Goodbye, Ben

Pretty faces come and go but great character actors get inside you, and stay there.

We lost the brilliant Ben Gazzara this week.

His roles ranged from the original Brick in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” on Broadway to a drunk and restless married man in the 1970 film “Husbands.” In every role, even the light comedies (to his popular disadvantage), he burned with an intense heat that got your attention and kept it, even when paired with stars of greater physical beauty and market popularity.

In movies or television shows intended for grown-ups (if such can even be believed in this age of mindless and childish crap directed solely at the high-consuming pre-teen audience) Ben Gazzara played tough men forced to make a life in a dirty, brutal world. His face, manner and posture, and famously gravelly voice conveyed a person who’d maybe seen too much to be easily impressed, frightened or intimidated.

WIth Ben Gazzara’s passing this week of pancreatic cancer, we should be sad not only for the loss of an actor but perhaps also for the loss of the type of role he would have inhabited so well.

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