The New York Times reports, “Charles Durning may not have been a household name, but with his pugnacious features and imposing bulk he was a familiar presence in American movies, television and theater, even if often overshadowed by the headliners.”
That sums up his acting career. While you probably did not know his name, you definitely remember his presence in any film you saw. His sixty year career ended much like his military career. Still working. He was involved in the filming of Scavenger Killers at the time of his death. Wounded in the military during WWII as an Army Ranger, he refused to seek discharge and recovered to resume active duty.
His first acting role was in the 1953 television series You Are There as Colonel John Jameson in The Treason of Benedict Arnold episode. As his career progressed he starred in the short lived The Cop and the Kid television series, which I remember him for. He’s played presidents, captains and king, all the way down to the most corrupt scum you could ever love to hate.
From the “boob tube” to the “silver screen,” he was one of the versatile actors that made “stars” look good. Did he ever have a staring role? In everything he did.
Mr. Durning was 89.
Jack Klugman also died Monday at 90 years of age. He started acting in 1950 and is best known for his roles in The Twilight Zone, The Odd Couple and Quincy.
He played four roles in The Twilight Zone, but is probably best remembered for In Praise of Pip with Billy Mummy in which he offered his life for that of his son.
He played the sloven Oscar Madison in the Odd Couple opposite the neat and tidy Felix Unger played by Tony Randall. Klugman was ready to give up his career when he lost his voice due to throat cancer, though he taught himself to speak. Randall convinced him to return for The Odd Couple: Together Again in 1993.
In Quincy M.E. he played an unusual role. A coroner who sought the truth rather than headlines. Every week there was some case that people wanted swept under the rug quickly, but Quincy stepped on the rug to ensure that the case was resolved properly.
Although his acting career was mainly television, he played some memorable roles in movies such as Twelve Angry Men and Goodbye, Columbus. He is one of those actors that seemed to perform for the love of the art rather than the love of the paycheck.