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Charles Durning, Two-Time Oscar Nominee, Dead at 89

Charles Durning
David Klein/Getty Images

Charles Durning, one of the great character actors of the modern era, has passed away at the age of 89 from natural causes. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, his work should as he’s been a reliable supporting player in cinema and television for decades.

A World War II veteran, it took Durning a while to find his footing in Hollywood. Though he started in television, he was noticed by Brian De Palma, who cast him in 1970′s ‘Hi Mom’ and in 1973′s ‘Sisters’ and a number of pictures thereafter. But by 1973 he appeared in the Best Picture winner ‘The Sting,’ which guaranteed him work. And work he did, appearing over the next couple years in films like ‘Dog Day Afternoon,’ again for De Palma in ‘The Fury’ and in ‘The Muppet Movie’ as Doc Hopper, the man who wants Kermit’s face (and possibly his legs as well).

He gave great performances in films that weren’t always the best, from ‘Brenda Starr’ to ‘Sharky’s Machine,’ from ‘Solarbabies’ to ‘Tootsie,’ from ‘Dick Tracy’ to his work with the Coen brothers in ‘The Hudsucker Proxy’ and ‘O Brother Where Art Thou.’ He could play straight and had a talent for police officers. but he was also excellent playing his comedic side, and often worked miracles in minutes.

The timing of his death is unfortunate as Durning has played Santa Claus five times over the course of his career.

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