Tuesday, August 12, 2008

R.I.P., George Furth

George Furth, actor-playwright and collaborator with Stephen Sondheim (Company, Merrily We Roll Along), has left us at the age of 75. What a devastating blow this is to hear.

I’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to stage plays and stage musicals, I’m not your go-to guy: that’s why the blogosphere gods allow Jaime Weinman to walk amongst us mere mortals. But when it comes to character actors, that’s my meat—I’ve spent nearly forty years as a certified couch potato, and have witnesses who will verify that watching a movie or TV with me can be quite annoying when I recognize an actor or actress and yell out their names at inopportune times.

Furth’s acting career began in 1961 when he appeared A Cook for Mr. General and two years later, Hot Spot (1963) with TDOY goddess Judy Holliday. But his film career kicked off in 1964 with a small role in The Best Man, and he later made memorable appearances in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Blazing Saddles (1974; as Van Johnson), Hooper (1978), The Cannonball Run (1981) and The Man With Two Brains (1983). Butch Cassidy showcases his best-known movie role, as the stubbornly loyal railroad employee who refuses to open up the safe to allow Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford) make off with his contents (“Butch, you know that if it were my money, there is nobody that I would rather have steal it than you. But, you see, I am still in the employment of E. H. Harriman, of Union Pacific Railroad”).

Furth also left behind a long list of television credits, including appearances on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Run for Your Life, F Troop, Felony Squad and The Monkees. His specialty, be it television or film, was playing the dedicated bureaucrat who wanted nothing more than to make sure the trains ran on time.

R.I.P., George…you will be missed.


Doc Quatermass said...

Missed, but not forgotten.

Andrew Leal said...

Perhaps because of the slight resemblance (facially and vocally), I tend to think of George Furth as a sort of thinking man's Ronnie Schell (no disrespect to Ronnie). Butch is probably his finest hour, but I quite liked his somewhat odd expository cameo in the Night Gallery installment "Little Black Bag" (in my opinion, the scenes only work because of Furth).