Charles Durning grew up in poverty, lost five of his nine siblings to disease, barely lived through D-Day and was taken prisoner at the Battle of the Bulge.
His hard life and wartime trauma provided the basis for a prolific 50-year career as a consummate Oscar-nominated character actor, playing everyone from a Nazi colonel, to the Pope to Dustin Hoffman's would-be suitor in Tootsie.
Durning, who died Monday at age 89 in New York, got his start as an usher at a burlesque theatre in Buffalo, N.Y. When one of the comedians showed up too drunk to go on, Durning took his place. He would recall years later that he was hooked as soon as heard the audience laughing.