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Published April 08, 2016
Gervase Duan "G.D." Spradlin, a former lawyer and oil producer who found a second act as a prolific character actor playing authority figures in such films as "Apocalypse Now" and "The Godfather: Part II," has died. He was 90.
Spradlin died of natural causes Sunday at his San Luis Obispo ranch in Central California, his grandson Justin Demko told the Los Angeles Times on Monday.
Born on Aug. 31, 1920, in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma, Spradlin turned to acting in his 40s after serving in the Army Air Forces in China during World War II, working as an attorney for Phillips Petroleum Co. and striking it rich as an independent oil producer. He also dabbled in politics as director of John F. Kennedy's 1960 presidential campaign in Oklahoma and had an unsuccessful run for mayor of Oklahoma City in 1965.
Spradlin got his start in acting after taking his daughter Wendy to audition for a local production of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and wound up landing a part in the play himself.
"Being rich changes surprisingly little," Spradlin told the Times in 1967. "You'll still have to have an absorbing interest in life, something to do to make you feel alive."
When he moved his family to Los Angeles, he found steady work playing politicians, preachers, doctors, judges and military officers.
In a career spanning more than three decades, his most notable parts included the corrupt senator in "The Godfather: Part II," and the Army general who sent Martin Sheen up river to find and kill Marlon Brando's Col. Kurtz in "Apocalypse Now."
His other film credits include "The War of the Roses" and "Ed Wood." He retired after playing Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee in the 1999 comedy "Dick."
Spradlin's first wife, Nell, with whom he had daughters Tamara Kelly and Wendy Spradlin, died in 2000. He's survived by his second wife, Frances Hendrickson, his two daughters and five grandchildren.