Charles Durning, best-known for playing memorable characters in a host of movies and TV shows, has died at the age of 89. The actor was nominated for two Academy Awards and two Golden Globes (of which he won one). He also won a Tony Award for his theater work.
Durning’s most memorable performance was as the corrupt governor in “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” The role earned the actor his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in 1982. Durning repeated the nomination in the following year, when he played a bumbling Nazi officer in Mel Brooks‘ “To Be or Not to Be.” Charles Durning’s Golden Globe nominations came in 1975 (nominated for playing a police lieutenant in “Dog Day Afternoon”) and in 1991 when he won for the role of John Fitzgerald in the TV movie, “The Kennedys of Massachusetts.” The actor’s lone Tony Award was won in 1990 when he played Big Daddy in the revival of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Although he started as a musical-theater actor in the 1960s, Charles Durning soon became a fixture in feature films, starting with the Oscar-winning movie, “The Sting.” Some of his more memorable comedy roles included Dustin Hoffman‘s suitor in “Tootsie” and the evil Doc Hopper (he of the French-fried froglegs franchise) in “The Muppet Movie.”
As a young man, Charles Durning barely survived his duty as a soldier in World War II, having participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. He avoided death again when he was captured during the Battle of the Bulge. The future actor was awarded the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts for his wartime service.
After a difficult childhood (his father died when the boy was 12 and five of 9 siblings died of smallpox or scarlet fever), Durning had three children with his first wife before the couple divorced in 1972. The actor then married his high-school sweetheart, Mary Ann Amelio, in 1974. His family plans to bury him in Arlington National Cemetery.