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James Karen, Actor in 'Poltergeist' and So Much More, Dies at 94
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Diner
2018-10-24 21:53:05 UTC
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A wonderful actor, and a constant presence on TV when I was young - mostly thanks to those Pathmark commercials, which ran constantly on TV in Philadelphia for 30 years.
So glad I got to meet him (briefly) four years ago and talk about Buster Keaton with him. A real delight to be around.
And don't forget - he got Carla pregnant on "Cheers"!


https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/james-karen-dead-poltergeist-china-syndrome-actor-was-94-722368
James Karen, Actor in 'Poltergeist' and So Much More, Dies at 94
His 200-plus onscreen appearances included 'The China Syndrome,' 'Return of the Living Dead,' 'Wall Street' and the vexing (for him) finale of 'Little House on the Prairie.'
12:30 PM PDT 10/24/2018 by Mike Barnes

James Karen, the instantly recognizable character actor who moved the cemetery’s headstones — but not the bodies — as the developer Mr. Teague in the modern horror classic Poltergeist, has died. He was 94.

The incredibly prolific Karen, who also was noteworthy in such films as The China Syndrome (1979) and The Return of the Living Dead (1985) and on the finale of NBC’s Little House on the Prairie — he’s the dastardly reason the town of Walnut Grove was blown up — died Tuesday at his Los Angeles home, his wife, Alba, said.

Karen, who usually portrayed authority figures, good and bad, during his seven-decade career, also appeared in three films for director Oliver Stone: as Lynch, the office manager at Jackson Steinem, where Charlie Sheen’s stockbroker character works, in Wall Street (1987); as Secretary of State William Rogers in Nixon (1995); and as a Miami Sharks executive in Any Given Sunday (1999).

The genial Karen studied under legendary acting teacher Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York and made his Broadway debut in Elia Kazan’s original 1947 production of A Streetcar Named Desire, where he was the understudy to Karl Malden and worked alongside Marlon Brando.

He has a whopping 204 acting credits listed on IMDb. “People don’t know my name, but they know my face because I’ve done so damn much work,” Karen once said.

That work includes originating the role of rich attorney Lincoln Tyler in 1970 on the ABC soap opera All My Children and appearing in thousands of commercials as the TV and radio spokesman (“Why pay more?”) for Pathmark, an East Coast supermarket chain that was liquidated in 2015.

Karen was married to the late Susan Reed, the renowned folk singer and zither player, from 1958 until their divorce in 1967, and the godfather of their son, Reed, was the one and only Buster Keaton.

He married Alba in 1986.

Karen was born Jacob Karnofsky on Nov. 28, 1923, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the son of Russian-born Jewish immigrants. He was taken to the movies to read the titles on the silent films for his father, an illiterate coal miner.

As he walked past the Little Theatre in town on his way home from Union Street School, Karen was spotted by future U.S. Rep. Dan Flood, who asked him if he were a Boy Scout. When he said he was, Karen was given a small role in a comedy at the theater.

“That’s when I began working,” Karen recalled in a 2013 interview. “It was terrific for me. It gave me a real reason to exist, and to live. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do.”

He stayed with the theater for several plays, joined the Air Force during World War II and then went to New York, landing with the Neighborhood Playhouse in 1939. He went on to appear in the original Broadway productions of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Cactus Flower.

Karen met Keaton in 1956, and the following year they performed in a touring production of George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly’s comic play Merton of the Movies. They paired again for Film (1965), a 20-minute, virtually silent picture written by Nobel Prize-winning playwright Samuel Beckett (Waiting for Godot). Keaton died in 1966.

In Poltergeist (1982), co-written by Steven Spielberg and directed by Tobe Hooper, Karen played the real-estate developer who built the California planned community of Cuesta Verde on top of a former cemetery. The spirits underneath the home of the family of one of his employees (Craig T. Nelson) were not thrilled.

And Karen was Mac Churchill, the TV news producer boss of reporter Jane Fonda, in the nuclear cautionary tale The China Syndrome.

In the low-budget horror comedy The Return of the Living Dead, Karen starred as the manager of a medical warehouse (next to a cemetery, of course) who inadvertently releases a gas that re-animates the dead. He said it was the most fun he ever had in making a movie.

In a 2006 interview, Karen noted that he helped write the ending for his character.

“It was the deal where he figures out he’s becoming a zombie and decides to incinerate himself in the crematorium,” he said. “He kisses his wedding ring as he goes in. It was a very emotional scene, but it also got me out of being one of the rain-drenched zombies milling around outside the place at the end of the film. I didn’t really want to do all that muddy stuff.”

Karen also played a scientist whose girlfriend falls for the robot he created in Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965); was Hugh Sloan’s (Steven Collins) lawyer in All the President’s Men (1976); portrayed the casting director bowled over by Naomi Watts’ sensationally steamy audition in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2001); and hired a down-on-his-luck Will Smith in The Pursuit of Happyness (2006).

His other films included I Never Sang for My Father (1970), Capricorn One (1977), John Cassavetes’ Opening Night (1977), Frances (1982), Hooper’s Invaders From Mars (1986), Up Close & Personal (1996), Bryan Singer’s Apt Pupil (1998), Thirteen Days (2000), Bender (2016) and Cynthia (2018).

Karen had regular roles on television on the soap opera As the World Turns and on such series as Dallas, The Powers of Matthew Star, The Larry Sanders Show (as network president Sheldon Davidoff), Ned and Stacey, First Monday and Eight Is Enough. He appeared on Seinfeld, The Golden Girls, L.A. Law, Murphy Brown, The Waltons and scores of other series.

In the 1984 telefilm Little House: The Last Farewell, which wrapped up the long-running series, Karen played Nathan Lassiter, an unctuous entrepreneur who has bought up all of the land in Walnut Grove.

When he attempts to displace the locals, the townspeople decide to blow up all of the buildings so Lassiter won’t get his way.

After the finale aired, Karen said that truck drivers in New York shouted at him on the street and cab drivers wouldn’t pick him up. Viewers called and wrote hundreds of letters to Pathmark, demanding that he be fired as the spokesman for the chain.

“For some reason they never objected to other heavies I played,” Karen recalled in an interview. “But the evilness of Nathan Lassiter blew their minds. I guess they realized that they’d never see Walnut Grove again, and it created a great sense of loss.”

It occurred to Karen that he could lose his valuable and steady Pathmark gig, so he personally replied to many of the angry customers.

“I think I convinced them that Mr. Pathmark is a benign kind of guy,” he said. “I hope so, anyhow.”
That Derek
2018-10-24 23:05:33 UTC
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Mention JAMES KAREN to me and I automatically think of three performances:
I) as the nice-guy bespectacled on-screen spokesman for the Pathmark supermarket chain here in the Greater NYC/Northern New Jersey area.

II) as Dick Van Patten's publisher boss on TV's "eight Is Enough.

III) on that episode of "The Jeffersons" where he portrayed a white supremacist who upon learning that George Jefferson had administered life-saving CPR opined
"You should have let me die." Insert your own ironic joke/comment here.
Coming from someone who grew up watching dangerous amounts of television, I do remember several instances of use of the "N-word" in Norman Lear sitcoms.
ALL IN THE FAMILY:

1) [Lionel Jefferson's Engagement Party episode] The Bunkers/Stivics are invited to Lionel's engagement party where George Jefferson learns for the first time that fiancee Jenny Willis's father is white. George complains to Louise "Ten more seconds he'll be calling her [Negro]." Archie overhears this and remarks "Listen to that. I ain't used that word in three years."
-- circa 0:07:05 in.

2) [Archie and Mike locked in the Archie's tavern’s storeroom] Archie opens up to Meathead and relates a schoolyard story in which he was beaten up by a black classmate for having called him a "[Negro]." [IMHO, this was the last GREAT episode of "All in the Family”].
-- circa 0:01:20 in.

SANFORD AND SONN

1) [episode where Fred is in court fighting a traffic ticket] Fred uses the objectionable word twice when he comments about the lack of Caucasians in traffic court to the arresting officer with "Look at all these [Negroes] in here" and "Look around here. There's enough [Negroes] in here to make a 'Tarzan' movie!"
-- circa 0:00:40 in.

2) [YouTube clip; party scene. Episode?] Fred directs some mock cheers towards Rollo; "Bim! Bam! Boom! Somebody get this {Negro] out of my room!"
-- circa 0:00:29 in.

THE JEFFERSONS:

1) [episode?] Moses Gunn portrays a friend of Lionel's who seems to be shaking George down for some sort of pay-out. When George retaliates, Gunn's character rejoinders with "What's the matter with you, [Negro]?" and "You're crazy, [Negro]!"
-- circa 0:01:25 in.

2) [episode?] George and Weezy are entertaining a snooty upper-class black couple connected to the Social Register, and when the visiting gentleman insults maid Florence, George defends her with "[Negro], what the hell did you say?”
– circa 0:00:47 in.

3) [George vs. the KKK; objectionable usage scene unavailable via YouTube] Through a series of miscommunications coinciding with reports of graffiti/vandalism in their building, George, Tom, and Bentley, attend a meeting for a group desiring to “clean up” the building unaware that it is actually a KKK meeting led by James Karen (the nice guy from the Pathmark supermarket TV ads). At one point, Karen’s son (Ike Eisenman from the Disney “Witch Mountain” movies) calls George the N-word. The notorious pay-off during the fracas results in James Karen suffering a heart attack, George administering CPR to the unconscious Karen, and Eisenman informing Karen that George saved his life. As James Karen is being wheeled away by paramedics, he tells his son “You should have let me die.”

GOOD TIMES:

This programme usually euphemized the N-word with “Negro.” However, there are several times where Wilona wants to say it but the scriptwriters had already applied this neutralization. For example, in the story arc which introduced Janet Jackson’s “Penny” character [unavailable via YouTube], Wilona brings abused child Penny to an emergency room after Penny’s mother had broken Penny’s arm. Since Wilona is not Penny’s legal guardian, the attending emergency room doctor refuses treatment, prompting Wilona to get in the doctor’s face with something to the effect of “Negro! There’s an abused child here!”
A Friend
2018-10-25 02:31:41 UTC
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Post by That Derek
I) as the nice-guy bespectacled on-screen spokesman for the Pathmark
supermarket chain here in the Greater NYC/Northern New Jersey area.
II) as Dick Van Patten's publisher boss on TV's "eight Is Enough.
III) on that episode of "The Jeffersons" where he portrayed a white
supremacist who upon learning that George Jefferson had administered
life-saving CPR opined
"You should have let me die." Insert your own ironic joke/comment here.
I wrote about Mr. Karen a few days ago in the thread about the on-topic Ron
Glass having uttered the "N-word" on an episode of "Barney Miller."
Also was infamously cut from SUPERMAN RETURNS as the widowed Martha
Kent's boyfriend.
A Friend
2018-10-24 23:07:50 UTC
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Post by Diner
Karen was married to the late Susan Reed, the renowned folk singer and zither
player
Now *there's* a job description.
Post by Diner
He stayed with the theater for several plays, joined the Air Force during
World War II and then went to New York, landing with the Neighborhood
Playhouse in 1939.
So he was a time traveler, too.

Who writes this stuff?
Post by Diner
12:30 PM PDT 10/24/2018 by Mike Barnes
Asked and answered.
David Carson
2018-10-26 14:20:21 UTC
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Post by Diner
https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/james-karen-dead-poltergeist-china-syndrome-actor-was-94-722368
James Karen, Actor in 'Poltergeist' and So Much More, Dies at 94
His 200-plus onscreen appearances included 'The China Syndrome,' 'Return of the Living Dead,' 'Wall Street' and the vexing (for him) finale of 'Little House on the Prairie.'
12:30 PM PDT 10/24/2018 by Mike Barnes
James Karen, the instantly recognizable character actor who moved the cemetery’s headstones — but not the bodies — as the developer Mr. Teague in the modern horror classic Poltergeist, has died. He was 94.
See? Everyone who starred in "Poltergeist" is dying! It's the curse!
RHDraney
2018-10-26 20:50:06 UTC
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Post by David Carson
Post by Diner
James Karen, the instantly recognizable character actor who moved the cemetery’s headstones — but not the bodies — as the developer Mr. Teague in the modern horror classic Poltergeist, has died. He was 94.
See? Everyone who starred in "Poltergeist" is dying! It's the curse!
Exercise for the group: what's the most recent movie whose entire cast
("full cast" as given by IMDb) is dead?...

I'm thinking something like one of Spalding Gray's concert films....r
Michael OConnor
2018-10-26 21:26:24 UTC
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Post by RHDraney
Exercise for the group: what's the most recent movie whose entire cast
("full cast" as given by IMDb) is dead?...
I'm thinking something like one of Spalding Gray's concert films....r
There are movies that are getting close, such as "Alien".

I remarked recently that except for Dan Aykroyd, practically the entire cast of "The Blues Brothers" is deceased until you get into the cameos like Frank Oz and Paul Reubens and Steven Spielberg.
t***@iwvisp.com
2018-10-26 22:15:05 UTC
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Post by Michael OConnor
Post by RHDraney
Exercise for the group: what's the most recent movie whose entire cast
("full cast" as given by IMDb) is dead?...
I'm thinking something like one of Spalding Gray's concert films....r
There are movies that are getting close, such as "Alien".
I remarked recently that except for Dan Aykroyd, practically the entire cast of "The Blues Brothers" is deceased until you get into the cameos like Frank Oz and Paul Reubens and Steven Spielberg.
Start with "12 Angry Men" and work your way up!

Ray Arthur

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