Very sad news of the death of one of the great character actors of all time. Charles Durning, whose distinctive face and everyman countenance made him one of Hollywood’s greatest and most recognized character actors, has died at 89. His movie credits include The Sting, Dog Day Afternoon, Tootsie, The Choirboys, and countless others. Durning also did extensive work in television. His portrayal in an episode of NCIS of Iwo Jima Veteran and Marine Corporal Ernie Yost, Medal of Honor Recipient who, following the death of his wife, believes he killed his best friend on the island in 1945, is incredibly moving. The episode is by far the best in the long run of the acclaimed series.
Durning was born in 1923 to a father who lost a leg and survived the gas of the World War I trenches. After a hard young life filled with the early death of his father and several sisters, Durning served in the Army in World War II.
He was among the first wave of U.S. soldiers to land at Normandy during the D-Day invasion and the only member of his Army unit to survive. He killed several Germans and was wounded in the leg. Later he was bayoneted by a young German soldier whom he killed with a rock. He was captured in the Battle of the Bulge and survived a massacre of prisoners.
In later years, he refused to discuss the military service for which he was awarded the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.“Too many bad memories,” he told an interviewer in 1997. “I don’t want you to see me crying.”