Actor Charles Durning Dies At 89
Actor Charles Durning, known for his versatility in both comedic and dramatic roles, died Monday in his New York City home. He was 89.
In 1982, Durning received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor as an over-the-top corrupt governor in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. The following year, he received another Oscar nomination for his work as a Nazi colonel in the Mel Brooks comedy To Be or Not to Be. Most recently, Durning was known as the father of Firefighter Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary) on the former FX series Rescue Me.
Born in 1923, Durning was one of 10 children. By the age of 12, his father had died and he had lost five of his sisters to scarlet fever and smallpox. His mother supported the family by washing the clothes of West Point cadets. When he left home at 16, Durning would support himself by working various factory jobs. He would later find work in Buffalo as a burlesque show usher. When a comedian was too drunk to perform, Durning went on stage and got great laughs. Durning would say years later that that was the moment that got him hooked on being a performer.
Although well known for his work in television and film, Durning started out in the theater. He got his big break when producer Joseph Papp hired him to work for the New York Shakespeare Festival. His breakout role came in the 1972 play That Championship Season. Three years later, he received his first Golden Globe nomination when he played a frustrated police lieutenant in Dog Day Afternoon.
Durning was also a World War II veteran, the only soldier in his Army unit to survive Normandy. For his military service he was awarded the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.
He is survived by his three children. His family will bury him at Arlington National Cemetery.
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