With a career spanning almost 50 years and hundreds of screen credits, Val Avery was one of the most inexhaustible character actors of the 20th century. A flight instructor during World War II, Avery began his acting career in 1955 with a small part on an episode of "Robert Montgomery Presents." Though you'd never know it from his smile, Avery's appearance often led him to take on tough-guy roles as thugs, Mafiosos, or hard-nosed cops. After a few small parts on TV Westerns such as "Zane Grey Theater" and "Rawhide," he was cast in a supporting role opposite Paul Newman in the Oscar-winning "Hud" in 1963. Living in New York City, Avery befriended influential indie filmmaker John Cassavetes, who subsequently cast him in several of his films, including the gritty drama "Faces" in 1968 and "Minnie and Moskowitz" in 1971. Avery appeared in episodes of many of the prominent crime dramas of the 1970s and '80s, with stints on everything from the detective series "Columbo" to the forensic show "Quincy M.E.." Though he was known for portraying thugs, he did occasionally break out of the mold, notably with a comic turn as a cop in Sidney Poitier's "Let's Do It Again" in 1975. His reputation as a character actor in New York led to obligatory appearances on "Law & Order" in the '90s, and in 1997 he was cast as a gangster in the critically acclaimed thriller "Donnie Brasco."