R.I.P. PAT HINGLE, 1924-2009

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R.I.P. PAT HINGLE, 1924-2009

Post by Swedgin! on Tue Jan 06, 2009 11:21 am

One of the great character actors of the last half-century, Pat Hingle, has died. He was 84.



Most Gen-Xers knew Hingle best as Commissioner Gordon of the Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher Batman films, but his résumé was far, far more expansive than any single franchise or genre of film. A University of Texas major who enlisted in the Navy after Pearl Harbor, Hingle was a crew member aboard the Fletcher-class destroyer USS Marshall (DD-676), escorting FDR home from the Teheran Conference, which was the first face-to-face meeting of the Allies' Big Three (Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin). Later, using his G.I. Bill of Rights and a partial tuba scholarship (yes...really), Hingle returned to t.u. and earned a degree in radio broadcasting.

A Broadway fixture who would originate the role of Gooper in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Hingle's first onscreen role was, as luck would have it, in one of the last century's most memorable titles, alongside many of his, or any other generation's greatest talents giving some of the most provocative and impactful performances ever filmed: As Jocko, the tough, streetwise, empathetic (some might say, prototypical) bartender of On the Waterfront, he shared the screen with Hollywood luminaries Rod Steiger, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, and, of course, Marlon Brando in perhaps the defining role of his storied career. For the next two and a half decades Hingle was a mainstay on a variety of network television series, playing a variety of toughs, goofs, G.I.s, lawmen, and the occasional doctor, in some of the Golden Age of Television's most recognizeable titles: The Phil Silvers Show, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Untouchables, The Twilight Zone, Dr. Kildare, Route 66, Rawhide, Daniel Boone, The Fugitive, The Defenders, and The Andy Griffith Show, as well as a bevy of television showcases, among them The Kraft Television Theater, the Philco and Goodyear Television Playhouses, and Studio One.


Hingle in The U.S. Steel Hour (1959)

Despite being featured in a career's worth of television roles with many up-and-coming major motion picture talents, Hingle frequently flirted with silver-screen stardom himself; in 1960, after turning in a well-regarded performance in the military-academy drama The Strange One, he was offered the title role in the multiple-Academy Award-winning Sinclair Lewis epic Elmer Gantry (for which Burt Lancaster won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1961); however, he was prevented from filming what might well have been the role of his career by falling fifty feet down an elevator shaft as a result of a freak mechanical mishap, by the near-fatal injuries he sustained and a long, difficult rehabilitation. The next year, he appeared in Elia Kazan's adaptation of William Inge's Splendor in the Grass, with Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood, in the role that would earn her a Best Actress Academy Award nom; in 1963, he once again shared the screen with Brando in The Ugly American. Still more meaty, high-profile character actor roles would follow: in 1963's All the Way Home, where he finally appeared alongside Elmer Gantry siren Jean Simmons; in a famous CBS presentation of the Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, as Laura's prospective suitor, Jim; and, perhaps most memorably for aging Baby Boomers, as Judge Adam Fenton, the gritty, genteel mentor of and apologist for a revenge-minded Jed Cooper in the seminal Clint Eastwood Western Hang 'Em High.


With Georgann Johnson in Alfred Hitchcock Presents

In 1971, Hingle returned to serious televised theater, with a substantial role in a Pulitzer Prize-winning play adapting an equally honored original work by James Agee, All the Way Home (published posthumously in Agee's name as the 1957 novel A Death in the Family), which also starred Joanne Woodward, Richard Kiley, and a young James Woods. He continued to act in feature films, but could be seen in an assortment of authoritarian roles on television several times a year in some of the era's most acclaimed and influential programs: Mission: Impossible, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Kung Fu, The Six Million Dollar Man, Medical Center, McCloud, The Streets of San Francisco, Hawaii Five-Oh, Barnaby Jones, and Vega$. His return to dramatic prominence came in 1979, with two astonishingly divergent performances: as the wily, manipulative 'Colonel' Tom Parker in the acclaimed TV-movie Elvis, and in a heartbreakingly frank and accessible turn as the title character's father in 1979's Oscar-winning unionization biopic Norma Rae, starring Sally Field. In that film, Hingle, a deeply private man, for the first time permitted his mangled left hand to be displayed onscreen, personalizing his role as an aging blue-collar worker bearing the scars of a lifetime of hard, unforgiving labor.


Pat Hingle (right, with David Janssen) in The Fugitive

In the Eighties Hingle would return to his comfort zone, episodic television, in guest-starring parts on M*A*S*H and its first spinoff, Trapper John, M.D.; Hart to Hart, St. Elsewhere, Simon & Simon, Magnum, P.I., Amazing Stories, Matlock, The Equalizer and a Kojak TV-movie, as well as in an adaptation of John Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men and the epic Herman Wouk miniseries War and Remembrance, as Admiral "Bull" Halsey. But he was far from absent from big-screen entertainments; he followed up a pay-the-bills turn in the hit Dirty Harry sequel Sudden Impact with a more substantive role in the Cold War spy film The Falcon and the Snowman, before coming to the attention of Gen-Xers with the first of several well-received comedic ventures, as the flabbergasted estate executor, Edward Roundfield in the seventh filmed adaptation of the 1902 George Barr McCutcheon novel Brewster's Millions. Later, he appeared in the Stephen King adaptation Maximum Overdrive and the Diane Keaton laugher Baby Boom, before cementing himself in film history as a generation's definitive vision of Gotham Police Commissioner James Gordon in the Tim Burton blockbuster Batman (1989).


Hingle with Shelley Winters in The Girls of Summer (play)

Steady work followed, much of it forgettable, in a new television miniseries adaptation of The Shining, a movie-of-the-week retelling of the Jessica McClure story, the laughably awful Not of This World (not to be confused with a Traci Lords film) and Paul Hogan misfire Lightning Jack; the equally if unintentionally hilarious Sharon Stone Western The Quick and the Dead (which also featured up-and-comers Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio), and three Batman sequels. But there were some incredibly rich and textured performances, too: as P.J. Kennedy in the all-star ABC Golden Globe-winning miniseries The Kennedys of Massachusetts, 'Boss' Tom Pendergast in the classic Gary Sinise TV-movie Truman, and in the groundbreaking, Emmy-winning Showtime original movie Bastard Out of Carolina, starring Jennifer Jason Leigh. But perhaps Hingle's best late-career performance came in the queasily mesmerizing Martin Scorcese-produced 1990 drama The Grifters, where he played against-type as the disarmingly charming sadist Bobo, who memorably threatens to beat Anjelica Huston's character to a pulp with a sack of oranges and then stabs out a lit cigar on her hand. For a great, big, affable bear of a man, resembling in many respects an aging Mickey Rooney, who had spent an entire career building up credibility with audiences in a variety of authority-figure roles, this was a shattering departure, and for this critic easily the most memorable of an incredibly diverse life spent largely onscreen.


The "Hanging Judge" (Hingle) counsels accused rustler Cooper (Eastwood) in 1968's Hang 'Em High

Mr. Hingle kept busy throughout his seventies and eighties, right up, in fact, until the last year and a half of his life, continuing to appear on network television (Murder, She Wrote; Cheers; In the Heat of the Night; Wings; American Gothic; Homicide: Life on the Street) and in major-studio films, including Muppets from Space, Shaft, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. His last filmed role, appropriately, was as a judge in the 2008 independent film Undoing Time.


As General Luft in Muppets from Space

Martin Patterson 'Pat' Hingle died of leukemia at his North Carolina home on Saturday, January 3, 2009, after a more-than two-year struggle with the disease. He is survived by his second wife, Julia, their two children, and three children from a previous marriage. He was 84.

Let us now render honors for our fallen Commissioner.


Pat Hingle, 1924-2009


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Re: R.I.P. PAT HINGLE, 1924-2009

Post by Shrykespeare on Tue Jan 06, 2009 7:24 pm

Very nice tribute, Swedge. Gruff but kind, I remember many of his characters, such as in Quick and the Dead and, of course, the original Batman series, where he was one of the few actors there who seemed capable of taking it seriously.

That episode of M*A*S*H, where he played a tough-as-nails inspecting Colonel (who actually turned out to be an old friend of Col. Potter and was actually there to play a practical joke on the entire staff), may be one of the flat-out funniest episodes of that series (and that's saying something).

Farewell, Pat. Ya done good.

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Re: R.I.P. PAT HINGLE, 1924-2009

Post by Buscemi on Wed Jan 07, 2009 4:16 am

Don't forget that he was the narrator in The Land Before Time (the first one).

Rest in peace, Pat.

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Re: R.I.P. PAT HINGLE, 1924-2009

Post by A_Roode on Wed Jan 07, 2009 5:08 am

Always a favourite of mine -- glad you posted this Swedge.
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