RIP, Rip Torn

Texan's acting career spanned 7 decades
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 10, 2019 12:51 AM CDT
Rip Torn Dies at 88
In this Dec. 8, 1978 photo, actor Rip Torn plays Richard Nixon during the filming of "Blind Ambition," an eight-hour film for television.   (AP Photo/Doug Pizac, File)

Rip Torn, the free-spirited Texan who overcame his quirky name to become a distinguished actor in theater, television, and movies and win an Emmy in his 60s for his comedy turn on TV's The Larry Sanders Show, has died. He was 88. Torn died Tuesday afternoon at his home with his wife and two of his daughters by his side, according to publicist Rick Miramontez. No cause of death was given. His career on stage and screen spanned seven decades, ranging from an early career of dark, threatening roles to iconic comedic performances later in life, the AP reports. Born Elmore Rual Torn, the actor adopted the name Rip in his boyhood, following the tradition of his father and uncle. It was the subject of endless ridicule during his early days as a stage actor in New York, and fellow drama students urged him to change it. With customary stubbornness, he refused.

Born in Temple, Texas, Torn initially studied agriculture at Texas A&M and acting at the University of Texas. After service as a military policeman during the Korean War, he hitchhiked to Hollywood. Landing only tiny roles in movies and TV dramas, and supporting himself as a fry cook and dishwasher, he decided to shift to New York and seek more training as an actor. Torn made his film debut in 1956 in an adaptation of Tennessee Williams' Baby Doll, and within a few years was a respected film and television actor, working on occasions with his second wife, Geraldine Page. His success eventually inspired a younger cousin to take up acting, too—Sissy Spacek. His career hit a dry spell in the 1970s but he returned to the mainstream with Cross Creek, in which he played table-smashing backwoodsman Marsh Turner. The role brought him his only Oscar nomination, for best supporting actor.

(More Rip Torn stories.)

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