‘King of Character Actors’ Dead at 89

Dec 26, 2012  •  Post A Comment

An Oscar-nominated and Emmy-nominated actor known for a string of roles in feature films and on television has died. The Hollywood Reporter announced that Charles Durning, who earned a reputation as the “king of character actors,” died on Christmas Eve of natural causes in his New York City apartment. He was 89.

Durning was known for his roles in films such as "Tootsie" and “The Sting,” and recently portrayed Denis Leary’s father on the FX television series "Rescue Me," receiving an Emmy nomination for the role in 2008.

His other TV roles included the comedy "Evening Shade" — which earned Emmy nominations for outstanding supporting actor for Durning in 1991 and 1992 — and a role as a priest on "Everybody Loves Raymond." He was nominated for a total of nine Emmys, going back to 1975 and a nod for outstanding lead actor in a special program for CBS’s “Queen of the Stardust Ballroom.”

Durning’s other Emmy nominations were for “Captains and the Kings” in 1977, “Attica” in 1980, “Death of a Salesman” in 1986 and guest roles on “Homicide: Life on the Street” in 1998 and “NCIS” in 2005.

"Resembling what one might envision as a grizzled cop, Durning excelled in congenial everyman roles and was a familiar character actor, if not household name," THR notes. "With his stocky frame, he played Santa Claus five times in TV movies, often invigorating the ‘ho-ho’ hum character with a curt edge."

Durning was perhaps best known for his movie work, including portraying Dustin Hoffman’s suitor in 1982’s “Tootsie,” and earned back-to-back supporting actor Oscar nominations in 1983 and 1984 for "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" and "To Be or Not to Be."

Durning received the Screen Actors Guild’s Life Achievement Award in 2008. He was also honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.


Charles Durning


  1. And who could forget Charles’ brilliant portrayal of the governor scheming for re-election in “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou”?
    Evidently THR did…

  2. Charles During was fun to watch on screen. Here is a memorable scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJG75FJkjr8

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