I could be a cheap smartass and say that Alex Karras, 77, has been traded to that Great Football Team In The Sky, but that would be a shallow and cavalier way of saying he passed this morning from kidney failure at his Los Angeles home. I’m sorry but we all have to go sometime. Karras was by all accounts a likable and compassionate fellow. Condolences to friends, family and colleagues.
Karras’s first push was on the football field with the Detroit Lions from ’58 to ’70, and then as a successful actor from ’68 on. His first Hollywood score was playing himself in the film version of Paper Lion (’68), based on the George Plympton novel. He best-known portrayal was as the hulking Mongo in Mel Brooks‘ Blazing Saddles but he also delivered a very respectable performance as a football coach in Against All Odds.
When I heard the news this morning his Against All Odds emoting was the first thing I thought of, if you wanna know.
I always presumed that Brooks called Karras’s character Mongo instead of Mongol as a capitulation to p.c. massagings of the early ’70s. The reference was obviously to “Mongolian idiot,” the catch-all term for victims of Downs Syndrome in the old insensitive days.
“Telegram for Mongo!” Or was it “Candygram for Mongo!” One of these.