Charles is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Military awards and decorations
For his valor and the wounds he received during the war, Durning was awarded the Silver Star,
and Purple Heart Medals.
Additional awards included the Army Good Conduct Medal, the American Campaign Medal and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one bronze service star, and the World War II Victory Medal. His badges included the Combat Infantryman Badge,
Expert Badge with Rifle Bar,
and Honorable Service Lapel Pin.
Durning received the French National Order of the Legion of Honor from the French Consul in Los Angeles in April 2008.
National Memorial Day Concert, 60th Anniversary of the Normandy Invasion. Charles describes his D-Day experience. []
Charles was born into poverty in Highland Falls New York. His father James had been sickened by mustard gas and had lost a leg in World War One. He died when Charles was sixteen.
During World War II, Durning served in the U.S. Army. Durning was drafted and found himself in the Army in one of the first waves to land on the beach at Normandy on June 6, 1944, D-Day. Just nine days later he earned his first Purple Heart when he was seriously wounded by a German mine at Les Mare des Mares.
Following a six-month recovery in England, he was rushed to the front lines to fight against the German Ardennes offensive. During the Battle of the Bulge, Durning suffered wounds, this time in hand-to-hand bayonet combat for which he would later receive a second Purple Heart.
Still able to fight, Durning would earn his third Purple Heart when he moved into Germany in March with the 398th Infantry Regiment, where he was severely wounded in the chest in March 1945. Durning was then evacuated to the U.S. to spend the remainder of his time in the Army recovering until he was discharged in January 1946 as a private first class. Captured during the Battle of the Bulge, Durning, was one of the few survivors of the Malmedy massacre when German troops opened fire on dozens of American prisoners. The Malmedy massacre (1944) was a war crime in which 84 American prisoners of war were killed by their German captors near Malmedy, Belgium, during World War II. The massacre was committed on December 17, 1944, at Baugnez crossroads, by members of Kampfgruppe Peiper (part of the 1st SS Panzer Division), a German combat unit, during the Battle of the Bulge.
Following the war, Durning boxed professionally while enrolled in acting classes on the G.I. Bill . Dismissed from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts after a year, because he "had no talent" he went from one menial job to another until 1962 when Joseph Papp invited him to an audition and he began performing on the New York stage. He entered the film world in 1962 when he played the role of a G.I. in the "Password is Courage." Then at 50 he had his breakout role as a corrupt policeman who hustles professional con artists in 1973's "The Sting" with Robert Redford and a follow-on as a detective in "Dog Day Afternoon" with Al Pacino in 1975.
While Durning continued to be a stage actor, his film career took off, he had performed in more than 100 films by his death, working virtually every year between 1973 and 2011 in such films as "Breakheart Pass," "Captains and Kings," "The Muppet Movie" and "Tootsie."
And, if he wasn't performing on the big screen, he was active doing voice-overs for "Family Guy," and playing roles in other television movies and mini-series such as the 1980's "Attica," 1990's "The Kennedys of Massachusetts" and 2004's "NCIS" where he played the role of a Medal of Honor awardee with post traumatic stress disorder. Durning said he didn't have to do more to make his portrayal believable than remember the old days.
Durning said he had never turned down a part regardless of the role. He loved the Christmas season and to that end the portly, 5'8" thespian played the role of Santa Claus no less than five times in his career.
His significant honors include Academy Award Best Supporting Actor nominations in 1982 for "Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," and in 1983 for Mel Brooks' comedy-drama "To Be or Not to Be."
He also received six Emmy Award nominations, a Tony Award in 1991 in the Best Actor-Play category and four Golden Globe nominations, including a win in 1991 for Best Support Actor. In January 2008 he was honored with the Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Durning participated in various functions to honor American veterans throughout the years, including serving a year as chairman of the U.S. National Salute to Hospitalized Veterans. For many years he also served as guest speaker at the National Memorial Day Concert held at the Capitol Building in Washington.
At an observation of the 60th anniversary of D-Day in Washington, Durning told of the terror he felt and carnage he saw when hitting the beach on D-Day. He said he had to jettison his weapon and gear in order to swim ashore and saw mortally wounded comrades offering themselves as human shields.
“I forget a lot of stuff now but I still wake up once in a while and it’s still there,” he said. “I can’t count how many of my buddies are in the cemetery at Normandy.”
Durning was married twice and had three children.
His work []
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On 19 Jun 2018 at 18:36 GMT Paula J wrote: