It was something of a sad Christmas Eve this year for acting loss – Jack Klugman died and today comes word that the world has lost Charles Durning, who died at the age of 89.
Durning was one of the most versatile character actors around, who shined in a wide variety of roles and became a favourite collaborator for several directors, most notably the Coen brothers.
Born in Highland Falls, New York, he was an Irish immigrant who won US citizenship through military service. And what service – drafted at 21, he ended up part of the Normandy Invasion and was among the first wave to land at Omaha Beach. When his glider squad overshot the beach, Durning and others had to fight their way back to the beach.
After a couple of injuries, he was honourably discharged and would go on to win an Emmy for his portrayal of a Marine veteran in Call Of Silence.
But he really got his acting start on the stage, taking home a Tony for his role as Big Daddy in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. He also won several Emmy awards for his work on television.
He became best known for his big screen roles, which saw him inhabit a staggering variety of characters through the years. His big break was The Sting, but he also appeared in such movies as Dog Day Afternoon, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, The Hindenburg and Tootsie.
The Coens handed him two memorable roles – Waring Hudsucker in The Hudsucker Proxy and Pappy O’Daniel in O Brother, Where Art Thou?
He’ll be missed.