Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

Charles Durning (1923-2012)

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on December 26, 2012

Charles Durning passed away on Monday. Most will remember him as a long-time character actor, one who specialized in playing blustery, somewhat-befuddled roles.

During World War II he landed at Normandy on D-Day, was wounded there, and later was taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge. He earned three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star, but even years later refused to speak publicly of those events. “Too many bad memories,” he told an interviewer in 1997. “I don’t want you to see me crying.”

He often played a “heavy,” but particularly seemed to relish his occasional comic turns. Durning was nominated twice for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor — in 1983, for playing the Texas governor in the film version of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and again the following year for his performance as the bumbling Colonel Erhardt in Mel Brooks’ To Be or Not to Be.

This clip from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, most of which was actually shot inside the State Capitol in Austin, always makes me smile:



6 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Bummer said, on December 26, 2012 at 7:31 am

    Durning was a favorite of the Bummer family, one special role was as the Mississippi Govenor in 1937, during the great depression , “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou.” Great characters, music and period names in that flick. Losing all of the best generation way to soon.


    • Andy Hall said, on December 26, 2012 at 9:15 am

      I need to see this movie. Durning looks brilliant in it.

      The real Pappy O’Daniel was a Texas politician who rose to prominence in large part by sponsoring radio shows through his business, the Hillbilly Flour Company, and a band, Pat O’Daniel and his Hillbilly Boys. It got him elected governor and later to the Senate. Not as funny as Charles Durning, though.

      • Bummer said, on December 26, 2012 at 10:53 am

        Durning is just one of many memorable characters in this movie, the first and last names are classic, Delmar, Ulysses, Pete Hogwallop. Coen brothers directed the satire loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey. Great music and period sketches make it a must see for any history buff. Let me know when you get the chance to watch it.


        • Andy Hall said, on December 26, 2012 at 11:32 am

          The Coen Brothers’ True Grit is the best Western I’ve seen in approximately forever. A good bit of the credit for that goes to the original author, Charles Portis, whose dialogue (as I understand) was used mostly unaltered in the movie.

          The Coens’ movies really are remarkable for their dialogue, going back at least as far as Fargo. They have a gift for it. Of course, it also makes for some fun parodies:

  2. Bummer said, on December 27, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Watched both True Grit’s last night. John Wayne always has classic lines, however the Bridge’s version of “Rooster” has got to be the best. Thanks for all the clips.


  3. Will Hickox said, on December 27, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    I remember seeing Durning as Stephen Douglas in a television dramatization of the Lincoln-Douglas debates back in high school. He was, of course, terrific in the role.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: