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Character Actor Charles Durning Dies at Age 89

Michael N. Todaro/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Broadway, television and Oscar-nominated film actor Charles Durning, who's best known for the characters he portrayed in movies such as The Sting, Dog Day Afternoon, Tootsie, To Be or Not to Be and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, died on Monday of natural causes in his home in Manhattan, New York.  He was 89.

Over the course of Durning's career, he appeared in over 200 film and television roles alongside many notable actors and directors.  It was an amazing feat, considering as a young man he was expelled from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts for what they described as a lack of talent.

His breakthrough role on Broadway was in the 1972 Pulitzer Prize-winning That Championship Season opposite Paul Sorvino and Walter McGinn.  From there, Durning landed a role in 1973's The Sting, which won seven Oscars and launched his film career.

Durning was nominated for two Oscars in the best supporting actor category -- the first for his role as a blundering Nazi officer in the Mel Brooks comedy To Be or Not to Be, and the second for his performance as the governor opposite Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton in the 1982 musical comedy The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.

Durning also earned nine Emmy Award nominations and four Golden Globe award nominations, winning a Globe in 1990 for his work in the television miniseries The Kennedys of Massachusetts.  He also won a Tony Award for outstanding featured actor for his role as Big Daddy in the Tennessee Williams play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

In addition to his acting resume, Durning was a decorated World War II soldier who survived both the Normandy invasion on D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge.  He received three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star for his wartime service.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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