Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Godspeed Rip Torn

Rip Torn, the actor who appeared in such films as Cross Creek (1984) and played Artie on The Larry Sanders Show, died yesterday, July 9 2019, at the age of 88.

Rip Torn was born Elmore Rual Torn Jr. on February 6 1931 in Temple, Texas. The nickname "Rip" was passed down through the family, and he shared it with his father and an uncle. He attended Texas A&M and majored in agriculture before transferring to the University of Texas and switching to drama. After graduating Mr. Torn served in the Army in two years before moving to New York to study acting at the Actors Studio.

Rip Torn made his Broadway debut in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 1956. Later, in 1960, he appeared in Sweet Bird of Youth. In the Sixties he appeared in the productions Daughter of Silence, Strange Interlude, Blues for Mister Charlie, and The Cuban Thing. In the Seventies he appeared on Broadway in Dance of Death, Look Away, and The Glass Menagerie. In the Eighties he appeared in Mixed Couples. In the Nineties he appeared in Anna Christie and The Young Man from Atlanta.

Rip Torn also had an extensive career in television. He made his television debut in 1956 in an episode of Omnibus. In the Fifties he guest starred on the TV shows The Kaiser Aluminum Hour, The Alcoa Hour, The Seven Lively Arts, The Restless Gun, The United States Steel Hour, Kraft Television Theatre, Matinee Theatre, Pursuit, Sunday Showcase, Playhouse 90, and Thriller. In the Sixties Mr. Torn guest starred on such shows as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Frontier Circus, Naked City, The Dick Powell Show, The Untouchables, Route 66, The Lieutenant, Channing, The Eleventh Hour, Ben Casey, Combat!, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Rawhide. In the Seventies he guest starred on such shows as Bonanza, Mannix, Most Wanted, and The Eddie Capra Mysteries. He appeared in the mini-series Blind Ambition.

In the Eighties Rip Torn appeared in the mini-series The Blue and the Gray, The Atlanta Child Murders, and Dream West. In the Nineties he played Artie, the bombastic producer of a talk show on The Larry Sanders Show. In 1996 he won the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for the role. He also served as the narrator on the show Ghost Stories and provided various voices on the animated series The Twisted Tales of Felix the Cat. He guest starred on such shows as Columbo, Chicago Hope, The Wonderful World of Disney, and  Seasons of Love. He appeared in the mini-series Heaven & Hell: North & South, Book III.

In the Naughts Rip Torn had a recurring role on the shows Will & Grace, The Lyon's Den, and 30 Rock. He guest starred on Soul Food and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. His last appearance on television was in TV series TripTank in 2016.

In addition to his careers on Broadway and television, Rip Torn also had a successful movie career. He made his film debut in an uncredited roll in Baby Doll in 1956. In the late Fifties he appeared in the films A Face in the Crowd (1957), Time Limit (1957), and Pork Chop Hill (1959). In the Sixties he appeared in the films King of Kings (1961), Sweet Bird of Youth (1962), Hero's Island (1962), Critic's Choice (1963), The Cincinnati Kid (1965), You're a Big Boy Now (1966), Beach Red (1967), Sol Madrid (1968), Beyond the Law (1968), Lion's Love (1969), Coming Apart (1969), Tropic of Cancer (1970), and Maidstone (1970).

In the Seventies he appeared in the films Slaughter (1972), Payday (1973), Cotter (1973), Crazy Joe (1974), The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976), Birch Interval (1976), Nasty Habits (1977), The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977), Coma (1978), The Seduction of Joe Tynan (1979), Heartland (1979), One-Trick Pony (1980), and First Family (1980). In the Eighties Rip Torn appeared in such films as A Stranger is Watching (1982), The Beastmaster (1982), Airplane II: The Sequel (1982), Cross Creek (1983), Flashpoint (1984), City Heat (1984), Summer Rental (1985), Extreme Prejudice (1987), Nadine (1987), Cold Feet (1989), and Beautiful Dreamers (1990).

In the Nineties Rip Torn appeared in such films as Defending Your Life (1991), Beyond the Law (1993), RoboCop 3 (1993), For Better or Worse (1995), Canadian Bacon (1995), How to Make an American Quilt (1995), Trial and Error (1997), Men in Black (1997), The Insider (1999), and Wonder Boys. He was the voice of Zeus in Disney's animated feature Hercules (1997). In the Naughts he appeared in such films as Men in Black II (2002), Rolling Kansas (2003), Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004), Yours, Mine & Ours (2005), Marie Antoinette (2006), Three Days to Vegas (2007), Lucky Days (2008), American Cowslip (2009), and The Afterlight (2009). In the Teens he appeared in The Legend of Awesomest Maximus (2011), 3 Weeks to Daytona (2011), Men in Black 3 (2012), and Bridge of Names (2012).

By his own admission, Rip Torn could be irascible, but he was also an extremely talented actor. He played a wide variety of roles, ranging from Judas in King of Kings to General Ulysses S. Grant in the mini-series The Blue and the Gray. He played the affable defence attorney Bob Diamond in Defending Your Life, but he also played the villainous wizard Maax in The Beastmaster. His career spanned genres, and he appeared in everything from war movies (Pork Chop Hill) to science fiction (The Man Who Fell to Earth) to historical dramas (The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover) to comedies (Defending Your Life). Rip Torn may not have always been the easiest actor to get along with, but he was extremely versatile and talented.

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