Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Late Great Ed Asner

Many actors are called in legends, but in the case of Ed Asner calling him a legend may well be an understatement. He played Lou Grant on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and then for several more years on the drama Lou Grant. He made many guest appearances on television. He appeared in several movies and on Broadway. On top of this, he provided voices for both animated TV shows and animated movies. Ed Asner was nothing if not prolific and, what is more, he never retired. Sadly, Ed Asner died on Sunday, August 29 2021, at the age of 91.

Ed Asner was born on November 15 1929 in Kansas City, Missouri. He grew up just across the border in Kansas City, Kansas. He developed an interest in actin when he was still a boy and took part in his school's radio program. After graduating from Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, Kansas, he attended the University of Chicago. He dropped out after one year and afterwards worked at a variety of jobs, including stints as a taxi cab driver, an encyclopaedia salesman, a worker in an auto plant, and so on. All the while he was working towards becoming a professional actor.

In 1951 he was drafted into the United States Army and he was stationed in France. His service ended in 1953, after which he went back to Chicago. There he worked with the Playwrights Theatre Company, which would give rise to the Compass Players, which itself would give rise to Second City. He then moved to New York City where he found work both in television and on stage. He made his debut on Broadway as a replacement in Threepenny Opera in 1956. He made his television debut in 1957 in an episode of Studio One.

In the Fifties Ed Asner guest starred on such shows as Studio One, Armstrong Circle Theatre, Decoy, Kraft Television Theatre, Omnibus, and Play of the Week. In the Sixties he made multiple guest appearances on both Route 66. He guest starred three times as Frank Radcliff on Slattery's People. He also guest starred on the shows Naked City, Target: The Corruptors, Outlaws, Cain's Hundred, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Sam Benedict, Alcoa Premiere, The Untouchables, The Eleventh Hour, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Virginian, Dr. Kildare, Stony Burke, Breaking Point, The Nurses, Ben Casey, The Lieutenant, The Outer Limit, The Richard Boone Show, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, The Defenders, The Reporter, The Farmer's Daughter, Mr. Novak, Profile's in Courage, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Amos Burke Secret Agent, A Man Called Shenandoah, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, The Rat Patrol, Run for Your Life, Gunsmoke, The Felony Squad, The Fugitive, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., Iron Horse, The Wild Wild West, The Invaders, Mission: Impossible, Judd for the Defense, The F.B..I., Ironside, Medical Center, The Name of the Game, Here Come the Brides, and CBS Playhouse.

It was in 1971 that Ed Asner began playing WJM-TV producer Lou Grant on the classic sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show. He won three Emmy Awards for the role on the show. When The Mary Tyler Moore Show ended, Lou Grant was spun off into his own show, Lou Grant, on which he had moved back to San Francisco to work as an editor on the newspaper The San Francisco Call-Bulletin. While The Mary Tyler Moore Show was a sitcom, Lou Grant was a drama that often dealt with important issues. He won two more Emmy Awards for playing Lou Grant on the show. In the Seventies Ed Asner also appeared on the mini-series Rich Man Poor Man (for which he won another Emmy) and Roots (for which he won yet another Emmy). He also guest starred on the shows The Mod Squad, Cade's County, Rhoda (playing Lou Grant), The Wide World of Mystery, Hawaii Five-O, Police Story, Insight, and Great Performances.

In the Eighties Ed Asner continued playing Lou Grant on the show of the same name. He starred on the shows Off the Rack and The Bronx Zoo. He guest starred on the shows The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible, Tall Tales & Legends, Highway to Heaven, American Playhouse, The Disney Sunday Movie, and D.C. Follies. He appeared in the mini-series Tender is the Night. In the Nineties Mr. Asner was a regular on The Trials of Rosie O'Neill, Hearts Afire, Thunder Alley, and The Closer. He was a voice regular on the animated shows Fish Police, Batman: The Animated Series, Captain Planet & The Planeteers, Gargoyles, Freakazoid!, Spider-Man, Zorro, and Max Steel. He was a guest voice on Dinosaurs. He guest starred on the shows Higher Education, Roseanne (once more playing Lou Grant), Mad About You, Dead Man's Gun, Life with Louie, Soul Man, Ask Harriet, Hercules, Maggie Winters, The X-Files, Touched by an Angel, and Arli$$.

In the Naughts he was a regular on Center of the Universe, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and The Line. He was a recurring voice on the animated series Spider-Man. He guest starred on the shows Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Ellen Show, ER, The Practice, The Dead Zone, Star-ving, CSI: NY, and The Sarah Silverman Program. He guest starred on the animated shows King of the Hill, Grim & Evil, Duck Dodgers, Justice League Unlimited, W.I.T.C.H., The Spectacular Spider-Man, and WordGirl.

In the Teens Ed Asner had recurring roles on the shows Working Class, Michael: Every Day, Forgive Me, Dead to Me, and Kobra Kai. He appeared on the animated shows Young Justice, The Boondocks and American Dad!. He guest starred on Royal Pains, The Middle, Hot in Cleveland, Hawaii Five-0, Regular Show, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Maron, The Glades, The Crazy Ones, Men at Work, Mom, Chasing Life, The Good Wife, Criminal Minds, Murdoch Minds, Bennie's, Bones, Heaven's Waiting Room, MacGyver, The 5th Quarter, Modern Family, Briarpatch, Cobra Kai, Central Park, and Grace and Frankie. In the Twenties he is set to reprise the voice of Carl from Up on the animated series Dug Days. He will appear in a guest appearance on the show The Premise.

Ed Asnser made his Broadway debut as a replacement in Threepenny Opera in 1956. He appeared on Broadway in 1960 in Face of a Hero. He appeared again on Broadway in 1989 in Born Yestrerday. In 2012 he appeared on Broadway in Grace.

Ed Asner made his film debut in the Elvis Presley movie Kid Galahad in 1962. In the Sixties he appeared in the films The Satan Bug (1965), The Slender Thread  (1965), The Venetian Affair (1966), El Dorado (1966), Gunn (1967), Change of Habit (1969), Halls of Anger (1970), They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (1970), and  Do Not Throw Cushions into the Ring (1970). In the Seventies he appeared in the films Skin Game (1971), The Todd Killings (1971), The Wrestler (1974), and Gus (1977).

In the Eighties Mr. Asner appeared in the movies Fort Apache the Bronx (1981), O'Hara's Wife (1982), Daniel (1983), The Christmas Star (1986), and Westward to China (1989). He provided voices for the animated films Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night (1987) and Happily Ever After (1989). In the Nineties he appeared in the films JFK (1991), Goldilocks and the Three Bears (1995), Academy Boyz (1997), The Fanatics (1997), Basil (1997), Hard Rain (1998), Love and Action in Chicago (1999), The Bachelor (1999), Above Suspicion (2000), and Bring Him Home (2000).

In the Naughts Ed Asner played two of his best known roles,. He was Santa Claus in Elf (2003) and provided the voice of Carl Fredrickson in Up (2009). He appeared in the films The Animal (2001), Island Prey (2001), Donzi: The Legend (2001), Missing Brendan (2003), The Commission (2003), Happily Even After (2004), Crab Orchard (2005), All In (2005), Ways of the Flesh (2006), Hard Four (2007), Gigantic (2008), Christmas Cottage (2008), Channels (2008), and  Not Another B Movie (2010). He was the narrator for The Triumphs of William Henry Harrison (2009).

In the Teens Ed Asner appeared in the films Hopelessly in June (2011), Absolute Killers (2011), Let Go (2011), Identical (2011), Should've Been Romeo (2012), Foodfight! (2012), Elephant Sighs (2012), Audrey (2014), The Games Maker (2014), Citizens United (2015), Love Meet Hope (2016), Stars in Shorts: No Ordinary Love (2016), Boonville Redemption (2016), Joe's War (2017), In Vino (2017), Yamasong: March of the Hollows (2017), The Gliksmans (2017), Saving Christmas (2017), Santa Stole Our Dog: A Merry Doggone Christmas! (2017), Waiting in the Wings: Still Waiting (2018), The Parting Glass (2018), Angels on Tap (2018), Honor Among Men (2018), Barking Mad (2018), The Garden Left Behind (2019), Faith, Hope & Love (2019), M.O.M.: Mother of All Monsters (2019), Rain Beau's End (2020), and Senior Entourage (2021). He provided voices for the movies Frozen in Time (2014) and CarGo (2017). There are about three yet to be released films featuring Ed Asner that have either been completed or are in post production.

Ed Asner was the President of the Screen Actors Guild from 1981 to 1985. He was also a member of several non-profit organizations, including the Survivor Mitzvah Project, the Comic Book Legal Defence Fund, and Defenders of Wildlife, among others.

Ed Asner worked as an actor for around seventy years and he was nothing if not prolific. Of course, the very reason that Mr. Asner could be so prolific is that he was also very good. There can be no doubt that he will always be remembered as Lou Grant from The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant. It was his talent that turned Lou Grant into one of the most memorable characters on American television. He played many other roles throughout his career, some of which were very different from Lou Grant. He was the villain in the John Wayne Western El Dorado, wealthy landowner Bart Jason. It was a role about as far from Mr. Grant as one could get. He excelled as Captain Davies, the slave ship commander who was tormented by his conscience, in the mini-series Roots. On Hawaii Five-O (and its reboot, Hawaii Five-0), he played the smuggler August March. Among his best roles was Carl Fredrickson in Up. He took a role that could have simply been played as a grumpy old man and gave Carl pathos. It was one of the best performances ever given by a voice actor.

On Pixar's social media accounts, the studio said of Ed Asner that he was "...our real life Carl Fredrickson: a veneer of a grouch over an incredibly kind and loving human being." His castmates and others who had met him throughout his life echoed Pixar's sentiments, not only recognizing him as an acting legend but a very kind man. I have friends who had the opportunity to meet Ed Asner and all of them echo those same sentiments. Ed Asner was a kind, thoughtful man with a great heart and a great sense of humour. Indeed, one of my friends told how when SAG had an open house in the Eighties, Ed Asner as the union's president stood at the door and welcomed every single guest. Ed Asner was a truly great actor and a fine gentleman as well.

1 comment:

Caftan Woman said...

I adored having this remarkable man and actor's presence on Twitter these last few years. In the past, we could say we would miss a famous person who passed yet we still had the work, which was all we ever had. Now, as in the case of Ed Asner and Carl Reiner, we will truly miss the person we felt we knew.