R.I.P. Rip Torn, a scene stealer in everything from The Larry Sanders Show to Columbo

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The veteran character actor died at 88.

Whatever the role, Rip Torn stood out. Blessed with one of the coolest names in the business — he was born Elmore Rual Torn Jr.; Rip was a traditional Torn family nickname — used with his gruff Texan accent and expressive eyebrows to become an all-time great character actor, spanning generations.

His lines became catchphrases. In Dodgeball, his Patches O'Houlihan barked, "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!" He was the one chosen to deliver "We are the Men in Black" in Men in Black. As a supporting actor, he was able to hold his own alongside immortal icons like Steve McQueen (The Cincinnati Kid) and David Bowie (The Man Who Fell to Earth).

The Texas native made his screen debut in 1956 and appeared in early classics such as 12 O'Clock High, Rawhide, Mannix, Bonanza, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. But his career found new life in the early '90s as Torn honed his onscreen persona to a type. Typically, you think of him sporting a dark suit and a goatee, as a brash but lovable boss. 

The Everett CollectionTorn on 'Playhouse 90' in 1958 and 'The Larry Sanders Show' in 1992

The Larry Sanders Show, on which he played Artie the producer, cemented this image of Rip Torn, as he went on to earn six Emmy Nominations, winning one. But if you rewind his reel a year earlier, to the 1991 Albert Brooks afterlife gem Defending Your Life, you'll find him in quite a similar role as defense lawyer Bob Diamond.

That same year, he starred as a convertible-driving, wig-wearing killer on Columbo, playing a pompous thespian in "Death Hits the Jackpot." You can see him in that role up top.

A fearless actor, Torn could swing from zany comedy (few others could gracefully handle material in both Airplane II: The Sequel and Freddy Got Fingered) and dramatic biopics (he earned an Oscar nomination for his work in 1983's Cross Creek).

On Tuesday, Torn passed away, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 88.

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TVJunkie 3 days ago
Want to see him in something really different for him? "Heartland". A movie about turn of the century (very late 1800's) homesteaders in central Montana. Shot on location there. Conchata Ferrell as his wife. Very unHollywood.
TomTerrrific 23 days ago
Didn't he also play a Navy admiral in the Kelsey Granmer comedy "Down Periscope"? He was an amazing actor.
Pacificsun 1 month ago
Early on, a very dynamic part in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the Season 2 Two-Part opener titled the Alexander the Greater Affair. He was a lot younger in the role of a "charming villain."

As an actor he was pretty much of a chameleon which permitted him a wide range or character driven roles.
gemmert 1 month ago
One of my favorite actors. Would love to see a tribute to Rip Torn - The excellent Naked City episode (A Case Study of Two Savages) the 12 O'Clock High episode( The Lorelei), the very good Combat episode (A Gift of Hope) , and the Rawhide episode (Escort to Doom ). The Thriller episode (The Purple Room) is still considered a high point of the series. And don't forget the Mannix episode where he plays the heavy (The Open Web).

How about it? He was an excellent guest star in the days MeTV honors.
Pacificsun gemmert 1 month ago
Yes his appearances in so many so would make one great weekend of TV. Or... they could feature a couple of them in the early hours of Sun-Mon.
oldiesfanjohn 1 month ago
Not mentioned, one of my favorite Rip Torn movie roles was "Scully" a pirate-talking seaman in 1985's
"Summer Rental" starring John Candy.
TVJunkie oldiesfanjohn 3 days ago
Goes without saying.
MrsPhilHarris 1 month ago
Fantastic as Artie on Larry Sanders.
teire 1 month ago
“If you can dodge a wrench ...”
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