Thursday, September 17, 2009


Just wanted to note the passing of one of my all-time favorite character actors, Henry Gibson, who lost a brief bout with cancer at the age of 73.

He shot to a weird kind of fame as a cast member of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, the popularity of which seems almost incomprehensible today. But Gibson had been around before that, of course--his movie debut came under the direction of Jerry Lewis in The Nutty Professor, and he had a hilarious part as a hipster Indian in the late-period Three Stooges epic The Outlaws Is Coming.

He was one of the few Laugh-In performers to have a career beyond that show, mostly courtesy of Robert Altman, who cast him as a sinister "wellness expert" (and probable Scientology rep, though that isn't explicitly stated) in The Long Goodbye, and gave him the role of a lifetime as Haven Hamilton, a powerful, ego-crazed country star who inadvertently rediscovers his humanity in Nashville. Right there Gibson gave outstanding performances in two of the greatest films ever made.

He found himself a working character actor, doing everything from sitcoms to cartoon voiceover work, and he could play sinister as well as sweet. He became a member of Joe Dante's repertory company--he was the best thing in The 'burbs and was hilarious in a Dante-directed episode of Eerie, Indiana--and will always be beloved as the head of the Illinois Nazis in John Landis' The Blues Brothers.

He was one of those people who could make any movie or TV show better just by being in it, and he will be sorely missed.