On the heels of losing one great character actor (Jack Klugman) we unfortunately are losing another tonight, Charles Durning. If you look at Durning's imdb.com profile there were 207 acting credits to his name, a testament of just how hard this man worked in his career. Durning was a true character actor whose career spanned both television and film. Their careers even started almost the exact same year.
While Durning never was the "star" his work had people remembering his name. Perhaps his first memorable role was in the 1973 film The Sting, starring opposite heavy hitters like Paul Newman, and Robert Redford. Durning was also in the acclaimed film Dog Day Afternoon (1975).
The first time I saw Durning in anything was as a small child in The Muppet Movie (1979) he played the villain attempting to get Kermit to be the spokesperson for his fried frog legs. I remember as a small naive child hating him for chasing Kermit the frog, but that's what Durning did; he took the tough small roles.
I eventually laughed along side him with Burt Reynolds on his longest gig ever, the television series Evening Shade. Durning was a talented man because he escaped in and out of small roles, doing the best in comedy in drama, making you like him then making you hate him within the next breath. One of my favorite roles for the the man was as Jessica Lange's father in Tootsie (1982), you really fell in love with this man who finally learned to love again after losing his wife.
Durning did it all throughout his career, made you laugh, cry, hate him; he was a true character actor with whom no role was too small, and throughout his whole career took on guest roles in dramas, and comedies. His last major role was in the show Rescue Me. Durning a truly prolific actor, passed away at age 89 of natural causes.