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Remembering Character Actor James Gammon (1940-2010)

Remembering Character Actor James Gammon (1940-2010)

While I was recalling “Major League” over the weekend, thinking back to when Tom Berenger looked better than he does in “Inception,” another actor from the baseball comedy was being mourned in California. James Gammon, who played the part of Coach Lou Brown in two “Major League” films, died Friday of cancer in Costa Mesa. The stage and screen vet was easily identifiable to film fans by his distinctly scruffy looks and low, scratchy voice. It’s hard to imagine him being suited for any other job than character actor.

Of course he had bigger parts in theater, having starred in many of Sam Shepard’s plays and co-founded LA’s MET Theatre, but he’s best known for his supporting roles in movies and TV, especially westerns and silly comedies, two genres in which character actors can still thrive these days. Surprisingly he didn’t do more voice work than “Iron Giant” and “The Country Bears,” as the first thing that came into my mind after learning of his death was aural memories of him insulting his Indians in “Major League” and making fun of fancy lad Chris Elliott in “Cabin Boy.”

Yes, despite the fact that Gammon appeared in such films as “Cool Hand Luke,” “Urban Cowboy,” “Ironweed” and recently “Appaloosa,” I associate him most with “Cabin Boy,” because no matter how bad the film, character actors like Gammon and his shipmates Brion James and Brian Doyle-Murray can always add something special. Even if it’s as immature as Gammon’s lines in “Cabin Boy” when he gives a lesson in “fisherman’s Greek.” It’s times like this I wish the Internet was more plentiful in its film clips, because little-known yet very recognizable talents like this deserve video tributes. Someone please get on that asap.

For now, here’s the best thing available:

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