Billy Bob Thornton is known for many things: his roles in movies like Armageddon and Monster's Ball, his highly publicized marriage and subsequent divorce to actress Angelina Jolie, his recent portrayal as Lorne Malvo in the television series " Fargo," and his singing.
There's a tendency among us grandpas to control, or at least direct, the lives of our grandchildren, theoretically filtering into their futures what we wish we had accomplished on our own.
For a murderous thug who made his living through extortion, theft and corruption, Tony Soprano was a remarkably easy guy to sympathize with. We felt the pain of his unhappy upbringing, of his frustrations with his coworkers, of the continual pressure to keep earning enough to afford the affluent suburban lifestyle to which his family had become accustomed. We were touched by his affection for the wild ducks that congregated in his swimming pool. When he went to a psychiatrist in the pilot episode and was forced to confront his struggle with depression, it felt painfully real to us.
If you're a devotee of the Turner Classic Movies cable channel, you may well know Harry Lewis, even though you might not recognize his name. In the 1948 classic Key Largo, Lewis played Edward "Toots" Bass, a dapper but menacing gunman in a gang - led by Johnny Rocco (Edward G. Robinson) - that takes the occupants of a hotel hostage as a hurricane approaches.
When the word "Falstaffian" is used to describe an actor, it's usually intended as a euphemistic reference to his girth. But in Richard Griffiths' case, he really captured the dissolute, larger-than-life outrageousness of Shakespeare's signature rotund rascal in myriad stage and screen roles.
You might remember Charles Durning as the crooked Lt. Snyder in the classic 1973 film The Sting, or as the World War II Medal of Honor winner who confesses to killing his best friend in a 2004 episode of the hit TV series NCIS. Or you might recall him as the U.S. President that a renegade Air Force General (portrayed by Burt Lancaster) tries to force to release a scandalous secret document in the 1977 movie thriller Twilight's Last Gleaming. Or as Jack Amsterdam, the corrupt Catholic layman who becomes entangled in the grisly murder of an actress/call girl in the 1981 detective film True Confessions. Or as Doc Harper, the villain who kidnaps Miss Piggy in 1979's The Muppet Movie. Or for his recurring roles in the TV shows Everybody Loves Raymond and Rescue Me.
Jack Klugman wasn't the handsomest actor in Hollywood, nor the most dashing. But as producer Garry Marshall once noted: "He had what you need more than anything else in television - likability. Audiences would want Jack Klugman to walk into their living rooms once a week."
Larry Hagman, who died on Nov. 23 at age 81 in Dallas, will be long remembered for his portrayal of the deliciously Machiavellian John Ross "J.R." Ewing in the long-running (1978-91) CBS prime-time soap opera Dallas. During the famous March 21, 1980, "Who Shot J.R.?" episode, an astounding 300 million people in 57 countries tuned in to watch Hagman's character take a bullet from a mysterious assailant - who turned out to be his sister-in-law/mistress, Kristin Shepard (portrayed by Mary Crosby). When TNT revived the series in 2012, Hagman - ever the trouper - returned as an integral part of the series, despite being ill with cancer at the time. "I like to work, and I like to work with my buddies," he explained.
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