Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pat Hingle R.I.P.

Character actor Pat Hingle, who appeared in everything from The Andy Griffith Show to Clint Eastwood movies, passed on January 3 from myelodysplasia. He was 84 years old.

Pat Hingle was born Martin Patterson Hingle on July 19. 1924 in Miami, Florida. He was only six years old when his father abandoned his family. Hingle's mother had to move from place to place finding what work she could. Hingle attended the University of Texas as an advertising major, but dropped out in 1941 Hingle to join the United States Navy. He served aboard the U.S.S. Marshall. Following the war he returned to the University of Texas. While he initially became involved with the theatre department as a means of meeting girls, he soon learned that acting was what he wanted to do. In college he appeared in over 35 plays over a three year period. After graduation Hingle moved to New York where he acted on stage and in television. He made his debut on television in the 1951 episode of Suspense entitled "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." He made his debut on Broadway in 1954 in a part in the play End as a Man. That same year he made his first appearance on film in an uncredited role in On the Waterfront.

Pat Hingle would have a long career on the Broadway stage. Hingle was a regular on Broadway throughout the Fifties and Sixties, appearing in such plays as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (originating the role of Gooper), The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, J.B. (playing the title role), Blues for Mister Charlie, The Odd Couple (as a replacement for Walter Matthau as Oscar Madison), and Johnny No-Trump. He appeared less frequently on Broadway after 1970, but would go onto appear in such plays as The Selling of the President, and the 1997 revival of 1776.

Hingle also had a very healthy film career. He appeared in the films The Strange One and No Down Payment (both released in 1957). It was while he was in the Broadway play J.B. that he was offered lead role in the film Elmer Gantry. Hingle lost the role down after accidentally plummeting 54 feet down an elevator shaft, fracturing his skull, one of his wrists, and many of his ribs. In the Sixties he appeared in such films as Splendour in the Grass, The Ugly American, Invitation to a Gunfighter, Nevada Smith, Jigsaw, and the Clint Eastwood movie Hang 'Em High. During the Seventies much of Hingle's career was spent in television, but he continued to appear in movies, including WUSA, The Carey Treatment, The Super Cops, Independence (in which he played John Adams), the Clint Eastwood film The Gauntlet, and Norma Rae. In the Eighties he appeared less frequently on film, although he did appear in the movies Going Berserk, Running Brave, the Dirty Harry movie Sudden Impact, The Falcon and the Snowman, and Maximum Overdrive. His most notable role during the Eighties may have been in the 1989 movie Batman, in which he appeared as Commissioner Gordon. He was the only actor besides Michael Gough (as Alfred) to appear in all four movies of the Nineties Batman franchise. Beyond the Nineties Batman movies, from the Nineties to the Naughts Hingle would appear in the films The Grifters, Lightning Jack, The Quick and the Dead, The Hunter's Moon, Muppets in Space, the 2000 version of Shaft, and Waltzing Anna. He played his final role in the movie Undoing Time, released just last year.

While Hingle appeared frequently on stage and in movies, he may be most familiar to viewers from his long career in television. In the Fifties he appeared on such shows as Appointment with Adventure, The Goodyear Television Playhouse, The Phil Silvers Show (AKA Sgt. Bilko), The Philco Television Playhouse, Studio One, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The United States Steel Hour. In the Sixties he appeared on such shows as Cain's Hundred, The Untouchables, The Twilight Zone, Route 66, Rawhide, Daniel Boone, The Andy Griffith Show, Mission: Impossible, The Invaders, and Bonanza. Hingle was considered for the role of Artemus Gordon on The Wild Wild West. The role would ultimately go to Ross Martin. Hingle started the Seventies out filling in for Milburn Stone, who played Doc Addams, on Gunsmoke while that actor was ill. For six episodes Hingle played Dr. John Chapman. Throughout the decade he appeared on such shows as Kung Fu, Hec Ramsey, McCloud, Barbary Coast, and Barnaby Jones. From the Eighties into the Naughts, Hingle continued to appear on television, in such shows as M*A*S*H, Hart to Hart, Murder She Wrote, Cheers, Wings, and Homicide. Although he had a long career in television, Hingle played only a few recurring characters in series beyond Dr. Chapman on Gunsmoke. He appeared in recurring roles on Stone (as Chief Paulton), Hail to the Chief (as Lamar Montgomery), and The Court (as Chief Justice Townsend). Hingle also appeared in several telefilms, including The Ballad of Andy Crocker, Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo, Elvis (as Colonel Parker), Of Mice and Men, The Habitation of Dragons, and Truman (as Boss Pendergast). Hingle also played in the mini-series War and Remembrance (as Admiral Halsey) and The Shining.

Pat Hingle was perhaps best known for playing such authority figures as police officers, judges, politicians, and military officers. In truth this belied his sheer versatility as an actor. In his prolific career Hingle played everything from hard working husband Herman Kreitzer in No Down Payment to the Ugly American Homer Atkins in the movie of the same name to dedicated track coach Bill Easton in Running Brave. Even when he was playing authority figures, he could be very versatile. After all, Pat Hingle didn't simply play dedicated lawman Commissioner Gordon in the Batman franchise, but also the corrupt Judge Adam Fenton in Hang 'Em High. Indeed, it is a mark of Hingle's versatility that he was prolific in three different media--on stage, in film, and on television. Most actors can only boast being a star of one of these. Pat Hingle was a star on all three.

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