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Charles Durning, prolific character actor, dies at 89

LOS ANGELES — Charles Durning grew up in poverty, lost five of his nine siblings to disease, barely lived through D-day and was taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge.

His hard life and wartime trauma provided the basis for a prolific 50-year career as an Oscar-nominated character actor playing everyone from a Nazi colonel to the pope to Dustin Hoffman's would-be suitor in Tootsie.

Mr. Durning, who died Monday at age 89 in New York, got his start as an usher at a burlesque theater in Buffalo, N.Y. When one of the comedians showed up too drunk to go on, Mr. Durning took his place.

Mr. Durning's longtime agent, Judith Moss, said he died of natural causes in his home in Manhattan.

"Not only was Charlie a World War II hero, but he was also a hero to his family. Charlie loved Christmas, and if he could have chosen a time to pass, he would have chosen this day," said a statement from his stepdaughter, Anita Gregory, released Tuesday.

Mr. Durning may be best remembered by movie audiences for his Oscar-nominated portrayal of a comically corrupt governor in 1982's The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

The year after Best Little Whorehouse, Mr. Durning received another Oscar nomination, for his portrayal of a bumbling Nazi officer in Mel Brooks' To Be or Not to Be.

The family plans to have a private service and burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Charles Durning, prolific character actor, dies at 89 12/25/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 25, 2012 7:37pm]
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