Charles Napier (1936-2011)
Charles Napier, a longtime character actor who was a favorite of directors as diverse as Jonathan Demme and Russ Meyer, died today at the age of 75. Since first appearing in episodic TV in the late 1960s, Napier seemed to always be a recognizable presence in roles, usually small in size but almost always memorable.
His first credited television appearance was on an episode of Mannix in 1968. Throughout his early career through the mid-1970s, he also appeared on the TV shows Hogan's Heroes, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible, Kojak, The Streets of San Francisco, Baretta, The Rookies, Black Sheep Squadron and The Rockford Files.
During the same period, Napier also was active in feature films, making his debut as the lead in a 1969 film called The House Near Prado. The same year, he played the title role in a Western made by the same director, Jean Van Hearn, called The Hanging of Jake Ellis.
In 1970, he played Harry in Cherry, Harry & Raquel!, the first of four movies directed by Russ Meyer in which Napier appeared. The quartet included that same year's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, whose screenplay was written by Roger Ebert.
In 1977, he worked in Handle With Care, the first of 10 films with director Jonathan Demme. Demme and Napier would go on to collaborate on Last Embrace, Melvin and Howard, Swing Shift, Something Wild, Married to the Mob, The Silence of the Lambs (where he memorably guarded Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal Lecter and ended up displayed on Lecter's cage), Philadelphia, Beloved and the remake of The Manchurian Candidate.
Those credits just start to scratch the surface of his work in TV and movie work. Among the other notable films in which Napier appeared include The Blues Brothers, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Miami Blues, The Grifters, The Cable Guy, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
Other television shows and TV movies he played roles in included The Incredible Hulk, The Blue and the Gray, Dallas, The Dukes of Hazzard, Night Court, The A-Team, War and Remembrance, L.A. Law, Murder, She Wrote, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Party of Five, Walker: Texas Ranger, The Practice, CSI, Monk and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Napier's distinctive voice also earned him much work in animated programming, most notably in the regular role as the Ted Turner-esque Duke Phillips on The Critic. He also contributed his vocal talents to animated shows such as Men in Black: The Series, God, the Devil and Bob, The Simpsons, Squidbillies and Archer.
R.I.P. Mr. Napier.