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David Huddleston (1930 - 2016)

Getty / Bennett Raglin

David Huddleston (1930 - 2016)

David Huddleston, an actor who was known best for “The Big Lebowski” and “Santa Claus: The Movie,” died Aug. 2, 2016, according to multiple news sources. He was 85.

The actor’s death was confirmed by his wife, Sarah C. Koeppe, on Thursday. The cause was advanced heart and kidney disease. He died in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

A longtime character actor, Huddleston may be most recognizable as the titular character in “The Big Lebowski” (1998). His performance as a vain millionaire who hires Jeff Bridges’ “Dude” to retrieve his kidnapped wife, was a key component in what eventually became one of the most popular cult movies of the past 20 years.

Originally audiences and critics didn’t know what to make of the film. Some saw it as a modern film noir, others as a loosely plotted stoner comedy. Huddleston made an impression in his few scenes, crowing one moment about his personal achievements, and bellowing and berating “the Dude” for his lack of any, the next.

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Huddleston was born Sept. 17, 1930, in Vinton, Virginia. He was an aircraft engine mechanic in the U.S. Air Force before moving to New York City to pursue an acting career.

He began appearing in film and on television in the late 1960s. In the 1970s, he was seen on the big screen in “Blazing Saddles” and on the small screen on numerous shows, from “Bewitched” to “The Rockford Files.” In 1985, he played Santa Claus alongside Dudley Moore’s elf in “Santa Claus: The Movie.” He also appeared in four episodes of “The Wonder Years” as Grandpa Arnold.

Despite his steady work on television and in movies, it was the stage that may have given him his greatest rewards as an actor. His wife told the Los Angeles Times that he considered his performance as Benjamin Franklin in the 1997 Broadway production of “1776” to be his “crowning achievement.”

In a 2014 interview with the Santa Fe New Mexican, Huddleston looked back on his career and said, “I’ve had a very, very, very good run at this stuff.” He went on to say, “I have been all over the world, made pictures in Mexico, Canada, Israel, France, and England. I’ve met people who I never dreamt I would meet, all heroes of mine.”

Huddleston is survived by his wife.

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