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Arts & Life

David Huddleston, The Real Big Lebowski, Dies At 85

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Big Lebowski is gone - not the guy who was mistaken for him in the 1998 Coen brothers film. Of course, that's Jeff Bridges. David Huddleston died at the age of 85, played the actual Big Lebowski in the movie. And as NPR's Ted Robbins tells us, he played a lot of other characters, too.

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: If you saw a photo of David Huddleston, you'd probably say, oh, that guy. You might not know his name, but you knew his face and his voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GILMORE GIRLS")

DAVID HUDDLESTON: (As Mayor Harry Porter) We have leash laws, people.

LAUREN GRAHAM: (As Lorelai Gilmore) Daddy's getting angry.

HUDDLESTON: (As Mayor Harry Porter) Rover will not leash himself.

ROBBINS: That's Huddleston as mayor of Stars Hollow in an episode of "Gilmore Girls." Here he is as a senator on "The West Wing."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE WEST WING")

HUDDLESTON: (As Senator Max Lobell) Good morning, Mr. President. Please allow me to introduce Bob Simon, Peter Raftman (ph)...

MARTIN SHEEN: (As President Josiah Bartlet) Max, I don't need to know all the names. It's OK. Please sit down.

ROBBINS: Huddleston played a lot of authority figures, but he often played them in a way that let you know he was in on the joke. In Mel Brooks' classic comedy Western "Blazing Saddles," he was a mayor rallying his people against lawlessness.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "BLAZING SADDLES")

HUDDLESTON: (As Olson Johnson) What are we made of? Our fathers came across the prairie, fought Indians, fought drought, fought locusts, fought Dix. Remember when Richard Dix came in here and tried to take over this town?

ROBBINS: In his best-known role, David Huddleston was the rich Jeffrey Lebowski who meets the slacker with the same name.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BIG LEBOWSKI")

HUDDLESTON: (As The Big Lebowski) OK, so you're a Lebowski. I'm a Lebowski. That's terrific.

ROBBINS: He doesn't understand why he should reimburse Jeff Bridges' Lebowski for a rug some gangsters have ruined by mistake.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE BIG LEBOWSKI")

JEFF BRIDGES: (As The Dude) Man, I'm not trying to scam anybody here. You know, I'm just...

HUDDLESTON: (As The Big Lebowski) You're just looking for a handout like every other - are you employed, Mr. Lebowski?

BRIDGES: (As The Dude) Well, wait, let me explain something to you. I am not Mr. Lebowski. You're Mr. Lebowski. I am The Dude.

ROBBINS: Are you employed? Well, David Huddleston was. IMDb lists 145 acting credits for him over the last half-century. Ted Robbins, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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