Monday, 24 March 2014

James Rebhorn Passes On

Prolific character actor James Rebhorn died on 21 March at the age of 65. The cause was melanoma, with which he was diagnosed in 1992.

James Rebhorn was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on 1 September 1948. His family moved to Anderson, Indiana while James Rebhorn was still a child. He attended Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, where he majored in political science and theatre. After graduating he went to Columbia University in New York City where he received a master's degree in fine arts. Following graduation Mr. Rebhorn began acting on stage. He made his television debut on the soap opera The Doctors, appearing in episodes of the show in 1977. He made his film debut in The Yum Yum Girls in 1976 and appeared in the film He Knows You're Not Alone in 1980. He made his debut on Broadway in Are You Now or Have You Ever Been in 1979.

In the Eighties James Reborn appeared in the films Soup for One (1982), Silkwood (1983), Cat's Eye (1985), Whatever It Takes (1986), The House on Carroll Street (1988), Heart of Midnight (1988), The House on Carroll Street (1988), and Desperate Hours (1990). He appeared on such television shows as Texas, The Guiding Light, Kane and Abel, Kate and Allie, Spenser: For Hire, The Equalizer, Wiseguy, and Against the Law. He was a regular on the soap opera As the World Turns. He appeared in the mini-series North and South. On Broadway he appeared in I'm Not Rappaport and a revival of Our Town.

In the Nineties he was part of the cast of the television show Third Watch. He appeared on such shows as Hallmark Hall of Fame ("Sarah, Plain & Tall" and "Skylark"), I'll Fly Away, The Buccaneers, New York Undercover, From the Earth to the Moon, Seinfeld ("The Finale"), and Now and Again. He appeared in such films as Regarding Henry (1991), My Cousin Vinny (1992), Basic Instinct (1992), White Sands (1992), Scent of a Woman (1992), Lorenzo's Oil (1992), Carlito's Way (1993), Blank Check (1994), Guarding Tess (1994), White Squall (1996), Independence Day (1996), The Game (1997), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000), and Meet the Parents (2000).

In the Naughts he was a regular on the TV shows The Book of Daniel and Big Lake, and a semi-regular on the shows Law & Order and White Collar.  He appeared on such shows as The Practice, Hack, Waterfront, The Knights of Prosperity, Canterbury's Law, Boston Legal, Royal Pains, 30 Rock, and As the World Turns. He appeared in the mini-series Comanche Moon. He appeared in such films as Last Ball (2001), The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002), Head of State (2003), Cold Mountain (2003), How to Eat Fried Worms (2006), Anamorph (2007), Baby Mama (2008), Don McKay (2009), and A Little Help (2010). He appeared on Broadway in The Man Who Had All the Luck, Dinner at Eight, Twelve Angry Men, and Prelude to a Kiss. In 2002 he began participating in the Roundabout Theatre Company, appearing in many of their productions.

In the Teens he was a regular on Homeland. He appeared on such TV shows as Blue Bloods, The Good Wife, and Enlightened. He appeared in such films as The Line (2011), Real Steel (2011), The Odd Life of Timothy Green (2012), and Before I Sleep (2013).

When most film buffs think of great character actors, they are often inclined to think of actors from the Golden Age of Hollywood. In many respects James Rebhorn was a throwback to character actors from that era. He played character parts almost exclusively, so that it was rare that his name was listed very high on the credits of films or even television shows. And like the great character actors of old he was a true chameleon, able to pull off any number of roles convincingly. Film and television viewers might not recognise his name, but one can be guaranteed they would always recognise his face.

Like most great character actors James Rebhorn had a specific type he usually played. In his case it was "the Man in the Suit". Over the years he played many lawyers, doctors, politicians, businessmen, and so on. While his characters may have usually worn suits, however, he played a wide variety of different sorts of characters in suits. Many obituaries have noted that Mr. Rebhorn often played villains (crooked lawyers, businessmen, or politicians). Indeed, his role as the corrupt headmaster in Scent of a Woman (1992) is one of his most famous roles. That having been said, it is not the films in which he played villains that come to my mind when I think of James Rebhorn.  Instead I think of George Wilbur, the FBI analyst who proves pivotal in the trial in the comedy My Cousin Vinny (1992) and his recurring role as defence attorney Charles Garnett on Law & Order. Perhaps my favourite role that James Rebhorn played was that of, well, an actor in The Game (1997). He was perfect in the role and for those who recognised him it was a great in-joke in the film.

In his forty years acting James Rebhorn was extremely prolific, appearing in many films, television shows, and stage plays. It is easy to understand why. He was an extremely talented actor who could easily perform any role given him.

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