March 9, 2021

Rip Torn dies at 89


Rip Torn, the free-spirited Texan who overcame his peculiar name to become a distinguished actor in theater, television and movies and won an Emmy in his 60s for his comedy on the television show "The Larry Sanders Show," has died at 88 years old.

Torn died Tuesday afternoon at his home with his wife, Amy Wright, and daughters Katie Torn and Angelica Page at his side, according to his publicist Rick Miramontez.

His career on stage and screen spanned seven decades, from an early career of dark and threatening roles to iconic comic performances.

After the acclaimed performances in "Cross Creek", "Sweet Bird of Youth" and other dramas, Torn turned to comedy to achieve an Emmy as the grandiloquent television producer on "The Larry Sanders Show." Created and starred by Garry Shandling, the parody of HBO TV talk shows was broadcast from 1992 to 1998 and broadly credited with the inspiration of satirical programs such as "30 Rock" and "Curb Your Enthusiasm".

Born in Elmore Rual, Torn adopted the name of Rip in his childhood, following the tradition of his father and uncle. He was the subject of endless mockery during his early years as a theater actor in New York, and his drama companions urged him to change it.

With his usual obstinacy, he refused, and finally overcame the jokes with a series of powerful performances that led him to be considered, along with Marlon Brando, Paul Newman Y James Dean, as actors of a post-war generation that brought tense realism to their craft. He was also a political activist who joined James Baldwin, Harry Belafonte and other leaders of civil and cultural rights in the fight for blacks in 1963 against then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Torn made his film debut in 1956 in an adaptation of "Baby Doll" by Tennessee Williams, and in a few years he was a respected film and television actor, working occasionally with his second wife, Geraldine Page. In the Actors Studio, he caught the attention of Elia Kazan, who hired him as a substitute for Alex Nicol, and then played Brick Pollitt in the Tennessee Williams classic, "The Cat on the Zinc Roof."

Later, in a production for television, he was told to change his name or lose the role. He threatened to return to his native Texas, but eventually agreed to be accredited as Eric Torn.

On television he played figures like Richard Nixon, Lyndon B. Johnson and Walt Whitman. His career went through a period of drought in the 1970s, and he blamed the rumors in Hollywood that it was difficult to work with him, a reputation that was confirmed when the tension on the set of "Easy Rider" led He was replaced by Jack Nicholson in 1969 and missed one of what could have been one of his greatest hits. "I would not say I was on the blacklist," he told The Associated Press in 1984, "but word got out that it was difficult and unreliable … Unreliable! In all my years at the theater, I've never missed a performance. "

He managed to continue working on small projects in theater, movies and TV, and returned to the cinema in 1983 with "Cross Creek", in which he played Marsh Turner. The role took him to his only Oscar nomination, for best supporting actor. Among his other films, "City Heat" and "Men in Black", which gave him some visibility again.

In 1994, the actor and director Dennis Hopper He said in "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" that Torn once pulled a knife at a New York restaurant to complain about being replaced in "Easy Rider." He sued Hopper for defamation and won a $ 475,000 trial.

He remained active in film and television in recent years, including a role in "30 Rock" and contributed his voice in the animated film of 2007 "Bee Movie". He was arrested a couple of times for drunk driving, including one in December 2008 near his home in Salisbury, Connecticut, which led him to be assigned to an alcohol education program.

Born in Temple, Texas, Torn studied agriculture at Texas A & M and performed at the University of Texas. After serving as a military policeman during the Korean War, he hitchhiked to Hollywood. Landing only small roles in films and television dramas, and earning a living as a cook, he decided to move to New York and receive more training as an actor.

Torn and his first wife, actress Ann Wedgeworth, had a daughter, Danae, before they divorced. In 1963 he married Page, with whom he co-starred in the production on tour and the film version of "Sweet Bird of Youth". They had three children, a daughter, Angelica, and the twins Jon and Tony, and they appeared together in productions until his death in 1987. Torn also had two children, Katie and Claire, with the actress Amy Wright.

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