in 1990 as Big Daddy in the Broadway revival of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

Durning had begun his career on stage, getting his first big break when theatrical producer Joseph Papp hired him for the New York Shakespeare Festival.

He went on to work regularly, if fairly anonymously, through the 1960s until his breakout role as a small town mayor in the Pulitzer- and Tony Award-winning play "That Championship Season" in 1972.

He quickly made an impression on movie audiences the following year as the crooked cop stalking con men Paul Newman and Robert Redford in the Oscar-winning comedy "The Sting."

Dozens of notable portrayals followed. He was the would-be suitor of Dustin Hoffman, posing as a female soap opera star in "Tootsie;" the infamous seller of frog legs in "The Muppet Movie;" and Chief Brandon in Warren Beatty's "Dick Tracy." He played Santa Claus in four different movies made for television and was the pope in the TV film "I Would be Called John: Pope John XXIII."

"I never turned down anything and never argued with any producer or director," Durning told The Associated Press in 2008, when he was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Other films included "The Front Page," ''The Hindenburg," ''Breakheart Pass," ''North Dallas Forty," ''Starting Over," ''Tough Guys," ''Home for the Holidays," ''Spy Hard" and 'O Brother Where Art Thou?"

Durning also did well in television as a featured performer as well as a guest star. He appeared in the short-lived series "The Cop and the Kid" (1975), "Eye to Eye" (1985) and "First Monday" (2002) as well as the four-season "Evening Shade" in the 1990s.

"If I'm not in a part, I drive my wife crazy," he acknowledged during a 1997 interview. "I'll go downstairs to get the mail, and when I come back I'll say, 'Any calls for me?'"

Durning's rugged early life provided ample material on which to base his later portrayals. He was born into an Irish family of 10 children in 1923, in Highland Falls, New York, a town near West Point. His father was unable to work, having lost a leg and been gassed during World War I, so his mother supported the family by washing the uniforms of West Point cadets.

The younger Durning himself would barely survive World War II.

He was among the first wave of U.S. soldiers to land at Normandy during the D-Day invasion and the only member of his Army unit to survive. He killed several Germans and was wounded in the leg. Later he was bayoneted by a young German soldier whom he killed with a rock. He was captured in the Battle of the Bulge and survived a massacre of prisoners.

In later years, he refused to discuss the military service for which he was awarded the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.

"Too many bad memories," he told an interviewer in 1997. "I don't want you to see me crying."

Tragedy also stalked other members of his family. Durning was 12 when his father died, and five of his sisters lost their lives to smallpox and scarlet fever.

A high school counselor told him he had no talent for art, languages or math and should learn office skills. But after seeing "King Kong" and some of James Cagney's films, Durning knew what he wanted to do.

Leaving home at 16, he worked in a munitions factory, on a slag heap and in a barbed-wire factory. When he finally found work as a burlesque theater usher in Buffalo, New York, he studied the comedians' routines, and when one of them showed up too drunk to go on one night, he took his place.

He would recall years later that he was hooked as soon as heard the audience laughing. He told the AP in 2008 that he had no plans to stop working.

"They're going to carry me out, if I go," he said.

Durning and his first wife had three children before divorcing in 1972. In 1974, he married his high school sweetheart, Mary Ann Amelio.

He is survived by his children, Michele, Douglas and Jeannine. The family planned to have a private family service and burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but rather he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.” Samuel Adams, April 16, 1781.

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Re: Charles Durning, Jack Klugman die
« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2012, 08:15:16 AM »
'Odd Couple' actor Jack Klugman dies at 90
by Associated Press

 Jack Klugman, the prolific, craggy-faced character actor and regular guy who was loved by millions as the messy one in TV’s The Odd Couple and the crime-fighting coroner in Quincy, M.E., died Monday, a son said. He was 90.

Klugman, who lost his voice to throat cancer in the 1980s and trained himself to speak again, died with his wife at his side.

“He had a great life and he enjoyed every moment of it and he would encourage others to do the same,” son Adam Klugman said.

Adam Klugman said he was spending Christmas with his brother, David, and their families. Their father had been convalescing for some time but had apparently died suddenly and they were not sure of the exact cause.

“His sons loved him very much,” David Klugman said. “We’ll carry on in his spirit.”

Never anyone’s idea of a matinee idol, Klugman remained a popular star for decades simply by playing the type of man you could imagine running into at a bar or riding on a subway with — gruff, but down to earth, his tie stained and a little loose, a racing form under his arm, a cigar in hand during the days when smoking was permitted.

His was a city actor ideal for The Odd Couple, which ran from 1970 to 1975 and was based on Neil Simon’s play about mismatched roommates, divorced New Yorkers who end up living together. The show teamed Klugman — the sloppy sports writer Oscar Madison — and Tony Randall — the fussy photographer Felix Unger — in the roles played by Walter Matthau and Art Carney on Broadway and Matthau and Jack Lemmon in the 1968 film. Klugman had already had a taste of the show when he replaced Matthau on Broadway and he learned to roll with the quick-thinking Randall, with whom he had worked in 1955 on the CBS series Appointment with Adventure.

“There’s nobody better to improvise with than Tony,” Klugman said. “A script might say, ‘Oscar teaches Felix football.’ There would be four blank pages. He would provoke me into reacting to what he did. Mine was the easy part.”

They were battlers on screen, and the best of friends in real life. When Randall died in 2004 at age 84, Klugman told CNN: “A world without Tony Randall is a world that I cannot recognize.”

In Quincy, M.E., which ran from 1976 to 1983, Klugman played an idealistic, tough-minded medical examiner who tussled with his boss by uncovering evidence of murder in cases where others saw natural causes.

“We had some wonderful writers,” he said in a 1987 Associated Press interview. “Quincy was a muckraker, like Upton Sinclair, who wrote about injustices. He was my ideal as a youngster, my author, my hero.

“Everybody said, ‘Quincy’ll never be a hit.’ I said, ‘You guys are wrong. He’s two heroes in one, a cop and a doctor.’ A coroner has power. He can tell the police commissioner to investigate a murder. I saw the opportunity to do what I’d gotten into the theater to do — give a message.

“They were going to do cops and robbers with ‘Quincy.’ I said, ‘You promised me I could do causes.’ They said, ‘Nobody wants to see that.’ I said, ‘Look at the success of “60 Minutes.” They want to see it if you present it as entertainment.’”

For his 1987 role as 81-year-old Nat in the Broadway production of I’m Not Rappaport, Klugman wore leg weights to learn to shuffle like an elderly man. He said he would wear them for an hour before each performance, “to remember to keep that shuffle.”

“The guy is so vital emotionally, but physically he can’t be,” Klugman said.

“We treat old people so badly. There is nothing easy about 80.”

The son of Russian Jewish immigrants, he was born in Philadelphia and began his acting career in college drama (Carnegie Institute of Technology). After serving in the Army during World War II, he went on to summer stock and off-Broadway, rooming with fellow actor Charles Bronson as both looked for paying jobs. He made his Broadway debut in 1952 in a revival of Golden Boy. His film credits included Sidney Lumet’s 12 Angry Men and Blake Edwards’ Days of Wine and Roses and an early television highlight was appearing with Humphrey Bogart and Henry Fonda in a production of The Petrified Forest. His performance in the classic 1959 musical Gypsy brought him a Tony nomination for best featured (supporting) actor in a musical.

He also appeared in several episodes of The Twilight Zone, including a memorable 1963 one in which he played a negligent father whose son is seriously wounded in Vietnam. His other TV shows included The Defenders and the soap opera The Greatest Gift.

In a 1987 interview in the New York Daily News, he said, “once I did three hourlong shows in 2½ weeks. Think we’d do that now? Huh! But then it was great. I did summer stock, played the classics. Me!”

Throat cancer took away his raspy voice for several years in the 1980s. When he was back on the stage for a 1993 revival of Three Men on a Horse, The Associated Press review said, “His voice may be a little scratchy but his timing is as impeccable as ever.”

“The only really stupid thing I ever did in my life was to start smoking,” he said in 1996. Seeing people smoking in television and films, he added, “disgusts me, it makes me so angry — kids are watching.”

In his later years, he guest-starred on TV series including Third Watch and Crossing Jordan and appeared in a 2010 theatrical film, Camera Obscura.

Klugman’s hobby was horse racing and he eventually took up raising them, too.

“I always loved to gamble,” he said. “I never got close to a horse. Fate dealt me a terrible blow when it gave me a good horse the first time out. I thought how easy this is.

“Now I love being around them.”

Klugman’s wife, actress-comedian Brett Somers, played his ex-wife, Blanche, in the Odd Couple series. The couple, who married in 1953 and had two sons, Adam and David, had been estranged for years at the time of her death in 2007.

In February 2008, at age 85, Klugman married longtime girlfriend Peggy Crosby.

In 1997, Klugman was sued by an ex-girlfriend, Barbara Neugass, who claimed he had promised to support her for the rest of her life. But a jury rejected her claim.
“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual – or at least that he ought not so to do; but rather he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country.” Samuel Adams, April 16, 1781.

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