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George C. Scott, born in 1927, was an actor of considerable skill who is best remembered for two very different roles. In 1964, he cemented his claim to fame as the over the top General Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrik’s Dr Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. In 1970, he undertook what many consider to be the role of his lifetime, depicting General Patton in the film Patton. For Patton George C. Scott won the Academy Award for Best Actor.
George C. Scott was not without military training, which perhaps informed two of his most memorable roles. From 1945-1949 he served as a US Marine. He missed World War II and instead served as a ceremonial guard at Arlington Cemetery. He displayed his devout love of English literature by teaching it at the Marine Corps Institute. In early life, Scott cherished dreams of becoming a novelist, like his favorite writer, F. Scott Fitzgerald. After completing his military service, Scott continued to study the craft of writing at the University of Missouri, but left without a degree in order to become an actor.
With his gruff, whisky voice, and less than perfect looks, George C. Scott became a well-known character actor. He first appeared in several Broadway works, garnering notice for his performance in the play, The Andersonville Trial in 1959. Movie roles followed and several are worth mentioning. In particular the 1959 film Anatomy of a Murder where Scott played opposite Jimmy Stewart, is considered by many to be a sterling Scott performance, and earned him a nomination for Best Actor.
The 1961 film The Hustler earned George C. Scott his second Academy nomination, which he declined, stating that he believed his performance was not worthy of comparison with other performances of the year. This was no love lost between Scott and the Motion Picture Academy. He refused to attend or accept his award for Patton in 1970, stating he hated the phoniness of it. As an actor, he was the first to decline the award, and his example was followed in 1972 by Marlon Brando, who also declined the Oscar for his performance in The Godfather.
Scott’s personal life was sometimes equally contentious. He married and divorced five times, marrying Colleen Dewhurst twice. With Dewhurst, Scott had two children, and his son, Campbell Scott, is well known for his prowess at acting. In total, he had six children: two with Dewhurst, a daughter with Karen Truesdale, a daughter with Carolyn Hughes, and a daughter and son with Patricia Reed. Scott’s many marriages, and his reputation as a heavy drinker did not cast a shadow on his lengthy career or his skill as an actor.
As he aged, Scott was offered fewer plum roles but notable exceptions exist. His performances in a television remake of the film 12 Angry Men and in the 1993 film Malice were both critically noted. Generally, the later part of his career was marked by a decline in the quality and caliber of films he was offered. He nevertheless remains one of the great actors of the 20th century, accruing significant merit for his work from 1959 through the early 1970s. He died in 1999, a month before his 72nd birthday.