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'Da' Theatre and TV Actor Barnard Hughes


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'Da' Theater and TV Actor Barnard Hughes

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Barnard Hughes

NEW YORK, New York -- Barnard Hughes, who won a Tony for his portrayal of the curmudgeonly title character in Hugh Leonard's "Da," died on Tuesday, July 11 at New York Presbyterian Hospital after a brief illness, said Chris Boneau, a spokesman for Hughes' family. He was 90.

The actor, along with wife Helen Stenborg, were veterans of the New York stage. Hughes made his Broadway debut in "Herself Mrs. Patrick Crowley" in 1935, but it was "Da," some 43 years later that made him a star and won him the Best Actor Tony. He also starred in the 1988 film version of the Tony-winning play.

Hughes' theatrical career spans decades and includes appearances in more than 400 plays. Among Hughes' other major Broadway credits are 1959's "A Majority of One," 1960's "Advise and Consent," and 1963's "Nobody Loves an Albatross."

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Barnard Hughes in 'Da'

He appeared in the Richard Burton revival of "Hamlet," 1967's "How Now, Dow Jones," 1971's "Abelard and Heloise," 1974's "The Good Doctor," 1974's "All Over Town," 1983's "Angels Fall" and 1990's "Prelude to a Kiss."

He received a Featured Actor Tony nomination in 1973 for his performance as Dogberry in the New York Shakespeare Festival's revival of "Much Ado About Nothing." In 1989, he performed the role of Grandpa in the Abbey Theatre of Dublin's production of "You Can't Take It with You." He returned to Dublin in 1991 to perform "Da" in that city's Olympia Theatre.

Hughes had an illustruous and prolific movie career. In films, he was hooker Jon Voight's last customer in "Midnight Cowboy," Diana Rigg's father in "The Hospital," the war-crazy Colonel in "Where's Poppa?" and the vampire-hunting grandfather in "The Lost Boys."

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Barnard Hughes and George C. Scott in 'The Hospital'

Perhaps most memorably, Hughes played the High Priest in the early video game epic, "Tron.' Among his many other films are "Cold Turkey," "Oh, God!," "Maxie," "Doc Hollywood," "Sister Act 2" and "Cradle Will Rock." He also worked extensively in the early days of television, appearing on such shows as "Playhouse 90," "Kraft Theatre" and "Armstrong Circle Theatre."

Hughes also starred on such television series as "Doc" and "The Cavanaughs." He won an Emmy in 1977 for a guest starring stint on "Lou Grant" with Ed Asner. Fans of "All in the Family" will remember Hughes as the priest whose car Edith dents with a can of cling peaches. Hughes also had recurring roles on several long-running soap operas, including "Guiding Light" and "As the World Turns."

As he reached old age, Hughes became a tropesome "Grandpa" on TV. He was well into his senior citizenship when he starred in the short-lived prime-time sitcom, "Mr. Merlin" with Elaine Joyce, playing a magician who ran an auto repair shop. Ten years later, at the age of 76, he played Grandpa Buzz on "Blossom" with Mayim Bialik.

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Barnard Hughes in 'Da'

Born July 16, 1915 in Bedford Hills, New York, Hughes worked as a department store salesman and a copyreader on Wall Street before he became an actor, auditioning for show on a dare from a friend. Much of his early career was spent touring with stock companies. After serving in the Army during World War II, he resumed his stage work.

Hughes met his wife while performing in a veteran's hospital show and they were married on April 19, 1950. Their union produced two children who followed their theatrical parents into the business. His son, Doug Hughes, is a Broadway stage director who won the 2005 Tony for John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Doubt." Daughter Laura is an actress.

Hughes' last Broadway appearance came in 1999 as he starred opposite his wife, Helen, in the Noel Coward comedy, "Waiting in the Wings." Hughes was 85 at the time. That year, he and Stenborg received a Drama Desk Award for Lifetime Achievement. In 1995, he was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.

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1978 Tony Award Winners are (L-R) Barnard Hughes for 'Da,'

Liza Minnelli in 'The Act,' John Cullum in 'On The Twentieth

Century' and Jessica Tandy for 'The Gin Game'

His last public appearance was on June 1, 2006 at the Shubert Theatre, where in celebration of 60 years of the Tony Awards, he was photographed with 110 Best Actor and Best Actress Tony Award winners, including Natasha Richardson, Brian Dennehy, Glenn Close, Philip Bosco, Marian Seldes and Ralph Fiennes.

Hughes served for over a decade as President of the Episcopal Actors' Guild and for many years on the council of The Actors' Fund. In 1992, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Manhattan College, the school he had originally dropped out of to become an actor.

Hughes is survived by his wife of 56 years, Helen, two children, son Doug and daughter Laura. He leaves behind a grandson Samuel Hughes Rubin. Funeral services will be private. Plans for a memorial gathering will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to The Actors' Fund.

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