Known for being a character actor, Durning was able to take on any character that was asked of him. He was a chameleon who could be funny and serious when needed.
Before I talk about some of my favorite roles of his, I want to talk about his military service to our country. Charles Durning served in the Army in WWII and participated in the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Wounded shortly after D-Day by a German S-mine, he did not stay out of action for long. By December 1944, he was back on the line just in time to participate in the Battle of the Bulge. After being wounded again, this time in the chest, he was transported back to the U.S. for treatment. He remained in Army hospitals receiving treatment for shrapnel and bullet wounds until he was discharged in January of 1946. PFC Durning was awarded the Silver Star and 3 Purple Heart’s during his time in the service. His life was certainly not defined by what he did in the Army during the war, but when he was called to serve, he did and without hesitation (as did millions of other men of his generation).
Charles Durning went on to have a very successful career in Hollywood. If you look at his IMDB page, you’ll see an amazing list of TV shows and movies that he was in dating back to 1953. He was nominated for an Oscar twice in his career. His first nomination came from his incredible performance as the Governor in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982).
Here are some of my other favorite moments from the career of Charles Durning:
Doc Hopper in The Muppet Movie (1979)
Coach Johnson in North Dallas Forty (1979)
Pappy O’Daniel in O Brother, Where art Thou? (2000)
Francis Griffin on Family Guy (1999-2009)
Ernie Yost on NCIS (2005)
Charles Durning had one hell of a career and one hell of a life. He will be missed.