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'MASH' Star Donald Sutherland Dies at 88 – NBC10 Philadelphia

'MASH' Star Donald Sutherland Dies at 88 – NBC10 Philadelphia
'MASH' Star Donald Sutherland Dies at 88 – NBC10 Philadelphia


Donald Sutherland,The prolific film and television actor whose long career spanned from “MASH” to The Hunger Games, has died. He was 88 years old.

Kiefer Sutherland, the actor's son, confirmed the news of the death of his father on Thursday. No further details were immediately available.

I personally think he's one of the most important actors in the history of cinema, Kiefer Sutherland said on X. Never intimidated by a role, good, bad or ugly. He loved what he did and did what he loved, and you can never ask for more than that.

The Canadian actor, tall and lean, with a smile that could be sweet or evil, was known for his offbeat characters like Hawkeye Pierce in Robert Altman's “MASH,” the hippie tank commander in “Kelly's Heroes” and the stoned professor in “Animal House.”

Before embarking on a long career as a respected actor, Sutherland embodied the unpredictable and anti-establishment cinema of the 1970s.

Over the decades, Sutherland showed his range in more buttoned-down but still eccentric roles in Robert Redford's “Ordinary People” and Oliver Stone's “JFK.” More recently he starred inthe Hunger Games films.He never retired and worked steadily until his death. An invented memoir, but still true,was supposed to be released in November.

“I love to work. I love to work with passion,” Sutherland told Charlie Rose in 1998. “I love to feel my hand fit into another character's glove. I feel like an immense amount of freedom 'stop for me. I'm not as crazy as I used to be, but I'm still a little crazy.”

Born in St. John, New Brunswick, Donald McNichol Sutherland was the son of a salesman and a mathematics teacher. Raised in Nova Scotia, he was a disc jockey with his own radio station by age 14.

“When I was 13 or 14, I really thought that everything I felt was bad and dangerous, and that God was going to kill me for it,” Sutherland told the New York Times in 1981. “My father always said, 'Keep your mouth.' Shut up, Donnie, and maybe people will think you have character.'”

Sutherland started as an engineering student at the University of Toronto, but switched to English and began acting in school theater productions. While studying in Toronto, he met Lois Hardwick, an aspiring actress. They married in 1959 but divorced seven years later.

After graduating in 1956, Sutherland attended the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts to study acting. Sutherland began appearing in West End plays and on British television. After moving to Los Angeles, he continued to bounce around until a series of war films changed his trajectory.

His first American film was “The Dirty Dozen” (1967), in which he played Vernon Pinkley, the psychopath posing as an officer. 1970 saw the release of the World War II yarns “Kelly's Heroes” and “MASH”, an acclaimed hit that catapulted Sutherland to stardom.

“There are more challenges in character roles,” Sutherland told The Washington Post in 1970. “There is longevity. A good actor can show a different face in every movie and not bore the audience.”

If Sutherland had his way, Altman would have been fired from MASH. He and co-star Elliott Gould were unhappy with the director's unorthodox, improvisational style and fought to replace him. But the film was a success beyond all expectations, and Sutherland identified personally with its anti-war message.

Openly opposed to the Vietnam War, Sutherland, actress Jane Fonda and others founded the Free Theater Associates in 1971. Banned by the military because of their political views, they performed in venues near the bases Southeast Asian military in 1973.

Sutherland's career as a leading man peaked in the 1970s when he starred in films by the era's biggest directors, although they didn't always do their best with him . Sutherland, who often said he considered himself in service of a director's vision, worked with Federico Fellini (“Fellini's Casanova” in 1976), Bernardo Bertolucci (“1900” in 1976), Claude Chabrol (“Blood Relatives” in 1978) and John Schlesinger (“The Day of the Locust” in 1975.

One of his finest performances was as a detective in Alan Pakula's “Klute” (1971). It was while filming “Klute” that he met Fonda, with whom he had a three-year relationship that began at the end of his second marriage to actress Shirley Douglas. Married in 1966, he and Douglas divorced in 1971.

Sutherland had twins with Douglas in 1966: Rachel and Kiefer, named after Warren Kiefer, the author of Sutherland's first film, “Castle of the Living Dead.”

In 1974, the actor began living with actress Francine Racette, with whom he remained thereafter. They had three children: Roeg, born in 1974 and named after director Nicolas Roeg (“Don’t Look Now”); Rossif, born in 1978 and named after director Frederick Rossif; and Angus Redford, born in 1979 and named after Robert Redford.

It was Redford who, to the surprise of some, cast Sutherland as the father in his first film, 1980's “Ordinary People.” Redford's drama about a beautiful suburban family destroyed by tragedy won four Oscars, including Best Picture.

Sutherland was overlooked by the academy for most of his career. He was never nominated but received an honorary Oscar in 2017. He did, however, win an Emmy in 1995 for the TV movie “Citizen the 2003 TV movie “Path to War.”

“Ordinary People” also presaged a shift in Sutherland's career toward more mature and sometimes less offbeat characters.

His stage debut in New York in 1981, however, went terribly. He played Humbert Humbert in Edward Albee's adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's “Lolita,” and the reviews were merciless; it closed after a dozen performances.

A rough patch followed in the '80s, thanks to failures like the 1981 satire “Gas” and the 1984 comedy “Crackers.”

But Sutherland continued to work steadily. He had a brief but memorable role in Oliver Stone's “JFK” (1991). He again played a patriarch for Redford in his 1993 film “Six Degrees of Separation.” He played track coach Bill Bowerman in 1998's “Without Limits.”

Over the past decade, Sutherland has worked increasingly in television, most notably on HBO's “Path to War,” in which he played President Lyndon Johnson's Secretary of Defense, Clark Clifford. For a career launched by “MASH,” it was a fitting, if ironic, bookend.




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