The exalted Rip Torn has passed at age 88. A fine, intense, occasionally snarly actor who was gifted (and seemingly afflicted from time to time) with just a slight touch of madness.
Born in ’31, raised in Texas, professionally and creatively shaped in the ’50s, drawling and cruising through thick and thin for over half a century. And Rip Torn wasn’t a screen name. For some reason I’ve long thought of Torn as being spiritually related to the equally moody and sometimes surly Warren Oates and Timothy Carey — outliers, all.
All the obits will lead with Torn’s Henry Miller in Joseph Strick‘s Tropic of Cancer, his rural Southerner in Martin Ritt‘s Cross Creek (’83) and the ongoing “Artie” role on HBO’s The Larry Sanders Show.
But for me Torn became lightning with a pair of performances released two years apart — the eccentric Raoul Rey O’Houlihan in Norman Mailer’s Maidstone (released in ’70 and infamous for that improvised fight that began with Torn charging Mailer with a hammer) and as country music star Maury Dann in Daryl Duke‘s Payday (’72). Dann was a minor-leaguer who snarled and mistreated and generally out-nastied Paul Newman in Hud.
I don’t even remember Torn’s uncredited role in A Face in the Crowd, but he was certainly interesting as a laid-back officer Lewis Milestone‘s Pork Chop Hill, as Judas Iscariot in Nicholas Ray‘s King of Kings (’61), and as a sinister, to-the-manor-born Southerner in Sweet Bird of Youth (’62).
The Maidstone fight scene [after the jump] is astonishing still.