Rip Torn, Emmy-Winning TV and Film Actor, Dies at 88
Movie and TV fans lost a legend this week. Rip Torn, the Emmy-winning star of The Larry Sanders Show, and a staple of film, television, and theater for half a century, died on Tuesday. He was 88 years old; no cause of death was given.
How he got his famous name, via the Associated Press:
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, eventually overcoming the jokes with a series of powerful performances that led to his being regarded, along with Marlon Brando, Paul Newman and James Dean, as actors of a postwar generation who brought tense realism to their craft.
Torn’s first film was 1956’s Baby Doll. He studied at the famous Actors Studio and soon found success on the stage and screen. His film roles included Slade in The Cincinnati Kid, Dr. Bryce in The Man Who Fell to Earth, Maax from The Beastmaster and Zed, the irascible boss of Men in Black and Men in Black II.
On television, his unquestionable career highlight were his six outstanding seasons on The Larry Sanders Shows, one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved sitcoms of the 1990s. Torn played Artie, the producer of the late night talk show of the series’ title hosted by Garry Shandling. Torn was nominated six times for his work on The Larry Sanders Show and won once, in 1996. The series was an influential landmark for HBO, and remains well-loved in TVphile circles to this day.
Torn had a couple run-ins with the law over incidents stemming from alcohol abuse, and occasional altercations with collaborators. (His Wikipedia page has an entire section devoted to “On-set conflicts.”) But despite all of that, Torn endured and had a long and prolific career. His longevity has been observed for the last several years by the Twitter account RipTornOutlives, which noted each celebrity and historical figure’s death with a tweet commemorating that Rip Torn had, however, improbably, outlived all of them.
Just yesterday, RipTornOutlives noted that Torn had outlived former Presidential candidate Ross Perot. And in fact Torn even outlived his own obituary writer; at the bottom of his AP obit, there is a note that reads “Former AP Entertainment Writer Bob Thomas in Los Angeles compiled this report before his death in 2014.” So kudos, Rip. That’s a perfect ending to a lengthy and memorable career.
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