Character actor David Huddleston passed away on Tuesday at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico from complications of heart & kidney disease. He was 85.
You probably don’t recognize his name, but his acting career in TV and movies spanned more than half a century. His credits include Adam-12, The Name of the Game, Room 222, Bewitched, McMillan & Wife, Brian’s Song, Bonanza, Ironside, Mary Tyler Moore, Gunsmoke, Kung Fu, The Rockford Files, Hawaii Five-O, Sanford & Son, Charlie’s Angels, Barnaby Jones, Benson, The Fall Guy, Magnum P.I., Columbo, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Walker, Texas Ranger, The Practice, Judging Amy, The West Wing and Gilmore Girls. Typically, Huddleston would play an authority figure like a sheriff, a judge, a mayor or a Senator.
Many a character actor can go a whole career without really being noticed. In Huddleston’s case, he managed to get noticed twice in roles that came almost 25 years apart. In 1974, he would play Mayor Olson Johnson in Blazing Saddles and actually used the phrase “authentic frontier gibberish” with the sort of solemnity that made it all the more hilarious.
Nearly a quarter century later, Huddleston would play the titular character in The Big Lebowski starring Jeff Bridges and John Goodman.
Huddleston appeared very content with his lot in life. In a 2014 interview, Huddleston said, “I’ve had a very, very, very good run at this stuff. I have been all over the world, made pictures in Mexico, Canada, Israel, France and England. I’ve met people who I never dreamt I would meet, all heroes of mine.”
I have no doubt there are many people who never dreamt they’d meet Mayor Olson Johnson or The Big Lebowski but were glad they got to meet David Huddleston.