Football and Warren Beatty were very good to Jack Warden.
The character actor, who became a familiar face in the 1970s and 1980s on the strength of the gridiron tearjerker Brian's Song and the Beatty films Shampoo and Heaven Can Wait, died Wednesday at a New York hospital, his manager said Friday.
Warden was 85--"almost 86," business manager Sidney Pazoff noted, adding that the actor died of "old age, basically."
Something of a star, though not really a celebrity, Warden leaves behind a wealth of A-list credits: among them, All the President's Men, The Verdict and ...And Justice for All. As best the Internet Movie Database can tell, the stage-trained actor appeared in 153 movies and television shows from 1951 to 2000.
"He loved working," said Pazoff, who was associated with Warden for 27 years. "He read a lot of films that he didn't take. He really just liked to work."
Three times, Warden was nominated for an Emmy, winning once for keeping sentiments in check as Chicago Bears head coach George Halas in 1971's Brian's Song, the biopic about doomed running back Brian Piccolo.
Twice, Warden was nominated for an Oscar, earning Best Supporting Actor nods for 1975's Shampoo and 1978's Heaven Can Wait, in which football again figured prominently. (Warden played coach Max Corkle to Beatty's back-from-the-dead star player.)
From Halas to Max Corkle, Warden perfected the art of gruff. Other roles in which he growled (but didn't bite) were as Watergate-era Washington Post editor Harry Rosenfeld in All the President's Men, as washed-up attorney Paul Newman's last friend in The Verdict, and as a sanity-challenged judge in ...And Justice for All.
For those raised on 1980s TV, Warden likely is best known as hothead P.I. Harry Fox, who, in prime prime-time tradition, solved mysteries with his temperamental opposite and son (John Rubinstein) in Crazy Like a Fox. The show lasted two seasons on CBS, running from 1984-86, and prompting the 1987 made-for-TV movie Still Crazy Like a Fox.
In 1979, Warden was the baseball manager stand-in for the likewise gruff Walter Matthau in the short-lived TV sitcom version of The Bad News Bears, costarring the 7-year-old Corey Feldman.
Early film credits included 1953's From Here to Eternity, 1957's 12 Angry Men and 1959's The Sound and the Fury. Latter-day film credits included the Problem Child trilogy, 1998's Bulworth and 2000's The Replacements. Bulworth was another Beatty film; The Replacements, his last big-screen appearance, was another football film.
Born John Lebzelter on Sept. 18, 1920, Warden served in the U.S. Navy and Army, pulling a stint in the latter during World War II. He began his acting career in New York in the 1940s.
When Warden finally stopped acting in Hollywood in 2000, it was by "his choice," Pazoff said.