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Rip Torn, who played Artie on 'The Larry Sanders Show,' dies at 88

Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES--Rip Torn, the maverick actor who received a late-in-life career boost -- and won an Emmy Award -- playing the caustic talk-show producer on Garry Shandling's 1990s hit HBO comedy series "The Larry Sanders Show," has died, according to the Associated Press. He was 88.

Torn's off-screen drinking and latter-day alcohol-related arrests began to overshadow his accomplishments as an actor.

Texas-born and Actors Studio-trained, Torn was a "slender, dark, intense young actor" -- as the Los Angeles Times' former TV columnist, Cecil Smith, described him -- when he surfaced in the late 1950s on TV dramatic showcases such as "Playhouse 90," in films and on Broadway.

He received a Tony Award nomination for best featured actor in a play for his role as Tom Junior in the original 1959 Broadway production of Tennessee Williams' "Sweet Bird of Youth," with Paul Newman and Torn's future wife, Geraldine Page, in the leads.

Torn, who reprised his role in the 1962 movie version, appeared in more than 90 films, including "King of Kings," "The Cincinnati Kid," "Pay Day," "The Man Who Fell to Earth," "Defending Your Life," "Men in Black," "Dodgeball" and "Marie Antoinette." He also provided the voice of Zeus in Disney's animated "Hercules."

Torn's role as Marsh Turner, a 1920s backwoods Florida family man, in the 1983 film "Cross Creek" earned him an Academy Award nomination for best actor in a supporting role.

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On television, he played President Richard M. Nixon in the 1979 miniseries "Blind Ambition" and Ulysses S. Grant in the 1982 miniseries "The Blue and the Gray." And in 1985, he received an Emmy nomination for his role as the prosecutor in the miniseries "The Atlanta Child Murders."

His performance as an after-life defense lawyer in Albert Brooks' 1991 film comedy "Defending Your Life" led Shandling to cast him as the TV producer in "The Larry Sanders Show," which ran on HBO from 1992 to 1998.

Torn's Arthur character has been described as flinty, crafty, intense, tough-as-nails, cajoling, fiercely protective, fiercely loyal and slightly mad.

"The saving grace is Arthur) loves talent, particularly his star," Torn told The Chicago Tribune in 1997. "Garry once said, 'How do you see this role?' I said, 'As Larry's pit bull.' He said, 'Ahhh, I don't think I like that at all.' I said, 'OK, I'll be your wolverine!' He didn't know what that meant. That's even worse than a pit bull!"

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