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Charles Durning

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Title: Charles Durning  
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Subject: Dog Day Afternoon, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Fury (1978 film), Death of a Salesman (1985 film), Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
Collection: 1923 Births, 2012 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Male Actors, 21St-Century American Male Actors, American Male Film Actors, American Male Stage Actors, American Male Television Actors, American Military Personnel of World War II, American People of Irish Descent, Best Supporting Actor Golden Globe (Television) Winners, Légion D'Honneur Recipients, Male Actors from New York, People from Highlands, New York, Recipients of the Bronze Star Medal, Recipients of the Purple Heart Medal, Recipients of the Silver Star, Tony Award Winners, United States Army Soldiers
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Charles Durning

Charles Durning
Durning at the 2008 National Memorial Day Concert in Washington, D.C.
Born Charles Edward Durning
(1923-02-28)February 28, 1923
Highland Falls, New York, U.S.
Died December 24, 2012(2012-12-24) (aged 89)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Resting place Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington County, Virginia
Section 66, Grave 127[1]
Occupation Actor
Years active 1951–2012
  • Carole Doughty (1959–1972; div.)
  • Mary Ann (Amelio) Durning (1974–2010; legally separated)
  • Michelle Durning
  • Douglas Edward Durning
  • Jeanine Durning
  • Louise Durning (née Leonard; 1894–1982)
  • James Durning (1883 – c. 1939)[2]
  • James G. Durning (brother)
  • Clifford John Durning (brother)
  • Frances Durning (sister)
  • Gerald J. Durning (brother)
  • 5 more sisters[1]
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch Army of the United States
Years of service 1943–1946
Rank Private First Class
Awards 9 awards, 2 badges, 1 button

Charles Edward Durning (February 28, 1923 – December 24, 2012) was an American actor, with appearances in over 200 movies, television shows and plays.[3] Durning's memorable roles included The Sting (1973) and Dog Day Afternoon (1975), along with the comedies The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), Tootsie (1982), and To Be or Not to Be (1983).


  • Early life 1
  • Military service 2
    • Military awards and decorations 2.1
  • Acting career 3
  • Death 4
  • Filmography 5
  • Narrations 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Durning was born in Highland Falls, New York, the ninth of ten children. His three brothers and sister, James (Roger) (1915–2000), Clifford (1916–1994), Frances (born 1919) and Gerald (born 1926), survived to adulthood but five sisters lost their lives to scarlet fever and smallpox as children.[1][4] He was the son of Louise (née Leonard; 1894–1982), a laundress at West Point, and James Durning (1883 – c. 1939).[2] His father was an Irish immigrant.[5][6] and his mother was also of Irish descent.[7] Durning was raised Catholic.[8][9]

In 1959, Durning married his first wife, Carole Doughty. They divorced in 1972. He was legally separated from his second wife, Mary Ann (Amelio) Durning, in 2010. He is survived by his three children from his first marriage.

Military service

Charles Durning served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was drafted at age 20 and discharged with the rank of Private First Class on January 30, 1946.[10]

Durning was known for participating in various functions to honor American veterans, including serving as chairman of the U.S. National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans.[11] He was an honored guest speaker for 17 years at the National Memorial Day Concert televised by PBS every year on the Sunday evening of Memorial Day weekend.

Durning was paid a special tribute at the May 26, 2013 National Memorial Day Concert when Taps was sounded in his honor.

Military awards and decorations

For his valor and the wounds he received during the war, Durning was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart Medals.[12] Additional awards included the Army Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one bronze service star, and the World War II Victory Medal[13] His badges included the Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Badge with Rifle Bar, and Honorable Service Lapel Pin.[10]

Durning received the French National Order of the Legion of Honor from the French Consul in Los Angeles in April 2008.

Badges and pins

Combat Infantryman Badge Expert Badge with Rifle Bar Honorable Service Lapel Button
Bronze star
Silver Star Bronze Star
Purple Heart Good Conduct Medal American Campaign Medal
EAME Campaign Medal (2x) World War II Victory Medal Legion of Honour – Chevalier

Acting career

While pursuing an acting career, Durning, a professional ballroom dancer, taught at Fred Astaire Dance Studio in New York City.

Referred to as "the King of Character Actors", Durning began his career in 1951. While working as an usher in a burlesque joint, he was hired to replace a drunken actor on stage. Subsequently, he performed in roughly 50 stock company productions and in various off-Broadway plays, eventually attracting the attention of Joseph Papp, founder of The Public Theater and the New York Shakespeare Festival. Beginning in 1961, he appeared in 35 plays as part of the Shakespeare Festival. "That time in my life was my best time," Durning told Pittsburgh's Post Gazette in 2001. "I had no money at all, and he (Joseph Papp) didn't pay much. You were getting a salary for performance plus a rehearsal salary. We would do three plays in Central Park for the summer. And then you'd do three to six plays every year down on Lafayette Street -- new plays by new writers: Sam Shepard, David Mamet, David Rabe, John Ford Noonan, Jason Miller."

During this period, he segued into television and movies. He made his film debut in 1965, appearing in Harvey Middleman, Fireman. He appeared in John Frankenheimer's I Walk the Line (1970) starring Gregory Peck, and two Brian DePalma movies, Hi, Mom! (1970), credited as Charles Durnham, with Robert DeNiro and Sisters (1973). He also appeared in Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues (1972) with Barbara Hershey and John Lithgow.

Durning's performances in Broadway productions include Drat! The Cat! (1965), Pousse-Café (1966), The Happy Time (1968), Indians (1969), That Championship Season (1972), In the Boom Boom Room (1973), The au Pair Man (1973), Knock Knock (1976), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1990), Inherit the Wind (1996), The Gin Game (1997), and The Best Man (2000).

In 2002, he performed in the Tony Randall-produced Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui by Bertolt Brecht with Al Pacino. He played the role of Jack Jameson in Wendy Wasserstein's final play, Third (2005), with Dianne Wiest at Lincoln Center's Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre.

Durning won the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for his powerful performance in The Westwood Playhouse's 1977 production of David Rabe's Streamers. In 1980, he won critical acclaim for his performance as Norman Thayer, Jr. in Los Angeles's Ahmanson Theater's production of On Golden Pond opposite Julie Harris.

In 1972, director Tony Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning play That Championship Season, offered him a role in The Sting (1973). In the Best Picture-winner, starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford, Durning won distinction as the crooked cop, Lt. Wm. Snyder, who polices and hustles professional con artists. He doggedly pursues the young grifter, Johnny Hooker (Redford), only to become the griftee in the end. Other film credits include Dog Day Afternoon with Al Pacino; When A Stranger Calls; The Final Countdown; The Hindenburg; Twilight's Last Gleaming with Burt Lancaster; True Confessions with Robert DeNiro. Some television credits include The Connection; Queen of the Stardust Ballroom, the made-for-television musical in which he played the mailman who reaches out to Maureen Stapleton's lonely widow on the dance floor; Attica; PBS's Dancing Bear with Tyne Daly; the PBS production I Would Be Called John as Pope John XXIII; Hallmark Hall of Fame: Casey Stengel, in which Durning played the legendary baseball manager Charles Dillon "Casey" Stengel; NBC's mini-series Studs Lonigan with Harry Hamlin and Colleen Dewhurst; The Best Little Girl in the World with Jennifer Jason Leigh. In 1976, he received both an Emmy and a Golden Globe nomination for his performance in the television mini-series Captains and the Kings.

In 1979, he played Doc Hopper, a man who owns a frog leg restaurant and the main antagonist in The Muppet Movie. In Tootsie, he played a suitor to Dustin Hoffman's cross-dressing lead character. The two actors worked together again in a 1985 TV production of Death of a Salesman.

In 1993, he guest starred in the Sean Penn-directed music video "Dance with the One That Brought You" by Shania Twain.

Other film roles include Henry Larson, the benevolent father of Holly Hunter's character in Home for the Holidays (1995) and Waring Hudsucker in The Hudsucker Proxy (1994). He worked with the Coen Brothers again playing "Pappy" O'Daniel, a cynical governor of Mississippi (a character loosely based on the Texas politician and showman W. Lee O'Daniel) in the Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000).

Prior to appearing in the Burt Reynolds's TV series Evening Shade, Durning appeared with him in five films, beginning with 1979's Starting Over, followed by 1981's Sharky's Machine, 1982's Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, 1985's Stick and 1999's "Hostage Hotel."

On TV, he played town doctor Harlan Eldridge on the Reynolds sitcom Evening Shade (1990–1994). From 1998-2002, he had a recurring role on Everybody Loves Raymond as the Barone family's long-suffering parish priest, Father Hubley. He also played the voice of recurring character Francis Griffin in the animated series Family Guy. He appeared on the FX television series Rescue Me, playing Mike Gavin, the retired firefighter father of Denis Leary's character.

In 2005, he was nominated for an Emmy Award for his portrayal of a Marine veteran in "Call of Silence," an episode in the television series NCIS, first broadcast November 23, 2004. Durning's character turns himself in to authorities, insisting that he must be prosecuted for having murdered his buddy during ferocious combat on Iwo Jima six decades earlier.[14] The real truth of the incident only becomes known for certain when the guilt-stricken veteran goes through a cathartic reliving of the battlefield events.

For his numerous roles on television, he earned nine Emmy Award nominations. He also received Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor nominations for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas in 1982 and To Be or Not to Be in 1983. He won a Golden Globe in 1990 for his supporting role in the television miniseries The Kennedys of Massachusetts, having had three previous nominations. That same year, he won a Tony Award for his performance as Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He received two Drama Desk Awards for his performances in That Championship Season and Third.

“There are many secrets in us, in the depths of our souls, that we don’t want anyone to know about,” he told Parade. “There’s terror and repulsion in us, the terrible spot that we don’t talk about. That place that no one knows about — horrifying things we keep secret. A lot of that is released through acting.”

In 1999, Durning was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame on Broadway. He was honored with the Life Achievement Award at the 14th Annual Screen Actors Guild Award Ceremony on January 27, 2008. On July 31, 2008 he was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame adjacent to one of his idols, James Cagney.


Durning died of natural causes at his home in Manhattan on December 24, 2012, aged 89[15][16] and was subsequently buried at Arlington National Cemetery.[17] On December 27, 2012, Broadway theaters dimmed their lights to honor him. The New York Times, which commented on Durning's more than 200 credited roles, referred to him and actor Jack Klugman, who died the same day, as "extraordinary actors ennobling the ordinary".[18] The Huffington Post compared the two men, calling them "character actor titans".[19]

Durning's three children were with him when he died. All three live in New York City.


Year Title Role Notes
1962 The Password Is Courage American GI (uncredited)
1965 Harvey Middleman, Fireman Dooley
1969 Stiletto Bit Part (uncredited)
1970 I Walk the Line Hunnicutt
1970 Hi, Mom! Superintendent as Charles Durnham
1971 The Pursuit of Happiness 2nd Guard
1972 Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues Murphy
1972 Deadhead Miles Red Ball Rider (Truck Driver in Cafe)
1972 Doomsday Voyage Jason's First Mate
1972–? Another World Gil McGowan (#1)
1973 Sisters Joseph Larch
1973 All in the Family Detective (Episode: "Gloria the Victim")
1973 The Sting Lt. Wm. Snyder
1974 The Front Page Murphy
1975 Dog Day Afternoon Det. Sgt. Eugene Moretti National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
1975 The Hindenburg Capt. Pruss
1975 Breakheart Pass O'Brien
1975 Queen of the Stardust Ballroom Alvin "Al" Green Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1976 Harry and Walter Go to New York Rufus T. Crisp
1976 Captains and the Kings Ed Healey Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
1977 The Choirboys Spermwhale Whalen
1977 Twilight's Last Gleaming President David Stevens
1978 An Enemy of the People Peter Stockmann
1978 The Fury Dr. Jim McKeever
1978 The Greek Tycoon Michael Russell
1979 Starting Over Michael "Mickey" Potter
1979 North Dallas Forty Coach Johnson
1979 When a Stranger Calls John Clifford
1979 The Muppet Movie Doc Hopper
1979 Tilt Harold 'The Whale' Remmens
1980 Die Laughing Arnold
1980 The Final Countdown Senator Samuel Chapman
1980 Attica Commissioner Russell Oswald Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1981 Dark Night of the Scarecrow Otis P. Hazelrigg
1981 True Confessions Jack Amsterdam
1981 Sharky's Machine Friscoe
1982 The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas Governor Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1982 Tootsie Leslie 'Les' Nichols
1983 Two of a Kind Charlie
1983 Scarface Immigration Officer - voice (uncredited)
1983 To Be or Not to Be Col. Erhardt Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
1984 Mass Appeal Monsignor Thomas Burke
1984 Hadley's Rebellion Sam Crawford
1984 Mister Roberts The Captain
1985 Stick Chucky
1985 The Man with One Red Shoe Ross
1985 Stand Alone Louis Thibadeau
1985 Death of a Salesman Charley Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1986 Where the River Runs Black Father O'Reilly
1986 Meatballs III: Summer Job Pete, Heaven Doorman (uncredited)
1986 Solarbabies The Warden
1986 Big Trouble O'Mara
1986 Tough Guys Deke Yablonski
1987 Happy New Year Charl
1987 The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains Warden Hardy
1987 The Rosary Murders Father Ted Nabors
1988 Far North Bertrum
1988 A Tiger's Tale Charlie Drumm
1988 Étoile Uncle Joshua
1988 Case Closed Detective Les
1988 Cop Dutch Peltz
1989 Brenda Starr Editor Francis I. Livright
1989 Cat Chaser Jiggs Scully
1989 Dinner at Eight Dan Packard TV movie
1990 Fatal Sky Colonel Clancy
1990 Dick Tracy Chief Brandon
1990 The Kennedys of Massachusetts John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
1990–1994 Evening Shade Dr. Harlan Elldridge Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (1991–1992)
1991 V.I. Warshawski Det. Lt. Bobby Mallory
1993 When A Stranger Calls Back John Clifford
1993 The Music of Chance Bill Flower
1994 The Hudsucker Proxy Waring Hudsucker
1994 I.Q. Louis Bamberger
1995 The Last Supper Reverend Gerald Hutchens
1995 The Grass Harp Reverend Buster
1995 Home for the Holidays Henry Larson
1996 Spy Hard The Director
1996 Recon
1996 Mrs. Santa Claus Santa Claus
1996 One Fine Day Lew
1996 The Land Before Time IV: Journey Through the Mists Archie the Archelon
1997 The Secret Life of Algernon Norbie Hess
1998 Jerry and Tom Vic
1998 Shelter Capt. Robert Landis
1998 Hi-Life Fatty
1998 Homicide: Life on the Street Thomas Finnegan (Episode: "Finnegan's Wake") Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
1998 Hard Time Detective Charlie Duffy
1998–2002 Everybody Loves Raymond Father Hubley 6 episodes
1999–2009 Family Guy (voice of ) Francis Griffin 5 episodes
2000 Never Look Back
2000 Lakeboat Skippy
2000 O Brother, Where Art Thou? Pappy O'Daniel
2000 The Last Producer Syd Wolf
2000 Very Mean Men Paddy Mulroney
2000 State and Main Mayor George Bailey
2001 Turn of Faith Philly Russo
2001 L.A.P.D.: To Protect and to Serve Stuart Steele
2002 The Last Man Club John 'Eagle Eye' Pennell
2002 Pride & Loyalty Dylan Frier
2002 First Monday Justice Henry Hoskins
2002 Mother Ghost George
2002 Mr. St. Nick King Nicholas XX (Santa Claus)
2003 Dead Canaries Jimmy Kerrigan
2003 One Last Ride Mr. Orlick
2004 Death and Texas Marshall Ledger
2004 NCIS Corporal Ernie Yost, "Medal of Honor Recipient" Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
2004 A Boyfriend for Christmas Santa Claus
2005 Resurrection: The J.R. Richard Story Frank McNally
2005 River's End Murray Blythe
2005 Dirty Deeds Victor Rasdale
2005 The L.A. Riot Spectacular The Lawyer
2005 Miracle Dogs Too Captain Pete
2006 Forget About It Eddie O'Brien
2006 Everwood Eugene Brown
2006 Local Color Yammi
2006 Jesus, Mary and Joey Teddy the Bartender
2006 Unbeatable Harold Harold's Father
2006 Descansos Innkeeper #2
2006 The Naked Run Congressman Davenport
2007 Chronicle of Purgatory: The Waiter Frank 'The Handler' Maro
2007 Polycarp (aka Kinky Killers) Alexander Hathaway
2008 Deal Charlie Adler
2008 Good Dick Charlie
2008 The Golden Boys John Bartlett
2008 The Drum Beats Twice Satan
2008 Break The Wise Man
2008 iMurders Dr. Seamus St. Martin
2009 A Bunch of Amateurs Charlie Rosenberg
2009 Shannon's Rainbow Floyd
2004–2011 Rescue Me Michael Gavin Nominated – Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series


  • Normandy: The Great Crusade Discovery Channel Director-Christopher Koch - English (1994)


  1. ^ a b c Thomas, Bob (December 24, 2012). "Charles Durning Obituary". Los Angeles: AP via Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  2. ^ a b Cf. a family tree search. The New York Times obituary, published December 26, 2012, writes that Charles' father died when he was 16, placing his death between Feb 28, 1939 to Feb 27, 1940. A more exact reference is needed.
  3. ^ Schudel, Matt (December 26, 2012) "In real life and on the screen, he played countless roles" The Washington Post, p. B4
  4. ^ Biography for Charles Durning at the Internet Movie Database
  5. ^ CHARLES DURNING; Healing the Wounds of Normandy
  6. ^ "Sullivan County Democrat: Obituaries for November 7, 2000". Retrieved December 28, 2012. 
  7. ^ The mother book: a compendium of trivia & grandeur concerning mothers ... - Liz Smith - Google Books. Retrieved December 28, 2012. 
  8. ^ "Los Angeles Times: Archives - NO BLEEPS FOR DURNING'S ROLE". March 2, 1981. Retrieved December 28, 2012. 
  9. ^ Michaelson, Judith (September 15, 1987). "Durning Takes On The 'Peasant Pope' For Pbs - Los Angeles Times". Retrieved December 28, 2012. 
  10. ^ a b National Personnel Records Center (April 18, 2008). "Letter from NPRC to Charles Durning" (Press release). St. Louis, MO. p. 2. 
  11. ^ VA Voluntary Service – National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans
  12. ^ Staff Sgt. Jon Cupp, MND-B PAO, "Military urban legends versus true tales: real life stories prove more interesting",, retrieved 16-Sep-2011
  13. ^ "Speech by Consul General of France Philippe Larrieu". Los Angeles: French Diplomatic Mission to the United States. April 22, 2008. Archived from the original on May 6, 2008. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  14. ^ O'Hare, Kate. 'NCIS' Has Durning Hearing Echoes of War.
  15. ^ "Charles Durning". The Daily Telegraph (London). December 26, 2012. 
  16. ^ "Charles Durning, Oscar-nominated king of the character actors, dies at 89 in NYC". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 December 2012. 
  17. ^ "Charles Durning (1923 - 2012) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 2014-06-23. 
  18. ^ Genzlinger, Neil (December 26, 2012). "AN APPRAISAL; Remembering Jack Klugman and Charles Durning". The New York Times. Retrieved December 27, 2012. 
  19. ^ "Charles Durning, Jack Klugman Deaths Bring New Appreciation For Character Actor Titans".  

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