A portly, often bespectacled veteran character actor, David Huddleston knew from an early age he wanted to pursue a career as an actor. The Virginia native participated in school and church productions and after military service headed to NYC's American Academy of Dramatic Arts for his training. Almost immediately after graduating, he found work. appearing in touring companies of musicals and plays. He began to make inroads in film in the 1970s, supporting John Wayne in "Rio Lobo" (1970), James Stewart in "Fools' Parade" (1971) and Gregory Peck in "Billy Two Hats" (1973). As the vicious gang leader who is not without humor in "Bad Company" (1972), Huddleston earned much critical praise, but the film's lack of box-office did not advance his feature career. Mel Brooks used the actor to good effect in "Blazing Saddles" (1974) but he was relegated to inferior material for much of the next decade. In 1985, Huddleston was tapped for the title role in "Santa Claus: The Movie," a less than magical telling of the story of the Christmas icon. It took more than another ten years before the actor found a worthy role, this time as a wheelchair-bound Southern California millionaire known as "The Big Lebowski" (1998) in the Coen brothers feature. Huddleston also found time to make numerous guest appearances on TV shows, in everything from sitcoms to dramas. He co-starred in several series, including "Tenafly" (NBC, 1973-74) and "Petrocelli" (NBC, 1974-76). Huddleston created, co-executive produced and starred in the short-lived sitcom "Hizzoner" (NBC, 1979), about a Southern mayor, He earned an 1990 Emmy nomination for his recurring role as Grandpa Arnold on ABC's "The Wonder Years" and lent strong support as the father of a suspected murderer fighting for custody of his grandchild in the superior "In a Child's Name" (CBS, 1991). Throughout his career, Huddleston has returned to the stage. Among his more notable credits are co-starring as Branch Rickey in "The First" (1981), a musical biography of baseball player Jackie Robinson, appearing in support of Dustin Hoffman in "Death of a Salesman" (1984) and replacing Pat Hingle as Benjamin Franklin in the 1998 Broadway revival of the musical "1776." Although Huddleston slowed his career later in life, he still appeared in TV shows such as "Gilmore Girls" (WB/CW 2000-07), on which he appeared as the ayor of Stars Hollow, and "The West Wing" (NBC 1999-2006), on which he portrayed a Republican senator. Continuing his association with Mel Brooks, Huddleston had a cameo as a judge in the musical remake of "The Producers" (2005). His final role came in the indie thriller "Locker 13" (2014). David Huddleston died on August 2, 2016 of complications of kidney and heart disease in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was 85 years old.
Cast (Feature Film)
Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Film debut in bit role in "Black Like Me"
NYC stage acting debut, "Harry, Noon and Night"
Toured in the stage musical "Mame"
Had featured role in "Rio Lobo"
Played the district attorney in the CBS pilot "Hawkins", starring James Stewart; reprised role on the series spin-off
TV series debut as regular, played Lt. Sam Church on the NBC detective series "Tenafly"
Portrayed policeman friend to Barry Newman's "Petrocelli" (NBC)
Co-starred in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles"
Headed the family in the short-lived NBC summer sitcom "The Kallikaks"
Played title role in the short-lived NBC sitcom "Hizzoner"; also was series creator and co-executive producer
Played Branch Rickey in the short-lived Broadway musical "The First"
Co-starred with Dustin Hoffman in the Broadway revival of "Death of a Salesman"
Had title role in "Santa Claus: The Movie"
TV directorial debut, an episode of the NBC series "Our House"
Had recurring role as Grandpa Arnold on ABC's "The Wonder Years"; earned 1990 Emmy nomination
Co-starred in the above-average TV miniseries "In a Child's Name" (CBS)
Cast in title role of the Coen brothers "The Big Lebowski"
Played a Judge in the movie musical "The Producers," based on the stage musical by Mel Brooks and starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick