Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jack Warden (1920-2006)

Jack Warden made a long career out of playing gruff police officers, gruff sports coaches, gruff military men, gruff newspaper men... well, you get the idea. A character actor who was probably one of the reasons they invented the phrase, he appeared in over 100 films.

Warden was a welterweight boxer and a merchant sailor before joining the Army during World War II. He smashed his leg landing on a fence during a nighttime practice paratrooper jump, just before D-Day. He recovered in time for the Battle of the Bulge, but not before reading a play by Clifford Odets and deciding to become an actor.

Warden appeared in many great films: The Asphalt Jungle, From Here to Eternity, 12 Angry Men, Run Silent, Run Deep, The Sound and the Fury, All the President's Men, The Great Muppet Caper, Mighty Aphrodite, Bulworth. And many not so great: Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, Problem Child 1 and 2. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for two films (both starring Warren Beatty), Shampoo and Heaven Can Wait. He did plenty of television work too. He earned an Emmy playing a gruff football coach in the TV movie Brian's Song and was nominated twice for his starring role as a gruff private detective in Crazy Like a Fox. Interestingly, he appeared in two episodes of The Twlight Zone, both prominently featuring robots, though in very different settings: in one he played a convicted criminal exiled on an asteroid with only a female robot for company, in another he played a gruff baseball manager who acquires a robot pitcher.

Jack Warden died on July 19, 2006.

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