Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Howard’s End

A 1974 CBS promo spot for The Manhunter.

I was never a big fan of The White Shadow, the 1978-1981 CBS-TV series with which star Ken Howard is still most closely associated. But I did enjoy an earlier, Quinn Martin production, The Manhunter (1974-1975; opening title sequence here), in which Howard played Dave Barrett, an Idaho-based private eye/bounty hunter determined to bring 1930s crooks and gangsters to justice. And I enjoyed his appearances on Crossing Jordan (2001-2007) as star Jill Hennessy’s father, a Boston ex-cop-turned-bar-owner. I have also long been intrigued with the fact that Howard was briefly considered for the role of Stewart McMillan on McMillan & Wife. (That part ultimately went, of course, to Rock Hudson.)

So I was saddened to learn that Howard died earlier today, at age 71. According to a story in Variety (which manages to misidentify that Hennessy show as Raising Jordan),
Howard earned an Emmy Award for his performance as Phelan Beale, the husband of Jessica Lange’s Big Edie, in HBO’s 2009 film “Grey Gardens,” which was inspired by Albert and David Maysles’ classic 1970s documentary.

Decades earlier, in 1970, he won a Tony Award as best supporting or featured actor (dramatic) for “Child’s Play,” in which he portrayed the gym coach at a Catholic boy’s school. …

Howard’s most significant recent film role came in Tony Gilroy’s 2007 thriller “Michael Clayton,” starring George Clooney as a fixer for a top law firm; Howard played the ruthless CEO of the corporation Clooney’s firm is representing in a multimillion-dollar class action lawsuit who employs the even more ruthless attorney played in the film by Tilda Swinton. In Clint Eastwood’s 2011 film “J. Edgar,” he played Attorney General Harlan F. Stone. In 2014’s “The Judge,” starring Robert Duvall as a crusty jurist on trial for murder, Howard played the judge presiding over the trial. In David O. Russell’s 2015 film “Joy,” starring Jennifer Lawrence, he played a mop company executive.
A full list of Howard’s screen credits can be found here.

In addition to his work in front of the camera, the California native served for years as president of the actors union SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). Howard’s cause of death has not yet been reported.

(Hat tip to Bill Crider’s Pop Culture Magazine.)

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