Friday, October 07, 2011

Charles Napier, RIP

The best thing I can say about Charles Napier, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 75, is that when I was a kid, I really hated his guts.

Mind you, that's no reflection on the man, who I understand was just lovely, but rather a comment on his capacity as a character actor to continually and consummately embody all manner of weaselly bureaucrats, corporate stooges, and hardbitten army types in a film career spanning four decades. While his name may have been unknown to many, the gravel-voiced, granite-jawed Napier's face was likely a familiar one, having popped up in everything from episodes of The A-Team and Knight Rider to feature films like The Blues Brothers.

The first time I remember seeing him, and the reason for that mad-on alluded to up-top, was in 1985's Rambo: First Blood, Part II playing one of those aforementioned weaselly bureaucrats, Murdock, whose betrayal of our hero at the movie's midpoint propels the action for the remainder of its running time. His character's dialogue may have been simplistic, and his motivation wafer thin, but Napier did his job like a champ, and made the countdown to his inevitable comeuppance an interminable one for those of us sitting in the audience.

In later years, the actor, who also had a brief, memorable turn as the unlucky police officer who gets de-faced by Hannibal Lecter in 1991's Silence of the Lambs, did voice duty as the Ted Turner-esque boss on the short-lived animated sitcom The Critic (an underrated gem), and continued to work regularly in features like the Austin Powers movies and TV shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm until just a few years ago. While he may never have become a household name, he did spend forty-plus years turning in solid, dependable work as one of Hollywood's most reliable utility players, and that's not a bad legacy to leave behind.

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