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Charles Durning

Heavy-set and eternally middle-aged, Charles Durning is a character player of stage, film and television. With his bulbous nose and beady eyes, Durning brings rousing good cheer to venal authority figures, humanity to his rubes, and heft to small character parts. After a heroic interlude overseas in WWII, Durning worked as a singer and dancer in nightclubs before becoming half of a ballroom dance act, hoofing his way through upstate New York for 11 years. Durning shifted gears to become a prolific actor on the New York stage, notably as part of the New York Shakespeare Festival. He appeared in 35 plays, including 22 of the Bard's, working with the likes of Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, and James Earl Jones.

After catching Durning in the Broadway production of That Championship Season, producer George Roy Hill cast him in his breakthrough role of the corrupt Police Lt. Snyder in The Sting (1973). Previously, he had appeared in several films including his debut, Harvey Middleman, Fireman (1965), I Walk the Line (1970), and two early Brian De Palma films: Hi, Mom! (1970), as a surly building super, and Sisters (1973), as a tenacious detective. Durning was a showstopper (and received an Oscar nomination) as the governor in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982). He also gave a full-bodied musical performance in The Muppet Movie (1979) as Doc Hooper, a nefarious frog legs restaurateur. Appearing in over 50 features covering a wide variety of genres, Durning's recent credits include Brenda Starr (1989), Dick Tracy (1990), and V.I. Warshawski (1991). Durning made a big splash with a small but critical role in The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), the Coen brothers' tribute to screwball comedies. He was touching as Holly Hunter's father in Home for the Holidays (1995).

Durning is also a prolific TV actor, especially notable in TV-movies, specials, and miniseries. He earned Emmy nominations for Queen of the Stardust Ballroom (CBS, 1975) with Maureen Stapleton, Captains and the Kings (NBC, 1976) and Attica (ABC, 1980). Durning joined his frequent feature collaborator Burt Reynolds (they co-starred in four films including Starting Over 1979 and Sharky's Machine 1981) to become a regular on the hit ensemble sitcom Evening Shade (CBS, 1990–94). With broad strokes, Durning portrayed the dim, blustery, small-town doctor Harlan Elldridge so vividly that the producers attempted to spin him off in an unsold 1993 pilot, Harlan & Merleen, directed by Reynolds. Durning continues to work onstage, winning a Tony for his portrayal of Big Daddy in the 1990 Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

In his career, During has received the following awards: Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance for That Championship Season (1972); National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor for Dog Day Afternoon (1975); Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1990); Tony for Best Featured Actor in a play for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1990); Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Television Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture for The Kennedys of Massachusetts (1990); Drama League Distinguished Performance Award for The Gin Game (1997). He was the latest recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award (January 2008).

Durning was also awarded a Purple Heart and a Silver Star for valor in WWII after being wounded in action three times.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2008.
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Charles Durning Facts

BirthdayFebruary 28, 1923 (100)
BirthplaceHighland Falls, New York, USA
Height5' 8" (1m73)  How tall is Charles Durning compared to you?
Awards2008 Screen Actors Guild Awards: Life Achievement Award
1991 Golden Globe Awards: Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Mini-Series or TV Film (for The Kennedys of Massachusetts)

Selected Filmography

The Land Before Time: The Complete Collection
Local Color
The Muppet Movie
The Land Before Time IV: Journey Through the Mists
O Brother, Where Art Thou?
The Final Countdown
O' Brother, Where Art Thou?
Hollywood Collection: Jack Lemmon: America's Everyman
The Sting
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