Charles Durning: American actor (1923 - 2012)
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Charles Durning
American actor

Charles Durning

Charles Durning
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American actor
Was Actor Stage actor Film actor Television actor
From United States of America
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio
Gender male
Birth 28 February 1923, Highland Falls, USA
Death 24 December 2012, New York City, USA (aged 89 years)
Star sign Pisces
Height: 1.7145 m
The details (from wikipedia)


Charles Edward Durning (February 28, 1923 – December 24, 2012) was an American actor, with appearances in over 200 movies, television shows and plays. Durning's best-known films include The Sting (1973), Dog Day Afternoon (1975), True Confessions (1981), Tootsie (1982), Dick Tracy (1990) and O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000). He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for both The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982) and To Be or Not to Be (1983). Prior to his acting career, Durning served in World War II and was decorated for valor in combat.

Early life

Durning was born in Highland Falls, New York. He was the son of Louise (née Leonard; 1894–1982), a laundress at West Point, and James E. Durning (1883 – c. 1935). His father and mother were an of German, Irish and English descent Durning was raised Catholic. Durning was the ninth of ten children. His three brothers James (Roger) (1915–2000), Clifford (1916–1994), Gerald (1926–2000) and his sister Frances (1918–2006) survived to adulthood, but five sisters died from scarlet fever and smallpox as children.

Military service

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

Durning participated in various functions to honor American veterans, including serving as Chairman of the U.S. National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans. 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 three Purple Heart Medals. Additional awards included the Army Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with Arrowhead device and two bronze service stars, and the World War II Victory Medal. His badges included the Combat Infantryman Badge, Expert Badge with Rifle Bar, and Honorable Service Lapel Pin.

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
Silver Star 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
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
Purple Heart Good Conduct Medal American Campaign Medal
EAME Campaign Medal (2x) World War II Victory Medal Legion of Honour – Chevalier

Acting career

With Maureen Stapleton in the 1975 made-for-television film Queen of the Stardust Ballroom (each was nominated for an Emmy Award)

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

Durning began his career in 1951. While working as an usher in a burlesque theatre, 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 three Brian De Palma movies: Hi, Mom! (1970), credited as Charles Durnham, with Robert De Niro, Sisters (1973) and The Fury (1978). 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 Bertolt Brecht's The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui with Al Pacino, produced by Tony Randall. 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 Los Angeles 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 George Roy Hill, impressed by Durning's performance in the 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 a 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 De Niro and Robert Duvall. 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, as the town doctor Harlan Eldridge (1990-1994), Durning appeared with Reynolds 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, Durning 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. 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.

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.

"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."

The Charles Durning Collection is held at the Academy Film Archive. Along with films he appeared in, his collection consists mainly of films he admired as well as a small collection of family home movies.


Grave at Arlington National Cemetery

Durning died of natural causes at his home in Manhattan on December 24, 2012, aged 89. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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". The Huffington Post compared the two men, calling them "character actor titans".

Personal life

Durning married his first wife, Carole Doughty, in 1959. They had three children together before divorcing in 1972. Durning married his second wife, Mary Ann Amelio, in 1974. In 2010, the two filed an official Declaration of Separation.

Filmography and Stage Work


Year Title Role Notes
1962 The Password Is Courage American GI Uncredited
1965 Harvey Middleman, Fireman Dooley
1969 Stiletto Cop Uncredited
1970 Hi, Mom! Superintendent (as Charles Durnham)
I Walk the Line Hunnicutt
1971 The Pursuit of Happiness 2nd Guard
1972 Doomsday Voyage Jason's First Mate
Dealing: Or the Berkeley-to-BostonForty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues Murphy
Sisters Joseph Larch
1973 Deadhead Miles Red Ball Rider
The Sting Lt. Wm. Snyder
1974 The Front Page Murphy
1975 Queen of the Stardust Ballroom Alvin "Al" Green TV Movie
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
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
Breakheart Pass O'Brien
The Hindenburg Capt. Pruss
1976 Harry and Walter Go to New York Rufus T. Crisp
1977 Twilight's Last Gleaming President David Stevens
The Choirboys Spermwhale Whalen
1978 The Fury Dr. Jim McKeever
An Enemy of the People Peter Stockmann
The Greek Tycoon Michael Russell
1979 Tilt Harold 'The Whale' Remmens
The Muppet Movie Doc Hopper
North Dallas Forty Coach Johnson
Starting Over Michael Potter
When a Stranger Calls John Clifford
1980 Attica Russell Oswald TV Movie
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Die Laughing Arnold
The Final Countdown Senator Samuel Chapman
1981 Crisis at Central High Principal Jess Matthews TV Movie
True Confessions Jack Amsterdam
Dark Night of the Scarecrow Otis P. Hazelrigg TV Movie
Sharky's Machine Friscoe
1982 The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas Governor Nominated—Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
Tootsie Leslie 'Les' Nichols
1983 Scarface Immigration Officer Voice, Uncredited
Two of a Kind Charlie
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 Mister Roberts The Captain
Mass Appeal Monsignor Thomas Burke
1985 Stick Chucky
The Man with One Red Shoe Ross
Death of a Salesman Charley TV Movie
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
Stand Alone Louis Thibadeau
1986 Big Trouble O'Mara
Where the River Runs Black Father O'Reilly
Tough Guys Deke Yablonski
Meatballs III: Summer Job Pete Uncredited
Solarbabies The Warden
1987 The Rosary Murders Father Ted Nabors
Happy New Year Charlie
A Tiger's Tale Charlie Drumm
Hadley's Rebellion Sam Crawford
The Man Who Broke 1,000 Chains Warden Hardy TV Movie
Nominated—CableACE Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1988 Cop Dutch Peltz
Far North Bertrum
Case Closed Detective Les
1989 Etoile Uncle Joshua
Brenda Starr Editor Francis I. Livright
Cat Chaser Jiggs Scully
Dinner at Eight Dan Packard TV Movie
1990 Dick Tracy Chief Brandon
Fatal Sky Colonel Clancy
1991 V.I. Warshawski Det. Lt. Bobby Mallory
1993 The Music of Chance Bill Flower
When A Stranger Calls Back John Clifford
1994 The Hudsucker Proxy Waring Hudsucker
I.Q. Louis Bamberger
1995 The Last Supper Reverend Gerald Hutchens
The Grass Harp Reverend Buster
Home for the Holidays Henry Larson
1996 Spy Hard The Director
Recon Chief
The Land Before Time IV:Journey Through the Mists Archie the Archelon Voice
Mrs. Santa Claus Santa Claus
One Fine Day Lew
1997 The Secret Life of Algernon Norbie Hess
1998 Shelter Capt. Robert Landis
Jerry and Tom Vic
Hi-Life Fatty
Hard Time Detective Charlie Duffy
2000 Lakeboat Skippy
O Brother, Where Art Thou? Pappy O'Daniel
Very Mean Men Paddy Mulroney
The Last Producer Syd Wolf
State and Main Mayor George Bailey Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Cast
National Board of Review Award for Best Cast
Online Film Critics Society Award for Best Cast
Never Look Back N/A
2001 L.A.P.D.: To Protect and to Serve Stuart Steele
2002 Turn of Faith Philly Russo
Mother Ghost George
Mr. St. Nick King Nicholas XX
The Naked Run Congressman Davenport Short
The Last Man Club John 'Eagle Eye' Pennell
Pride & Loyalty Dylan Frier
2003 Dead Canaries Jimmy Kerrigan
2004 Death and Texas Marshall Ledger
One Last Ride Mr. Orlick
A Boyfriend for Christmas Santa Claus
2005 River's End Murray Blythe
Resurrection: The J.R. Richard Story Frank McNally
The L.A. Riot Spectacular The Lawyer
Dirty Deeds Victor Rasdale
Detective Max Ernst TV Movie
Jesus, Mary and Joey Teddy the Bartender
2006 Descansos Innkeeper #2
Desperation Tom Billingsley
Miracle Dogs Too Capt. Pete Weaver
Unbeatable Harold Mr. Clark
Local Color Yammi
Forget About It Eddie O'Brien
2007 Polycarp Alexander Hathaway aka Kinky Killers
2008 Good Dick Charlie
Deal Charlie Adler
The Drum Beats Twice Satan
Break The Wise Man
iMurders Dr. Seamus St. Martin
The Golden Boys John Bartlett
A Bunch of Amateurs Charlie Rosenberg
2009 Shannon's Rainbow Floyd
2010 Three Chris's Kris Kringle
Chronicle of Purgatory: The Waiter Frank 'The Handler' Maro
An Affirmative Act Man in the White Suit
2011 Naked Run Congressman Davenport
The Great Fight Judge Frier
The Life Zone James Wise
2012 Rogue Assassin Frank Maro
2014 Scavenger Killers Dylan Frier
2015 Bleeding Hearts Santa Claus (final film role)


Year Title Role(s) Notes
1962 King Lear Ensemble, Messenger from Cornwall
1963 Antony and Cleopatra Clown
The Winter's Tale Clown
1964 Poor Bitos understudy Broadway debut
1965 Drat! The Cat! Pincer
1966 All's Well That Ends Well Lavatch
1966 Measure for Measure Pompey
Richard III 1st Murderer
Pousse-Café Maurice, Dean Stewart
understudy: Artie
1967 The Comedy of Errors Dromio of Ephesus
King John James Gurney
Titus Andronicus Narrator
1968 The Happy Time Louis Bonnard
1969 Twelfth Night Feste
Indians Ned Buntline
1970 The Wars of the Roses Part 1: Mayor of London
Part 2: Jack Cade
1972 That Championship Season George Sikowski Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance
1973 Boom Boom Room Harold
1976 Knock Knock Cohn
1990 Cat on a Hot Tin Roof Big Daddy Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Play
Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
1996 Inherit the Wind Matthew Harrison Brady
1997 The Gin Game Weller Martin Drama League Award for Distinguished Performance
2000 Gore Vidal's The Best Man Ex-President Arthur Hockstader Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play
2001 Brigadoon Mr. Lundie
2002 The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui Old Dogsborough, Ted Ragg, Ignatius Dullfeet
2003 Harvey Elwood P. Dowd
2004 Golf With Alan Shepard Ned
2005 Third Jack Jameson Lortel Award for Outstanding Featured Actor


Year Title Role Notes
1972 Another World Gil McGowan (#1) Unknown episodes
1973 All in the Family Detective Episode: "Gloria the Victim"
1975–1976 The Cop and The Kid Officer Frank Murphy 13 episodes
1975 Barnaby Jones Don Corcoran Episode: "The Deadly Conspiracy: Part 2"
1976 Captains and the Kings Ed Healey 3 episodes
Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie
1981 Great Performances McMahon Episode: "The Girls in Their Summer Dresses and Other Stories"
1982 American Playhouse Retired Man Episode: "Working"
1985 Amazing Stories Assistant to the Boss Episode: "Guilt Trip"
1985 Tall Tales & Legends Uncle Doffue Episode: "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"
1986 Amazing Stories Earl Episode: "You Gotta Believe Me"
1990–1994 Evening Shade Dr. Harlan Elldridge 98 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
1990 The Kennedys of Massachusetts John "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald 3 episodes
Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
1992 The Water Engine Tour Guide Television movie
1996 Elmo Saves Christmas Santa Claus Television special
1997 Orleans Frank Vitelli 3 episodes
1997 Early Edition Psychiatrist Episode: "A Regular Joe"
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 Cybil A.J. Sheridan 2 episodes
1998–2002 Everybody Loves Raymond Father Hubley 6 episodes
1998–2000 The Practice Stephen Donnell 2 episodes
1999–2009 Family Guy Francis Griffin 5 episodes
1999–2000 Now and Again Narrator 20 episodes
2000 The Hoop Life Wes Connelly Episode: "The Second Chance"
2000 Early Edition Judge Steven Romick Episode: "Time"
2001 Arli$$ N/A Episode: "Fielding Offers"
2001 Citizen Baines Clifford Connelly Episode: "Three Days in November"
2002 First Monday Justice Henry Hoskins 13 episodes
2003 Touched by an Angel Father Madden Episode: "The Root of All Evil"
2004–2011 Rescue Me Michael Gavin 27 episodes
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
2004 NCIS Corporal Ernie Yost Episode: "Call of Silence"
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series
2006 Everwood Eugene Brown 2 episodes
2007 Monk Hank Johansen Episode: "Mr. Monk Goes to the Hospital"
2010 No Clean Break The Wise Man Unsold TV pilot


  • Normandy: The Great Crusade Discovery Channel Director-Christopher Koch - English (1994)
The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article on 23 Mar 2020. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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