‘Men in Black’ actor Rip Torn dies at 88

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Actor Rip Torn

By Variety

Actor Rip Torn, who earned Oscar and Tony nominations as well as an Emmy Award and two Obies, has died Tuesday in Lakeville Conn., his representative confirmed. He was 88.

Torn was equally at home in the comedy of the “Men in Black” film series or TV’s “The Larry Sanders Show” (for which he won his Emmy) and in the drama of “Sweet Bird of Youth” or “Anna Christie,” to name two of the numerous classic works of theater in which he appeared.

The actor was nominated for a supporting-actor Oscar in 1984 for his work as a father who confronts tragedy in Martin Ritt’s “Cross Creek,” one of many rural dramas in which he appeared during his career.

He drew a Tony nomination in 1960 for his first performance on Broadway, as the sadistic son of the town boss in Elia Kazan’s original production of Tennessee Williams’ “Sweet Bird of Youth.” Torn later replaced Paul Newman in the starring role of Chance Wayne.

He, Newman and Broadway co-star Geraldine Page, whom Torn married in 1963, re-created their roles in the 1962 film adaptation. (Torn also starred as Boss Finley in a 1989 NBC adaptation of the play directed by Nicolas Roeg.)

Unlike many actors, who take on the New York stage before making their way to film work, Torn headed for Hollywood after college, making his bigscreen debut in an uncredited role in Kazan’s 1956 “Baby Doll” and then appearing in the director’s “A Face in the Crowd.”

But Torn soon decided that he had put the cart before the horse and headed East. In New York he studied performance with modern-dance doyenne Martha Graham and at the Actors Studio with Lee Strasberg. (Torn brought his aspiring cousin, Sissy Spacek, into the Actors Studio.)

Like Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman or Anne Bancroft and Mel Brooks, Torn and Page “became a glamorous couple in theater circles, assuming roles on the board of the Actors Studio and organizing bashes at the Chateau Marmont when they were in Los Angeles,” the New York Times said.

Torn’s initial successes in New York came not on the stage, however, but in the prestigious anthology shows of 1950s live television such as “Omnibus,” “Playhouse 90” and “The United States Steel Hour.”

The actor’s film career began to gain steam with a supporting role as Gregory Peck’s brother-in-law in the 1959 Korean War pic “Pork Chop Hill” and the part of Judas in Nicholas Ray’s 1961 epic “King of Kings.”

Meanwhile, on Broadway, he followed “Sweet Bird of Youth” with roles in the plays “Daughter of Silence,” Eugene O’Neill’s “Strange Interlude” and “Blues for Mister Charlie” in the early 1960s.

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