Entertainment & Arts

Charles Durning: Tootsie star dies at 89

Charles Durning
Image caption Durning's films included The Sting and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

US actor Charles Durning, who starred in the 1980s film Tootsie, has died at the age of 89.

He died of natural causes at his home in New York City on Christmas Eve, his long time agent Judith Moss said.

Durning was nominated for an Oscar for his role as a corrupt governor in the 1982 film The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, which co-starred Burt Reynolds.

A year later, he received another nomination for Mel Brooks's To Be Or Not To Be.

The World War Two veteran began his career on stage in the 1960s with the New York Shakespeare Festival.

His first national exposure was in 1973 when he played a crooked cop who gets conned by Robert Redford in The Sting.

King of character acting

Durning went on to appear in more than one hundred movies and critics marvelled at his ability to play diverse roles, dubbing him "the king of character actors".

"I never turned down anything and never argued with any producer or director," he said in 2008.

Image caption Durning starred alongside Dustin Hoffman (right) in Tootsie

His roles ranged from playing the would-be suitor of Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie to Chief Brandon in Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy and Santa Claus in four different movies.

"Bad memories"

During the war, Durning was the only member of his Army unit to survive the D-Day invasion at Normandy.

He was captured in the Battle of the Bulge and survived a massacre of prisoners.

In later years, he refused to discuss his time in the military.

"Too many bad memories," he told an interviewer in 1997. "I don't want you to see me crying."

"Not only was Charlie a World War II hero but he was also a hero to his family," his stepdaughter, Anita Gregory said in a statement.

"Charlie loved Christmas and if he could have chosen a time to pass, he would have chosen this day,"

He is survived by his children, Michele, Douglas and Jeannine. He will be buried in a private family service at Arlington National Cemetery.