Charles Durning Poster


Jump to: Overview (5) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (2) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (20) | Personal Quotes (17)

Overview (5)

Date of Birth 28 February 1923Highland Falls, New York, USA
Date of Death 24 December 2012Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA  (natural causes)
Birth NameCharles Edward Durning
Nicknames Charlie
King of Character Actors
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

WWII veteran, dance instructor and diversely talented stage & screen actor were all inclusions on the resume of this perpetually busy US actor who didn't get in front of the cameras until around the time of his fortieth birthday. The stockily built Charles Durning was one of Hollywood's most dependable and sought after supporting actors.

Durning was born in Highland Falls, New York, to Louise Marie (Leonard), a laundress, and James Gerald Durning. His father was an Irish immigrant and his mother was of Irish descent. Durning first got his start in guest appearances in early 1960's TV shows. He scored minor roles over the next decade until he really got noticed by film fans as the sneering, corrupt cop "Lt. Snyder" hassling street grifter 'Robert Redford' in the multi award winning mega-hit The Sting (1973). Durning was equally entertaining in the Billy Wilder production of The Front Page (1974), he supported screen tough guy Charles Bronson in the suspenseful western Breakheart Pass (1975) and featured as "Spermwhale Whalen" in the story of unorthodox police behavior in The Choirboys (1977).

The versatile Durning is equally adept at comedic roles and demonstrated his skills as "Doc Hopper" in The Muppet Movie (1979), a feisty football coach in North Dallas Forty (1979), a highly strung police officer berating maverick cop Burt Reynolds in Sharky's Machine (1981), and a light footed, dancing Governor (alongside Burt Reynolds once more) in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982). Durning continued a regular on screen association with Burt Reynolds appearing in several more feature films together and as "Dr. Harlan Elldridge" in the highly popular TV series Evening Shade (1990). On par with his multitude of feature film roles, Durning has always been in high demand on television and has guest starred in Everybody Loves Raymond (1996), Monk (2002) and Rescue Me (2004). Plus, he has appeared in the role of "Santa Claus" in five different television movies.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: firehouse44@hotmail.com

Spouse (2)

Mary Ann Amelio (1974 - 24 December 2012) (his death)
Carole Doughty (1959 - 1972) (divorced) (3 children)

Trade Mark (1)

Usually has played burly and tough but genial characters

Trivia (20)

Was a ballroom dance instructor in his early career. He also studied Judo.
Has played Santa Claus five times to date, in It Nearly Wasn't Christmas (1989), Mrs. Santa Claus (1996), Elmo Saves Christmas (1996), Mr. St. Nick (2002), and A Boyfriend for Christmas (2004).
He died at his home in Manhattan (NYC). He was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery.
Won Broadway's 1990 Tony Award as Best Actor (Featured Role - Play) for portraying Big Daddy in a revival of Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
He met Mary Ann Amelio, his second wife, after his discharge from the army. He met her again while in "That Championship Season" on Broadway. They then married in 1974 and were legally separated in 2010.
His military records from the National Archives show that he arrived in Normandy on June 15, 1944 and was wounded the same day by shrapnel from an exploding German "S" mine. He received his first and only Purple Heart for this wound. Arlington National Cemetery recently recut his headstone to reflect the award of only one Purple Heart Medal. His medical records state that all the shrapnel was removed so there was no metal remaining in his body.
Was kicked out of the American Academy of Dramatic Art drama school because they thought he had no talent. Another famous thespian to be booted from the school was Jason Robards.
His first job in the entertainment field was as an usher at a burlesque house. His career officially started as a singer with a band at the age of 16, before going into acting. His first professional play was in Buffalo before he went off to war.
His breakthrough role occurred on Broadway in 1972 starring in "That Championship Season" where he was noticed by director George Roy Hill who cast him in his acclaimed Oscar-winning movie The Sting (1973).
Despite the wounds he received in WWII (he was shot in the legs and hip by machine-gun fire), he went on to become a professional dancer and dance teacher. He taught at the Fred Astaire studios and relied upon it when he couldn't find acting work.
Was considered for the role of General Worden in The Dirty Dozen (1967).
He was the ninth of ten children, but five of his sisters died of smallpox or scarlet fever in childhood, three of them within two weeks. His surviving siblings were James (1915-2000), Clifford (1916-1994), Frances (born 1919) and Gerald Durning (born 1926). His mother, Louise (Leonard), who was of Irish descent, was a laundress at West Point, and his father, James Durning, was an Irish immigrant who had been badly wounded in World War I, just as Charles would be in WW II. He died when Charles was 12.
He had three children with his first wife, Carole: daughters, Michele and Jeanine; and a son, Douglas Edward.
Passed away on same day as actor Jack Klugman.
Appeared in three films that were nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: The Sting (1973), Dog Day Afternoon (1975) and Tootsie (1982). Of those, The Sting (1973) is a winner in the category.
Developed an interest in Acting at the age of 28 when, while working as an usher, he was called onstage to replace a drunken Actor. Durning said he was hooked when he first heard the audience laugh.
In off-Broadway production of "The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui", Bertolt Brecht's Nazi Allegory set in Chicago. [October 2002]
Was the recipient of the 44th Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award for 2007. [December 2007]
His life and military service honored as part of the 24th National Memorial Day concert, which features Joe Mantegna and Gary Sinise. [May 2013]
Started his show business career in burlesque.

Personal Quotes (17)

Dancing came easy for me. Acting came hard.
I would rather do a play because it's instantaneous. You go on the stage, and you know whether it's happening or not. Somebody asked me "what is acting?" And I said, "acting is listening." And if you ain't listening, nobody's listening.
I can't count how many of my friends are in the cemetery at Normandy, the heroes are still there, the real heroes.
[about arriving at Omaha Beach on D-Day] It's hard to describe what we all went through that day, but those of us who were there will understand. We were frightened all the time. My sergeant said 'are you scared, son?' and I said 'yes, I am', and he said 'that's good, it's good to be scared', he said 'we all are'. This guy in the boat, he turned to me and he threw up all over me, and I got seasick. He was scared. You're not thinking about anything, you're just thinking about you hope that shell that just went off isn't going to hit this boat. Even the guys who had seen a lot of action before, and this was my first time, they were just as ashen as I was, and I was frightened to death. I was the second man off my barge and the first and third men got killed. First guy the ramp went down, the guy fell and I tried to leap over him and I stumbled and we both slipped into the water. We were supposed to be able to walk into shore but they didn't bring us far enough. And I was in 60 feet of water with a 60 pound pack on, so I let it all go.
[on reaching Omaha Beach after falling in the water] I came up and I didn't have a helmet, a rifle, nothing. I hit the beach, the guys pulled me in who were already there, I'd lost everything; but they said 'you'll find plenty of them on the beach, rifles, helmets, that belong to nobody'. Nobody knew where we were supposed to go, there was nobody in charge, you were on your own. All around me people were being shot at, I saw bodies all over the place; but you didn't know if they were alive or dead, they were just lying there.
[about D-Day] We got behind this tank to protect ourselves; we're holding our own when they called us over to them. I asked the sergeant 'you want me to go first or you go first?' He said 'you go first, I'll be right behind you'. I heard an explosion, and I turned around, and his torso was here, and his body was over there.
[on what he thought his image was] Image? Hell, I don't have an image.
There are many secrets in us, in the depths of our souls, that we don't want anyone to know about. There's terror and repulsion in us, the terrible spot that we don't talk about. That place no one knows about -- horrifying things we keep secret. A lot of that is released through acting.
Of course, I'm not often the top dog, but sometimes it's better not to be top dog, because you last longer. If a movie or play flops, you always blame the lead. They say: "He couldn't carry it." They always blame him. But they rarely blame the second or third banana.
[from an interview in 2008] They're going to carry me out, if I go.
I never turned down anything and never argued with any producer or director.
[from a 1997 interview] If I'm not in a part, I drive my wife crazy. I'll go downstairs to get the mail, and when I come back I'll say, "Any calls for me?".
'A Chorus Line' is an actor's play about actors. When that girl starts singing 'What I Did for Love', it has nothing to do with sex. It's the love of the theatre - the horror, the heartbreak, the disappointments. We've all had our share.
[Advice on acting] The thing to do is to keep taking chances. If you're going to learn anything, you've got to learn from the masters. Plus you've got to work with the talented beginner too.
I was in the business ten years before the actors began to notice me. Then it took another five years before the agents and producers noticed me. Five years after that, the public found me. And five or six years later, the critics took note.
James Cagney is probably the reason I became an actor. I think I learned much of what I know about acting from watching James Cagney movies. When people ask me, I tell them I didn't go to school. I learned directly from Cagney.
Part of my life I tried to keep secret... and deliberately. When I first got into this business and told people that I was in burlesque, they immediately characterized me. Right away, when they say 'burlesque,' you think of Bert Lahr, Phil Silvers, Red Skelton... they're all comics, and they're all great. Ihad none of their ability.

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