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George C. Scott

Scott after opening night for "Design for Living" in 1984
Born George Campbell Scott
18 October 1927(1927-10-18)
Wise, Virginia, U.S.
Died 22 September 1999 (aged 71)
Westlake Village, California, U.S.
Occupation Actor, director, producer
Years active 1958–1999
Spouse(s) Carolyn Hughes (1951–1955)
Patricia Reed (1955–1960)
Colleen Dewhurst (1960–1965)
Colleen Dewhurst (1967–1972)
Trish Van Devere (1972–1999)

George Campbell Scott (October 18, 1927 – September 22, 1999) was an Academy Award-winning American stage and film actor, director and producer. He was best known for his bravura stage work, as well as his portrayal of General George S. Patton in the film Patton, and an early flamboyant film performance as General Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. He has also widely been known for his rather gravelly voice.

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Early life

Scott was born in Wise, Virginia, the son of Helena Agnes (née Slemp; 1904–1935) and F. Scott (1896–1948). He was the only son and younger of their two children. His mother died just before his eighth birthday, and he was raised by his father, an executive at the Buick Motor Company. Scott's great-uncle was Republican U.S. Representative C. Bascom Slemp of Virginia.

As a young man, Scott's original ambition was to be a writer like his favorite author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and while in high school, he wrote many short stories, none of which were ever published. As an adult, he tried on many occasions to write a novel, but was never able to complete one to his satisfaction. When asked by an interviewer in later life which contemporary novelists he admired, he replied, "I stopped reading novels when I stopped trying to write them."

Scott joined the US Marines, serving from 1945 until 1949, and was assigned to the prestigious 8th and I Barracks in Washington, D.C. In that capacity, he served as a guard at Arlington National Cemetery and taught English literature and radio speaking/writing at the Marine Corps Institute. He later said that his duties at Arlington led to his drinking.

After his military service, Scott enrolled in the University of Missouri, where he majored in journalism and then became interested in drama; he left college after a year to pursue acting. In voice, appearance, and personality, many say he resembled the Minnesota politician and baseball magnate Bob Short.[citation needed]

Broadway and film career

Scott first rose to prominence for his work with Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival. In 1958, he won an Obie Award for his performances in Children of Darkness (in which he made the first of many appearances opposite his future wife, actress Colleen Dewhurst), for As You Like It, and for playing Richard III of England to particular acclaim in Shakespeare's Richard III (a performance one critic said was the "angriest" Richard III of all time).[1] He was on Broadway the following year, winning critical acclaim for his portrayal of the prosecutor in The Andersonville Trial by Saul Levitt. This was based on the military trial of the commandant of the infamous Civil War prison camp in Andersonville, Georgia. His performance earned him a mention in Time magazine as a rising young actor of great intensity.[citation needed] In 1970 Scott directed a highly acclaimed television version of this same play. It starred William Shatner, Richard Basehart, and Jack Cassidy, who was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance as the defense lawyer in this production.

Scott continued to appear in and sometimes direct Broadway productions throughout the 1960s. The most commercially successful show he worked on was Neil Simon's Plaza Suite (1968), composed of three separate one-act plays all utilizing the same set, which ran for 1097 performances. Scott played a different lead role in each act.

On the set of Patton (1970)

Scott appeared in many television series too, including the 1962 role of Arthur Lilly in the episode "The Brazen Bell" in the NBC western series The Virginian. That same year, he appeared as Anton Novak in the episode entitled "I Don't Belong in a White-Painted House" on NBC's medical drama about psychiatry, The Eleventh Hour, starring Wendell Corey and Jack Ging.

In 1963, Scott was top billed in the critically acclaimed[citation needed] CBS hour-long drama series East Side, West Side; he and co-star Cicely Tyson played urban social workers. The show lasted only one season. In 1966, Scott appeared as Jud Barker in the NBC western The Road West, starring Barry Sullivan, Kathryn Hays, Andrew Prine, and Glenn Corbett.

Scott won wide public recognition in the film Anatomy of a Murder, in which he played a wily prosecutor opposite James Stewart as the defense attorney. Scott was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Scott's most famous early role was in Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, where he played the part of General "Buck" Turgidson. It is revealed on the DVD documentary that after having shot many takes of any given scene, Stanley Kubrick would frequently ask Scott to redo it in an "over the top" fashion. Kubrick would then proceed to use this version in the final cut, which Scott supposedly resented.[2] However, Kubrick did earn Scott's respect on this film, since by that time Scott was an accomplished chess player.[citation needed] The cast and crew noted that they would often play chess between takes, and Kubrick was the only person who could routinely beat him.[citation needed]

Scott's portrayal of the swaggering and controversial George S. Patton in the 1970 film Patton has become, to many, his greatest performance. Many film critics and historians consider it one of the greatest performances in the history of cinema.[citation needed] Scott had researched extensively for the role, studying films of the general and talking to those who knew him. Having declined an Academy Award nomination for his appearance in the 1961 film The Hustler,[citation needed] Scott returned his Oscar for Patton, stating in a letter to the Academy that he didn't feel himself to be in competition with other actors.[citation needed] However, also regarding this second rejection of the Academy Award, Scott famously said elsewhere, "The whole thing is a goddamn meat parade. I don't want any part of it."[3] Sixteen years later, in 1986, Scott reprised his Patton title role in a made-for-television sequel, The Last Days of Patton. The movie was based on Patton's final weeks after being mortally injured in a car accident, with flashbacks of Patton's life. At the time that sequel was aired, Scott mentioned in a TV Guide interview that he had verbally told the Academy to donate his Oscar to the Patton Museum;[citation needed] since the instructions were never put in writing, it was never delivered.[citation needed] The Oscar is currently displayed at the Virginia Military Institute museum in Lexington, Virginia,[citation needed] the same institution that generations of Pattons have attended. Scott did not turn down the New York Film Critics Award for his performance (of which his wife Colleen Dewhurst said, "George thinks this is the only film award worth having'[4]).

He continued to do stage work throughout the rest of his career, receiving Tony Award nominations for his Astrov in a revival of Uncle Vanya(1973), his Willy Loman in a revival of Death of a Salesman (1975), and his Henry Drummond in a revival of Inherit the Wind (1996), the latter despite his having to miss an unusually large number of performances due to illness,[citation needed] with his role being taken over by National Actors Theatre artistic director Tony Randall. In 1996, he also won an honorary Drama Desk Award for a lifetime devotion to theatre.

Scott also starred in well-received productions of Larry Gelbart's Sly Fox (1976) (based on Ben Jonson's Volpone), which ran 495 performances, and a revival of Noel Coward's Present Laughter (1982). He frequently directed on Broadway as well, including productions of All God's Chillun Got Wings (1975) and Design for Living (1985), as well as being an actor/director in Death of a Salesman, Present Laughter, and On Borrowed Time (1991).

In 1971, Scott gave two more critically acclaimed performances, as a de facto Sherlock Holmes in They Might Be Giants and as an alcoholic doctor in the black comedy The Hospital. Despite his repeated snubbing of the Academy, Scott was again nominated for Best Actor for the latter role. Scott excelled on television that year as well, appearing in an adaptation of Arthur Miller's The Price, an installment of the Hallmark Hall of Fame anthology. He was nominated for, and won, an Emmy Award for his role, which he accepted. His reasoning for keeping an Emmy after rejecting an Oscar was believed to be because the Emmy Award winners were chosen by blue-ribbon panels of experts, while Academy Award winners were chosen by the entire Academy membership.[citation needed]

The actor also starred in the popular 1980 horror film The Changeling, with Melvyn Douglas. He received the Canadian Genie Award for Best Foreign Film Actor for his performance.[5] In 1981, Scott appeared alongside 20 year-old Academy Award winning actor Timothy Hutton and newbies Sean Penn and Tom Cruise in the controversial[citation needed] coming of age film Taps. The following year, Scott was cast as Fagin in the CBS made-for-TV adaptation of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, winning praise from audiences and critics alike for his unusual portrayal of the character,[citation needed] who in past versions was portrayed as elderly and diminutive, a polar opposite of Scott's younger, stronger, and much more formidable version of the character. In 1984, Scott was cast in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in a television adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Critics and the public alike also praised him in this performance.[citation needed] Some have said his Scrooge ranks alongside Alastair Sim's portrayal in the 1951 theatrical film.[citation needed] He was nominated for an Emmy Award for the role.

In 1990, he voiced the villain Smoke in the TV special Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue, where his character was alongside popular cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny. That same year, he voiced the villain Percival McLeach in the Disney film The Rescuers Down Under. The following year, he hosted the TV series Weapons At War on A&E TV but was replaced after one season by Gerald McRaney for the last two seasons. Weapons At War moved to The History Channel with Scott still being shown as host for the first season. Scott was replaced by Robert Conrad in 2000 after his death in 1999.

Scott had a reputation for being moody and mercurial while on the set.[citation needed] "There is no question you get pumped up by the recognition," he once said, "Then a self-loathing sets in when you realize you're enjoying it."[citation needed] He said he'd seen a psychiatrist four times.[citation needed]"I kept laughing. I couldn't get serious. If it helps you, it helps you. If standing on your head on the roof helps you, it helps you—if you think so."[citation needed] A famous anecdote relates that one of his stage costars, Maureen Stapleton, told the director of Neil Simon's Plaza Suite, "I don't know what to do—I'm scared of him." The director, Mike Nichols, replied, "My dear, everyone is scared of George C. Scott."[citation needed]

Scott was close with the young actor John David Carson,[citation needed] with whom he co-starred in The Savage is Loose and The Day of the Dolphin. He had tried to help Carson's career along, but his protege failed to find mainstream Hollywood success.

Scott's favorite film actress was Bette Davis, whom he called "my bloody idol."[citation needed]

Politics

In 1988, Scott appeared in a campaign commercial for liberal Republican U.S. Senator Lowell P. Weicker of Connecticut.[6] Like Weicker, Scott was a resident of Greenwich, Connecticut. Scott's commercial became known as the "Patton ad." Weicker narrowly lost the election to then-Connecticut Attorney General Joseph Lieberman.

Personal life

Scott was married five times:

  1. Carolyn Hughes (1951–1955) (one daughter, Victoria, born December 19, 1952)
  2. Patricia Reed (1955–1960) (two children: Matthew – born May 27, 1957 – and actress Devon Scott – born November 29, 1958).
  3. The Canadian-born actress Colleen Dewhurst (1960–1965), by whom he had two sons, writer Alexander Scott (born August 1960), and actor Campbell Scott (born July 19, 1961). Dewhurst nicknamed her husband "G.C."
  4. He remarried Colleen Dewhurst on July 4, 1967, but divorced for a second time on February 2, 1972.
  5. The American actress Trish Van Devere on September 4, 1972, with whom he starred in several films, including the supernatural thriller The Changeling (1980). They were estranged at the time of his death.

He also had a daughter, Michelle, born August 21, 1954, with Karen Truesdell.

Scott died on September 22, 1999 at the age of nearly 72 from a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. He was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Westwood, California. He is buried next to Walter Matthau, in an unmarked grave.[7]

Partial filmography

References

External links








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