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Character actor Charles Durning dead at 89

Dec. 25, 2012 at 9:00 AM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, Dec. 25 (UPI) -- U.S. actor Charles Durning died of natural causes in New York. He was 89.

With two Oscar nominations for a supporting role, including "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" and "To Be or Not to Be," Though not a household name, Durning appeared in numerous theater productions, movies and television films, The New York Times said.

He was the crooked cop in the 1973 movie "The Sting," a dedicated assistant football coach in "North Dallas Forty," and a power broker in "True Confessions."

He could play gruff, funny, combative or gentle, the newspaper said.

Durning had numerous television credits and received nine Emmy nominations but never won.

He appeared as a regular on "Evening Shade," a 1990 sitcom starring Burt Reynolds, "First Monday," a 2002 court drama, and starred in "Everybody Loves Raymond," to name a few.

In the 1990 Broadway revival of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," he played Big Daddy, the bullying, dying plantation owner, his performance won him a Tony Award for best featured actor. In 1972 he appeared in "That Champion Season," and later appeared in "Boom Boom Room," "Au Pair Man," and "Knock Knock."

Durning was born into poverty in the Hudson River village of Highland Falls, N.Y., the ninth of 10 children. He dropped out of school and worked in a number of menial jobs and at the start of World War II enlisted in the Army.

He was awarded a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts for valor and saw combat action at Omaha Beach on D-Day, and the Battle of the Bulge. He suffered gunshot and shrapnel wounds and spent months in hospitals where he also was treated for psychological trauma. In 2008 France awarded him the National Order of the Legion of Honor.

Durning said in a number of interviews his battle experiences never left him, even when he played someone else, the Times said.

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