Award-winning star of stage, screen and TV

 

George C. Scott, who has died, aged 71, was an accomplished actor and director, but despite his many appearances on film, stage and television, he was best known for his portrayal of General George S. Patton.

His role in the 1970 film about the heroics of the American general during the second World War in Patton won him an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1971, but he refused to accept it, calling the Oscar ceremony a "meat parade" and condemning the Oscars in general as "offensive, barbarous and innately corrupt".

He also refused to attend or even watch the ceremony. When he was announced the winner he was sitting at home on his New York farm watching ice hockey on television.

He also received Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor in 1962 for The Hustler and for Best Actor in 1972, the year after he had snubbed the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, for The Hospital.

Born George Campbell Scott in Wise, Virgina, on October 18th, 1927, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps for a four-year stint after graduating from high school in 1945. In 1950 he briefly studied journalism at the University of Missouri until, as he put it, he realised "acting paid much better".

But his acting career started out slowly and stormily. For seven years he toured with small theatrical companies and during this time he went through two failed marriages, to Carolyn Hughes and Patricia Reed, more bar brawls than he cared to remember and five broken noses.

His 1957 Broadway debut in the title role in Shakespeare's Richard III turned his life around, however. His performance, described by one critic as "stunningly venomous", led to a flurry of offers from Hollywood and television. For the remainder of his career, he continued to work successfully in all three mediums. He won television Emmy awards for both acting and directing, plus numerous theatrical awards.

He made his film debut in 1959, starring in The Hanging Tree, and followed that up with Anatomy of a Murder that same year.

Among the most notable of his films were The Hustler, in 1961, The List of Adrian Messenger, in 1963, and as General "Buck" Turgidson, in the 1964 smash hit, Dr Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, in which he uttered the memorable line: "I don't say we wouldn't get our hair mussed, but I do say no more than 10 to 20 million killed, tops, that is, depending on the break."

Other films included The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964), The Bible . . . In the Beginning (1966), Not with My Life, You Don't, (1966), Petulia (1968), This Savage Land (1969), Jane Eyre (1971), The New Centurions (1972), The Day of the Dolphin (1973), The Hindenberg (1975), Movie, Movie (1978), The For- mula (1980), Taps (1981) and Firestarter (1984).

George Scott was married five times, twice to the same wife, actress Colleen Dewhurst, with whom he had two of his six children. The couple married in 1960 and divorced five years later only to remarry in 1967. The second marriage ended in divorce five years later.

In 1972, he married another actress, Trish Van Devere. Both Dewhurst and Van Devere acted opposite their husband on stage.

He always maintained that Broadway was where he wanted to be. "I make movies for financial reasons and this allows me the luxury of acting on Broadway, where I lose money," he once said.

He brought his classical training to television, portraying such characters as Fagin in the 1982 CBS movie Oliver Twist and as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. A heart attack in 1990 temporarily slowed George Scott down but he recovered and continued his hectic work pace, despite suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes.

Three years ago when he rose from his sickbed to star in the Broadway revival of Inherit the Wind, one critic said it was like watching a horse buggy powered by a Ferrari engine.

News of his death brought plaudits from throughout the industry, which revered his bravura performances, his integrity and individuality.

George C. Scott: born 1927; died September, 1999