Charles Durning, best known as one of Hollywood’s top character actors in movies like “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Tootsie,” passed away at his home in New York City on Christmas Eve.
Durning was nominated for nine Emmys and two Academy Awards over his career. The actor was also a World War II hero, and was in the first wave of troops to land on Omaha Beach on D-Day—a little known aspect of his background which he avoided discussing until much later in life. He was awarded three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star, France awarded him the National Order of the Legion of Honour in 2008.
In Wednesday’s Rewrite segment on The Last Word, msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell shared memories about working with him.
“I’m one of the lucky writers who got to write for Charles Durning. It is not a small group. There are probably at least 300 of us if you include all of the plays and television episodes he has been in, including most recently Seth McFarland’s “Family Guy”and “Rescue me” where he played Dennis Leary’s father. I thought I knew Charles Durning from our chats on the set and when I would run into him later at the Pacific Dining Car in Santa Monica, where he loved to have big steak dinners with his good pal, Burt Reynolds. But I only knew the actor Charles Durning, which means I didn’t know the half of it. I only knew the last 40 years of his life, not the first 49, not his unimaginably difficult childhood, not his heroic war years. I didn’t know the half of Charles Durning’s life that would make a truly great movie.”
Durning was 89-years-old.