Actor David Huddleston Dies at 85 of heart and kidney disease in Santa Fe, N.M.


David William Huddleston an American actor, who appeared in many films including Blazing Saddles, Crime Busters, Santa Claus, has died Tuesday of heart and kidney disease in Santa Fe, N.M. His wife Sarah confirmed The Hollywood Reporter. He was at 85.

Huddleston was born in Vinton, Virginia, the son of Ismay Hope and Lewis Melvin Huddleston. He was briefly an officer in the United States Air Force before beginning his formal education in acting at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Huddleston attended Fork Union Military Academy for high school (Class of 1949) and is listed among the school’s prominent alumni.

One of Huddlestone’s first roles came in the 1968 drama A Lovely Way to Die. Shortly afterward the actor became a frequent guest star on several of the leading television series of the 1960s and 1970s, among them, Adam-12, Then Came Bronson, Gunsmoke, Bewitched, Bonanza, Cannon, McMillan & Wife, The Walton’s, The Rookies, Medical Center, Kung Fu, Spencer’s Pilots, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Police Woman, Hawaii Five-O, Walker, Texas Ranger, Charlie’s Angels, Sanford and Son, The Practice, and The Rockford Files.

In 2009 he appeared in the thriller Locker 13. Huddleston was also featured in the 2010 special It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: It’s a Very Sunny Christmas released directly to DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download.

In a career of more than 60 films, his breakthrough role came as a vicious gang leader with a sense of humor in Robert Benton’s directorial debut, the Civil War-set Bad Company (1972), which also starred Bridges.

He once said that Blazing Saddles was “probably the most fun I have ever had on a set.”

“It was a great privilege to work with David Huddleston on Blazing Saddles,” Brooks said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “His performance was sublime. He helped make all those Johnsons of Rock Ridge immortal. He was one of a kind and will be greatly missed.”

His wife distinguished it wasn’t surprising to see such great pals as James Cagney, Ralph Bellamy, Harry Morgan or Pat O’Brien hanging out in his home. He once asked Cagney, “What’s the best advice you can give me on acting?” and Cagney replied, “Try never to get caught at it, kid.”

Huddleston received an Emmy Award nomination in 1990; produced and starred as a mayor of a Midwestern town in his own series, 1979’s Hizzoner, for NBC; and played a Republican senator on NBC’s The West Wing. In 2012, Fork Union made Huddleston one of only 14 alumni to be honored in its 100-year-plus history.

Huddleston died on August 2, 2016, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the age of 85.


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