If you read my reviews of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982), and Home for the Holidays (1995), I had nothing but praise for Charles Durning. Durning was one of those supporting actors who could raise a movie up just by the fact that he was in it. Durning’s dance steps in Whorehouse was the highlight of that film, and he practically stole the show in Home for the Holidays as the father who was trying to not only cope with the changes in the world around him, but with his dysfunctional family as well. Even as the villain trying to convince Kermit to become a spokes-frog for his chain of frog leg restaurants, you couldn’t help but love the guy. And can you really picture anybody else wooing a cross dressing Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie and have it not come off as over the top silliness?
It didn’t matter if Durning was in a bad movie or a good one, he always gave his best effort, even when the material he was working with was nothing more than a quickie made for TV feature. He was a class act and I’ll miss him.
From the Washington Post:
Although he portrayed everyone from blustery public officials to comic foils to put-upon everymen, Durning may be best remembered by movie audiences for his Oscar-nominated, over-the-top role as a comically corrupt governor in 1982’s “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”
Many critics marveled that such a heavyset man could be so nimble in the film’s show-stopping song-and-dance number, not realizing Durning had been a dance instructor early in his career. Indeed, he had met his first wife, Carol, when both worked at a dance studio.
The year after “Best Little Whorehouse,” Durning received another Oscar nomination, for his portrayal of a bumbling Nazi officer in Mel Brooks’ ”To Be or Not to Be.” He was also nominated for a Golden Globe as the harried police lieutenant in 1975’s “Dog Day Afternoon.”
He won a Golden Globe as best supporting TV actor in 1991 for his portrayal of John “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald in the TV film “The Kennedys of Massachusetts” and a Tony in 1990 as Big Daddy in the Broadway revival of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Here’s a link to a pretty good short Charles Durning story.