On Monday, December 24th, veteran character actor Charles Durning died of natural causes in his Manhattan home. He was 89 years old. While not a household name, Durning was a widely recognizable face for over 50 years and appeared in some of Hollywood's most notable films.
Born on Feb. 28, 1923 in the small town of Highland Falls, NY, Durning fought in World War II, and was part of both the invasion of Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. His war service earned him a Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.
Upon his return to the states, Durning used the G.I. Bill to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts alongside future star Jason Robards while working odd jobs that included professional boxing, ballroom dancing and ushering at a burlesque club.
After making his debuts on stage and screen in the 1960s, Durning finally broke through as a corrupt cop who hassles Robert Redford in The Sting (1973). He followed that with one of his most memorable performances, playing a Brooklyn detective negotiating a hostage situation in Sidney Lumet's classic crime thriller Dog Day Afternoon (1975).
In the following decade, Durning earned Oscar nominations for his supporting turns in the musical The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982) and the Mel Brooks comedy To Be or Not to Be (1983). He was also notable for his performance as a widowed man who unwittingly becomes smitten with Dustin Hoffman's Dorothy Michaels in Tootsie (1982).
Durning's later years were filled with consistent roles in television movies and guest starring roles on popular shows. He had one final great performance as Denis Leary's cantankerous father on FX's Rescue Me.
Durning died on Christmas Eve 2012, the same day Hollywood lost television icon Jack Klugman.
Charles During harasses Robert Redford in 'The Sting' (1973)/Universal Pictures; Durning in Sidney Lumet's 'Dog Day Afternoon' (1975)/Warner Bros.; Durning woos Dustin Hoffman in 'Tootsie' (1982)/Sony Pictures