Marion Pellicano Ambrose
One of my favorite character actors passed away on Christmas Eve. Charles Durning, 89, whose film credits include "The Sting", "Tootsie","Dick Tracy," "Home for the Holidays," "The Muppet Movie," "North Dallas Forty" and "O Brother Where Art Thou?", and my personal favorite : Best Little Whorehouse in Texas", leaves behind more than just a legacy of film and TV roles. Durning appeared in almost 200 movies, countless television shows and dozens of plays, portraying a range of characters from Shakespearean fools to crooked cops to military veterans and even a priest. He was nominated for two Academy Awards and nine Emmy Awards and won a Tony Award for his performance as Big Daddy in a 1990 Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
But the thing I found most admirable about this man was not his acting career . The fact is,
Durning was a true, blue, WWII hero. According to Yahoo News: Durning was part of the U.S. force that landed at Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion in June 1944. A few days later he was shot in the hip - he said he carried the bullet in his body thereafter - and after six months of recovery was sent to the Battle of the Bulge.
At an observation of the 60th anniversary of D-Day in Washington, Durning told of the terror he felt and carnage he saw when hitting the beach on D-Day. He said he had to jettison his weapon and gear in order to swim ashore and saw mortally wounded comrades offering themselves as human shields.
"I forget a lot of stuff now but I still wake up once in a while and it's still there," he said. "I can't count how many of my buddies are in the cemetery at Normandy."
Before his acting career, Durning worked as a professional ballroom dancer and teacher.
His other jobs included working as a comedian, night watchman, dishwasher, sightseeing guide, bridge painter, bricklayer, plumber’s helper, bartender and cabdriver. At 30, he was delivering telegrams, while appearing in plays where his payment came from the passing of a hat. With all these life experiences, it's no wonder he became such an amazing character actor.
The world has lost a great actor and an outstanding human being. Rest in Peace Charles, you've earned it!