Skip to main content

Ned Beatty - An Obituary

Ned Beatty – Actor

 Born July 6, 1937; died June 13, 2021 


 Ned Beatty, who has died aged 83, was an actor who more often than not played the perennial sidekick and subservient foil to the more handsome tough guy leads, even as he talked big. Swithering between affable befuddlement and pugnacious pomposity, he could appear both ridiculous and vulnerable. This was the case in an array of supporting roles in some of the 1970s’ key films. These ranged from playing the hot-shot lawyer unable to connect emotionally with his deaf children in Robert Altman’s sprawling ensemble piece, Nashville (1975), to a turn as the investigator tipped off about the Watergate scandal in All The President’s Men (1976).


He hammed it up as Otis, the dullard whipping boy of Gene Hackman’s Lex Luthor in Superman the Movie (1978) and Superman II (1980). More recently, his voice was heard in Toy Story 3 (2010), as Lotso, the pink teddy bear who runs the nursery with an infinitely less cutesy approach than his appearance suggests. Arguably Beatty’s bravest moment came during his film debut in Deliverance (1972), which saw him appear in what at the time was considered to be one of the most shocking scenes of American cinema. 


Director John Boorman’s film saw Beatty play one of four city businessmen on a canoeing trip in the Georgia wilderness. With Burt Reynolds’ de facto leader Lewis getting on the wrong side of some local mountain men, Beatty’s character Bobby and Jon Voight’s Ed are captured in the woods, with Bobby humiliated after being forced to strip before being raped and told to “squeal like a piggy”. The line, and Bobby’s subsequent terrified submission to the ordeal, became a key moment of early 1970s cinema’s dark heart.


Beatty took the upper hand with showboating largesse in Network (1976), Sidney Lumet’s Paddy Chayefsky scripted satire on the all-encroaching power of television. As Peter Finch’s crazed anchorman Howard Beale goes off script to bite the hand that feeds him, Beatty’s initially avuncular corporate fat-cat Arthur Jensen escorts him to the boardroom, where he thunders out some home truths to devastating effect. “The world is a business,” he tells Beale in his monologue. “It has been since man crawled out of the slime”. Beatty was only in the film for five minutes, but the sheer power of his performance saw him Oscar nominated for Best Supporting Actor.


Beatty also appeared in Restless Natives (1985) director Michael Hoffman and writer Ninian Dunnett’s Edinburgh set comedy about a pair of frustrated twenty-somethings who become latter-day Robin Hoods by holding up tourist coaches and handing out their takings to the people. Beatty played holidaying CIA agent Fritz Bender, who joins in the chase to apprehend the latter-day Caledonian outlaws.


Ned Thomas Beatty was born in Louisville, Kentucky, the youngest of two children to Margaret (nee Fortney) and Charles Beatty. As a child, he began singing in gospel and barbershop quartets at his local church, and received a scholarship to sing in the choir at Transylvania University, in Lexington, Kentucky. He attended, but didn’t graduate.


He made his stage debut in 1956, when he appeared in an outdoor historical pageant, Wilderness Road. Aged 21, he played Big Daddy in Tennessee Williams’ play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. It was a role he would return to more than forty years later when he was the same age as his character. He spent a decade in rep in Virginia, and in 1966 played Willy Loman in a production of Arthur Miller’s play, Death of a Salesman. He made his Broadway debut in 1968 in The Great White Hope. 


Once Deliverance opened him up to the film world, Beatty became a big screen fixture. He was in John Huston’s The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean (1972), and acted alongside his Deliverance co-star Burt Reynolds in six more films. These were White Lightning (1973); WW and the Dixie Dancekings (1975); Gator (1976); Stroker Ace (1983); Switching Channels (1988), and Physical Evidence (1989). He also reunited with Boorman for Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977).


He appeared in an adaptation of Flannery O’Connor’s novel, Wise Blood (1979), and played an FBI agent alongside Walter Matthau and Glenda Jackson in spy caper, Hopscotch (1980). He was a corrupt cop in The Big Easy (1986), and had his singing voice dubbed when he played Irish tenor Josef Locke in Hear My Song (1991). The latter saw him nominated for a Golden Globe.


On television, he made numerous guest spots in the likes of The Waltons (1973), The Rockford Files (1974), and the pilot episode of Kojak (1974). He also appeared in an episode of M*A*S*H* (1975). Later, there were occasional guest spots in Roseanne (1989-1994), and he played a recurring role in Homicide: Life on the Street (1993-1995).


In 2001, Beatty returned to the stage as Big Daddy in a West End production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. He repeated the role two years later on Broadway. Numerous film roles followed, with his final big screen appearance coming in Baggage Claim (2013) prior to his retirement.


He is survived by his fourth wife, Sandra Johnson, and eight children; Douglas, Charles, Lennis and Walter, to his first wife, Walta Chandler; John and Blossom, to his second wife, Belinda Rowley; and Thomas and Dorothy, to his third wife, Dorothy Lindsay.

The Herald, June 25th 2021




Popular posts from this blog

Big Gold Dreams – A Story of Scottish Independent Music 1977-1989

Disc 1 1. THE REZILLOS (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures (12/77)  2. THE EXILE Hooked On You (8/77) 3. DRIVE Jerkin’ (8/77) 4. VALVES Robot Love (9/77) 5. P.V.C. 2 Put You In The Picture (10/77) 6. JOHNNY & THE SELF ABUSERS Dead Vandals (11/77) 7. BEE BEE CEE You Gotta Know Girl (11/77) 8. SUBS Gimme Your Heart (2/78) 9. SKIDS Reasons (No Bad NB 1, 4/78) 10. FINGERPRINTZ Dancing With Myself (1/79)  11. THE ZIPS Take Me Down (4/79) 12. ANOTHER PRETTY FACE All The Boys Love Carrie (5/79)  13. VISITORS Electric Heat (5/79) 14. JOLT See Saw (6/79) 15. SIMPLE MINDS Chelsea Girl (6/79) 16. SHAKE Culture Shock (7/79) 17. HEADBOYS The Shape Of Things To Come (7/79) 18. FIRE EXIT Time Wall (8/79) 19. FREEZE Paranoia (9/79) 20. FAKES Sylvia Clarke (9/79) 21. TPI She’s Too Clever For Me (10/79) 22. FUN 4 Singing In The Showers (11/79) 23. FLOWERS Confessions (12/79) 24. TV21 Playing With Fire (4/80) 25. ALEX FERGUSSON Stay With Me Tonight (1980) 1. THE REZILL

Losing Touch With My Mind - Psychedelia in Britain 1986-1990

DISC 1 1. THE STONE ROSES   -  Don’t Stop 2. SPACEMEN 3   -  Losing Touch With My Mind (Demo) 3. THE MODERN ART   -  Mind Train 4. 14 ICED BEARS   -  Mother Sleep 5. RED CHAIR FADEAWAY  -  Myra 6. BIFF BANG POW!   -  Five Minutes In The Life Of Greenwood Goulding 7. THE STAIRS  -  I Remember A Day 8. THE PRISONERS  -  In From The Cold 9. THE TELESCOPES   -  Everso 10. THE SEERS   -  Psych Out 11. MAGIC MUSHROOM BAND  -  You Can Be My L-S-D 12. THE HONEY SMUGGLERS  - Smokey Ice-Cream 13. THE MOONFLOWERS  -  We Dig Your Earth 14. THE SUGAR BATTLE   -  Colliding Minds 15. GOL GAPPAS   -  Albert Parker 16. PAUL ROLAND  -  In The Opium Den 17. THE THANES  -  Days Go Slowly By 18. THEE HYPNOTICS   -  Justice In Freedom (12" Version) 1. THE STONE ROSES    Don’t Stop ( Silvertone   ORE   1989) The trip didn’t quite start here for what sounds like Waterfall played backwards on The Stone Roses’ era-defining eponymous debut album, but it sounds

Edinburgh Rocks – The Capital's Music Scene in the 1950s and Early 1960s

Edinburgh has always been a vintage city. Yet, for youngsters growing up in the shadow of World War Two as well as a pervading air of tight-lipped Calvinism, they were dreich times indeed. The founding of the Edinburgh International Festival in 1947 and the subsequent Fringe it spawned may have livened up the city for a couple of weeks in August as long as you were fans of theatre, opera and classical music, but the pubs still shut early, and on Sundays weren't open at all. But Edinburgh too has always had a flipside beyond such official channels, and, in a twitch-hipped expression of the sort of cultural duality Robert Louis Stevenson recognised in his novel, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, a vibrant dance-hall scene grew up across the city. Audiences flocked to emporiums such as the Cavendish in Tollcross, the Eldorado in Leith, The Plaza in Morningside and, most glamorous of all due to its revolving stage, the Palais in Fountainbridge. Here the likes of Joe Loss and Ted Heath broug