Published August 01, 2008
LOS ANGELES – From World War II hero to dancer and award-winning actor, Charles Durning has lived a storied life. The 85-year-old added to that resume Thursday with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next to one for his idol, James Cagney.
"Cagney was my favorite actor and favorite person," Durning told The Associated Press after the ceremony unveiling the Walk of Fame's 2,366th star. "I met him once and he was very kind to me. I never got a chance to tell him what I thought, that he was my hero."
Durning's more than 100 movie credits include "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas," "Tootsie," "Dog Day Afternoon," "To Be or Not To Be," "The Sting" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
A who's who of actors joined him at the ceremony on Hollywood Boulevard, including Ed Begley Jr., Jon Voight, Angie Dickinson, Joe Mantegna, Gary Sinise, Elliott Gould, Lee Purcell and Doris Roberts.
"I never thought this would happen," Durning told the AP. "This is one of the secret awards I wanted. I was hoping this would happen in my lifetime and it did."
Born in Highland Falls, New York, Durning said he was 17 when he went to war, along with his three brothers.
"They dropped down the age (to enlist) to 18. I signed my mother's name and she was not happy about that," he said.
During the war, Durning was a member of the first wave of soldiers to land on Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, and was seriously wounded by a mine later that month in France. He was taken prisoner during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and was one of a few survivors of the German massacre of American POWs at Malmedy, Belgium. Durning was honored with three Purple Hearts and a Silver Star.
Despite his legs being hit by German machine-gun fire, Durning went on to box, ballroom dance and become a dependable character actor.
"I never turned down anything and never argued with any producer or director," he said.
Durning has been nominated for an Emmy nine times, including this year for his guest role as the father of Denis Leary's character on the FX cable television drama "Rescue Me."
He has garnered two Academy Award nominations — for 1982's "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" and 1983's "To Be or Not to Be."
Durning won a best supporting actor Golden Globe for the 1990 miniseries "The Kennedys Of Massachusetts." He snagged a Tony in 1990 for "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."
The Screen Actors Guild honored Durning with a lifetime achievement award in January.
Thursday's ceremony marked a high moment for the actor and his family.
"There's so much magic in this whole moment," said his stepdaughter Anita Gregory, who with Purcell nominated Durning for the star.
"He has a passion for acting. To survive a war, that gives you enough determination that anything is possible. ... He believes life will go on forever."