Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Late, Great Maury Chaykin

Actor Maury Chaykin, who played Nero Wolfe on the series A Nero Wolfe Mystery, passed yesterday at the age of 61. It was his birthday. He had experienced problems with his kidneys of late.

Maury Chaykin was born in Brooklyn on July 27, 1949. He attended the State University of New York in Buffalo. He trained with Buffalo's American Contemporary Theatre. He later fought for roles in New York City. Offered a place a role in Toronto's underground theatre in 1974, he moved there. Mr. Chaykin made his film debut in the movie Me in 1975. He made his television debut in the series King of Kensington in 1978. He appeared in the telefilm Riel in 1979. In 1980 he appeared in the films Double Negative, Nothing Personal, and The Kidnapping of the President.

In the Eighties Maury Chaykin appeared in such films Death Hunt (1981), Soup for One (1982), Highpoint(1982), WarGames (1983), Harry and Son (1984), Mrs. Soffel (1984), Def-Con 4 (1985), The Bedroom Window (1987), Twins (1988), and Dances with Wolves (1990). In Dances with Wolves Mr. Chaykin played one of his most memorable roles, as the slightly crazy Major Fambrough. He appeared on television in the series Seeing Things, Philip Marlowe Private Eye, Adderly, Night Heat, Diamonds, The Twilight Zone, and Street Legal.

In the Nineties Maury Chaykin appeared in such movies as The Pianist (1991), My Cousin Vinny (1992), Hero (1992), Somersby (1993), Exotica (1994), Cutthroat Island (!995), The Sweet Hereafter (1997), Mousehunt (1997), The Mask of Zorro (1998), Mystery, Alaska (1999), and The Art of War (2000). He appeared in such television shows as La Femme Nikita, Due South, and Lexx. It was in 2000 that Mr. Chaykin would play legendary detective Nero Wolfe in the telefilm The Golden Spiders: A Nero Wolfe Mystery.

In the Naughts Maury Chaykin played the lead role of Nero Wolfe in the television series A Nero Wolfe Mystery, which ran from 2001-2002. In four episodes of the show Entourage Mr. Chaykin played the role of movie executive Harvey Weingard. He was a regular on the series Less than Kind, which ran from 2008 to 2010. He also guest starred on the shows CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Stargate SG-1, Boston Legal, and Eureka. Mr. Chaykin appeared in such films as Hostage (2002), Being Julia (2004), Heavens Fall (2006), Production Office (2008), and Casino Jack (2010). His last appearance on screen will be in Conduct Unbecoming, set for release later this year.

Maury Chaykin was definitely one of the most talented and versatile actors of his generation. Indeed, speaking as a fan of Rex Stout's original novels, Mr. Chaykin gave by far the best performance of brilliant but curmudgeonly detective Nero Wolfe. For me it is a rare thing when an actor captures a beloved literary character on screen. Mr. Chaykin was also great in the brief role of Major Fambrough in Dances with Wolves, convincingly playing a character whose mind was not quite all there. Indeed, he was so great an actor that he, a native of New York who spent most of his life in Canada, could convincingly portray a Southern yokel in My Cousin Vinny, right down to the drawl. Maury Chaykin was a brilliant, talented, and versatile actor who left us all too soon. Fortunately, he left us a number of great roles by which he will forever be remembered.

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