Emmy Winner, Oscar Nominee Jack Warden Dies

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Jack Warden, a gravel-voiced character actor and two-time Oscar nominee who appeared in nearly 100 feature films, has died. He was 85.

Warden, who won an Emmy award for his portrayal of crusty football coach George Halas in the 1971 ABC movie "Brian's Song," died Wednesday at a New York City hospital, according to Sidney Pazoff, his Los Angeles-based business manager.

Pazoff says Warden, who was living in Manhattan, had been in failing health for several months. The cause of death was not given.

Warden first made his mark in the movies in 1957 as the sports-obsessed juror in "12 Angry Men." He received Academy Award nominations for his supporting work in two Warren Beatty vehicles, "Shampoo" (1975) and "Heaven Can Wait" (1978).

His small-screen resume was just as deep, with featured roles in a dozen series and appearances in about 100 shows and made-for-TV movies that stretched back to television's golden age and included "Mr. Peepers" (1952-55) on NBC, "N.Y.P.D." on ABC (1967-69), "Jigsaw John" (1976) on NBC and "Crazy Like a Fox" (1984-86) on CBS.

He earned two Emmy nominations for his role on the latter series, playing a streetwise private eye who teams up with his more straitlaced son (John Rubinstein).

From the moment Warden broke through on Broadway in 1955 in Arthur Miller's "A View From the Bridge," he said, he never stopped working.

"I still panic sometimes when it comes down to 20 minutes between jobs," Warden told the Los Angeles Herald Examiner in 1984. "I love what I'm doing."

Warden joined the Army's 101st Airbone Division during World War II. During a practice jump while preparing for the Normandy invasion, his chute failed to fully open. His broken leg required a steel plate and a lengthy hospital stay that had an unexpected side benefit.

A friend suggested that he read plays, and among the first Warden tackled was Clifford Odets' "Waiting for Lefty." He identified with the play's striking cabdrivers and the way the story was told.

"That year in the hospital was the turning point in my life," Warden told the Herald Examiner. "After eight months of that diet, I thought I was an actor and headed straight for New York."

Warden worked mainly, and steadily, in television and film through the 1990s, often playing the heavy in movies before inhabiting more comedic roles.

He was the scruffy outlaw in "The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing" (1973), the cab-driving father in "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz" (1974), the hard-nosed city editor in "All the President's Men" (1976) and Paul Newman's friend and conscience in "The Verdict" (1982).

Warden played a rich husband in "Shampoo" opposite Beatty, Lee Grant and Julie Christie, and in "Heaven Can Wait" he was a trainer for the Los Angeles Rams. One of his final film credits was in another football movie, "The Replacements."

Warden was born John Lebzelter on Sept. 18, 1920. He married Vanda Dupre, a 27-year-old French actress, in 1958. Comedian Red Buttons, who died last week at 87, was best man at the Las Vegas wedding.

Within a few years, the couple had a son, Christopher, and had moved from Laurel Canyon to the Malibu Colony. Nearby was a tennis court that Warden owned with Steiger. By the mid-1970s, Warden and his wife had separated, but they never divorced, according to Pazoff.

Besides his estranged wife, Warden is survived by his companion, Marucha Hinds; his son; and two grandchildren.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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