Happy 80th, Robert Duvall! Yesterday Grauman's Chinese theater gave one of Hollywood's greatest utility players the ultimate gift by inviting him to leave his hand and footprints in its fabled forecourt.
American films of the '60s and '70s are unimaginable without the self-effacing Duvall, who vanishes into character like almost no one else with the possible exception of his drama-school roommate Gene Hackman.
Duvall was frightful and tender Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird, star of Francis Ford Coppola's and George Lucas' early features (The Rain People and THX 1138), he originated the role of Ned Pepper opposite John Wayne in the first True Grit, was soft-spoken consiglieri Tom Hagen in The Godfather movies, the bombastic Sgt. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now ("I love the smell of napalm in the morning!"), cagey Dr. Watson in The Seven-Percent Solution, iron-fisted as The Great Santini, repentant in Tender Mercies (the Crazy Heart of the '80s), Gus Macrae in television's Lonesome Dove and the title figure in The Apostle. Not to mention his great supporting performances in films like The Paper, Phenomenon and A Civil Action.
Since Duvall won't get an Oscar nomination this year for Get Low, a deadpan film about a recluse who organizes his own funeral while still alive, it's nice to see him get recognition for his remarkable body of work.