Veteran Character Actor Charles Durning Dies
The two-time Oscar nominee passed away in his native New
York on Christmas Eve (24 December) - the same day as another beloved TV and film
star, Jack Klugman, who was 90.
He died of
natural causes at his home in Manhattan.
Durning, a former
professional boxer, martial arts expert and dance instructor, was a World War
Two hero who survived the infamous massacre of American Prisoners of War by
German troops at Malmedy, Belgium. He served with the 1st Infantry Division and
was also involved in the Normandy Invasion on Omaha Beach in June, 1944. He was
awarded the Combat Infantryman's Badge, Silver Star Medal and three Purple Hearts
among his many accolades for services to his country.
He picked up his
fledgling acting career after the war with a series of stage roles but didn't
land his big movie break until the early 1970s, following a series of acclaimed
plays and appearances on 1960's shows. His first major film role came opposite
Robert Redford in The Sting in 1973. He followed that big screen success with a
role in Charles Bronson's western Breakheart Pass two years later.
eclectic and varied film career also included credits in Tootsie, The Muppet
Movie, North Dallas Forty, Sharky's Machine, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Dog
Day Afternoon, and Mel Brooks' comedy To Be Or Not To Be, in which he
played a Nazi officer.
Despite his gruff
persona and his penchant for playing severe, stern roles, Durning portrayed
Santa Claus in five TV movies, including It Nearly Wasn't Christmas, Mrs. Santa
Claus and A Boyfriend for Christmas.
scooped a Tony Award in 1990 for his portrayal of Big Daddy in a revival of
Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - not bad for someone who was
allegedly kicked out of the American Academy of Dramatic Art drama school for
Paying tribute to
his pal on Twitter, Happy Days star Henry
Winkler called Durning "the actor's actor".
was honoured with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2008. According to
IMDB.com, he was still filming what was his final film, Scavenger Killers, when he passed away.