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Mr. President ran from May 1987 until April 1988 on FOX.

The American Presidency was the subject of two sitcoms during the Ronald Reagan years. The first, Hail To The Chief, had starred Patty Duke as the first woman chief executive. This one starred George C. Scott. The return to series television for Scott-the man who 23 years earlier, after the failure of his first series East Side, West Side, said he would never do another, and the only actor ever to refuse an Emmy Award was a media event in 1987. He was doing it, he said bluntly, for the money.

The series was about the home life of a U.S. President. Former Wisconsin Governor Sam Tresch ( Scott), was newly elected, and living in the White House was quite an adjustment for his entire family. Nobody had any privacy, reporters were always snooping for any sort of story, and the secret service was everywhere they looked. Sam was a gruff, somewhat grouchy very determined man ( Scott's patented Patton-esque character), and he could take it. However his wife Meg ( Carlin Glynn), couldn't and in the fall of 1987 she left Sam " to find herself," leaving Sam and the 2 rambunctious kids Cynthia and Nick ( Maddie Corman, Andre Gower), to fend for themselves. ( an older daughter Jennifer played by Susan Wheeler Duff was married and rarely seen. Her husband Donald was played by Daniel McDonald.) The role of first lady was assumed by Meg's sister Lois ( Madeline Kahn), a flaky woman with delusions of grandeur who had the hots for Sam and thought this was her big chance.

Affable Charlie Ross ( Conrad Bain), who had been with Sam since early in his political career, was the loyal chief of staff; Daniel and Dave( Allen Wwilliams, Earl Boen) were others on the squabbling White House staff.

An Article from the LA Daily News

Carson`s `Mr. President` Stars George C. Scott
May 1, 1987|By YARDENA ARAR, Los Angeles Daily News

Johnny Carson, meeting the press in a three-quarter-scale Oval Office on a Paramount sound stage in Los Angeles, wanted to make one thing perfectly clear.

``This is not a situation comedy,`` Carson said of his production company`s half-hour series Mr. President (9 p.m. Sunday WCIX-Ch.6, WFLX-Ch.29), a behind-the-scenes look at White House life starring George C. Scott as the nation`s chief executive. ``I would call it more of a drama - with humor and with comedy and all the other emotions people have within a family.``

``It is a half-hour, we do hope to be funny and entertaining - but along the way we hope to weave in and out some very enlightening statements,`` said Scott, who joined Carson and series co-executive producer and co-creator Gene Reynolds, director Jackie Cooper and cast members Conrad Bain, Carlin Glynn and Maddie Corman on the set for a news conference.

Scott, who has not been in a TV series since he played social worker Neil Brock in East Side/West Side in 1963-64, said he agreed to the project because of the talent involved, the challenge of the role - and the chance to make enough money to quit show business forever. ``Retirement - the key to my existence,`` Scott said. ``I`ve been trying to retire for 20 years, and economically it hasn`t been possible.``

Scott, who has played Gen. George Patton, Ebenezer Scrooge and Benito Mussolini in film, TV movies and miniseries (and who won an Emmy for his performance in The Price in 1971), said that he was enjoying working on the series.

``If it were an hour, it would be an entirely different thing,`` he said. ``I, at my age, don`t have the stamina to do an hour.``

``You`re younger than I am, and I do an hour every night,`` Carson pointed out.

``Yes, but you don`t have to remember all those lines - you make them up as you go along,`` Scott replied.

An Article from The LA Times

The Casual Assassination of 'Mr. President'
April 03, 1988|GEORGE C. SCOTT

In January, Oscar-winning actor George C. Scott ("Patton") was hospit a lized for a week because of an acute myocardial infarction. He has since gotten a clean bill of health. But the poorly rated Fox Television half-hour series in which he starred, "Mr. President," fared less well: Carson Productions, which has announced it is getting out of the TV series business, had decided before Scott's hospitalization to stop production of the sitcom. Fox is now airing reruns.

In the following account, Scott recalls his trials and tribulations with the series. Meanwhile, he ' s off to England to scout locations and meet with financiers regarding "Harrow Alley," an original screenplay by Walter Newman about the black plague, a project that Scott owns and has been trying to film for a decade.

Perhaps you can imagine my skeptical bemusement when I peered up through a forest of I.V. tubes, empirin bottles, nitroglycerin feed lines, oxygen inhalers, etc., and recognized Sam Tresch grinning down at me. His expression was quizzical, if not downright mocking.

At first, I thought him fantasy. It was late, I had been through a rather long day, and the light in my intensive care cubicle was untrustworthily dim. One side of Sam's face was cast in the eerie green light of the scanning screen which, with a steady, dogged indifference, was monitoring my rather unstable heart rhythms.

But the way he clucked his tongue, laughed his low, whiskey-reformed laugh, and spoke to me in that voice known and revered (by at least 14 viewers that we know of) throughout the length and breadth of our beloved country . . . well, there was no question in my mind that I was in the presence of the former television President of the United States!

"You poor slob," he said without a trace of pity. "So we got canceled. You don't have to overreact."

"Don't flatter yourself," I said. "It's not on account of losing your company."

Uninvited, Sam pulled up a chair, settling his bulk next to the bed. "Are you certain?" he said. "I mean, think about it. We're canceled just before Christmas . . . and you can't even make it through the first half of the NFC championship game before you have a bleeping heart attack!"

The minute I heard that good 'ol TV talk ("bleeping") my rhythm scan on the monitor fuzzed ever so happily . . . from nostalgia, I assumed.

"I've been canceled before," I said.

Sam looked surprised. "Really? When was that?"

"In 1963. CBS."

" '63?" Sam scoffed. "Man, that's a quarter of a century ago! Nobody remembers that. What was the name of it?"

I reminded him, as loftily as possible, that the series ("East Side, West Side") had had a black--Cicely Tyson--as a regular. For that reason, over 60 affiliates had refused to carry the show from the outset. In spite of that, it had been critically rewarding and had gained a dedicated cult following that had not waned easily.

Sam cocked his ex-presidential eyebrow at me. "Rationale," he murmured. "What you're trying to tell me is that the ratings stank."

"True," I admitted. "But we addressed bold, provocative material. We attracted writers that were dedicated and daring. We beat the bushes of the Vast Wasteland for the finest actors and directors available. No subject was too. . . ."

"Cool it," said Sam, putting up a warning hand. "Remember your blood pressure."

"Bleep you!"

"Touchy," clucked Sam. "Balancing on the threshold of the Great Unknown hasn't made you any mellower."

"Nobody invited you here, anyway. You're history, so take off!"

Sam Tresch placed a patronizing hand on my needle-discolored forearm. "Love to, old man. But, I can't. You see, you just won't let me out of your mind."

I turned my face to the wall, hoping he would disappear. He's smug now, I thought, because he knows the experience is still fresh in my mind. But time and circumstance are on my side. I'll be too busy recovering my health to think about him . . . too occupied with new projects to fret over the death of some insane sitcom. In a little while, Sam Tresch will fade from my memory, no more remarkable than creamed spinach or network executives.

"Don't be too sure," Sam said aloud.

I had forgotten that he could read my mind. It's a little trans-schizoid trivia game that actors and their characters play with each other.

Sam tilted his head back, laced his fingers, and struck what he assumed was a philosophically sagacious pose. I saw through it, of course, since I had done that business for him scores of times.

"My friend," Sam intoned, "time is a Hanging Judge who never adjourns court."

"Profound," I said. "What's that supposed to mean?"

He removed his glasses and held me in his steady, serious gaze. Sam's myopic, just like me.

"It means that you won't be able to rid yourself of the entire experience as easily as you hope. It means, that in spite of all your denials and shrugs and mirthless grins . . . you cared. You cared about me, the show, your colleagues . . . and the naive aspirations you entertained at the beginning."

"Please, no speeches," I said. "I'm a sick man."

"Oh, of course," Sam ignored me. "You shot your face off about how you were only interested in the money, and you were doing the series in order to retire forever and buy a hotel in Beverly Hills like your idol, Merv. And you bragged to the media about how acting didn't turn you on anymore, and how you'd been at it so long that you were really kind of above it all, and how. . . ."

Sam's harangue was interrupted, mercifully, by Ruby, the head nurse. She walked right through Sam Tresch just as if he weren't there. Nobody messed with Ruby; she ran the place.

Hers was an indispensable presence that any CEO, corporate or political, would have instinctively recognized and envied. I know Sam did. I could tell by the way he watched her. She reminded us both of someone . . . and neither was quite sure who.

Ruby deftly attached the blood pressure collar around my left arm and watched me with an expression of curiosity in her intelligent brown eyes. The eyes flicked swiftly around the room, then back to me, almost as if they were asking, "Do you always talk to yourself aloud?"

Of course, there was no way I could have explained to her about Sam Tresch.

"You're gonna do fine," Ruby smiled down at me. "Maybe you won't even need the angioplasty."

Someone called for her and she left, promising to return shortly to give me a back rub and something to help me sleep if I thought I'd need it.

Sam cleared his throat with a sense of self-satisfaction. "Where was I?"

"Why don't we give it a rest?" I said.

Sam shrugged. He was trying to feign indifference, but as usual, I could see right through him.

He reminded me that he could return any time he pleased, simply by crossing my mind. Then he was gone. In the darkness of the tiny coffin of a room, he left me staring at the heart monitor, tracing the pulses and impulses of my life in an ugly pale green scrawl. He left me alone. He left me wondering how in hell I had got where I was. And why?

Sometime during the summer of 1986, Johnny Carson sat in the sun room of my cottage house in the flats and described the idea of me starring in a half-hour series concerning the day-to-day occurrences in the life of a man who, as Johnny put it, "just happened to be the President of the United States."

The bricks and mortar of the proposition seemed clean and straightforward enough. With no pilot, "Mr. President" would have a 13-shot guarantee as the premiere offering of the fledgling Fox Television Network.

A new network!

Stirring thought indeed! A new network that might put forward programming more daring, more visionary, more diversified than the stultifying, predictable diet of cop shows, sitcoms, car chasers, giveaways, any-time-of-the-day-or-night soap operas that have been clogging our electronic arteries for decades.

It was a challenge and a chance. A chance for creative talent and ever-hopeful viewer alike to rise together out of the cesspool of mediocrity in which the arcane acronyms had mired us for years.

And what finer vessel than the presidency? What more advantageous a milieu than the White House? Characters of persuasion and power grappling with important problems that affect us all. Striving with sardonicism and wit--and a rejection of self-delusion--to possibly illuminate some answers to those problems. All of us might even have a helluva lot of fun doing it, too. Wow!

I was excited and provoked. Astonishingly, I even found myself willing to overlook the exorbitant salary they offered me to become a contributor to the Revolution. There was no question in my mind that ever-capricious Fate had selected me to gird up, unfurl the Galahadic guidon, and achieve Something Worthwhile in television.

"There is no question in my mind," Sam Tresch leered down at me, "that thou wert an ass!"

It was the following day, and they had returned me to the O.R. for another angiogram.

Tresch was leaning on the opposite edge of the table, his head cocked impudently to one side, as a doctor inserted a catheter into my groin sheath.

"You didn't even come close to all those high-flown ambitions," he said.

"No, we didn't."

"We, hell! I'm talking about you, personally."

"I did my best."


Hadn't I complained with vehement emphasis about gags instead of humor? About topical shallowness instead of substance? Didn't I gripe continuously about shtick in place of wit? Pants-dropping in lieu of eyebrow raising? Burlesque posing as satire?

"Listen," I attacked him, "how many times did I use my vulgarest epithets to condemn vulgarity in our writing?"

"Often," Sam agreed. "What else did you do?"

"Didn't I shoot down all those goat jokes?"

"Nearly every time."

"And what about scatology?" I roared.

Two of my nurses, Billy and Lou Anne, exchanged moderately concerned glances. I ignored them.

"How did I handle scatology?" I persisted.

"You dumped on it, man."

"Damn right!" I said, vindicated.

Then I launched into a long-winded tirade, outlining to Sam how I had come out to the coast from my home in Connecticut weeks in advance of shooting. I had volunteered my availability for story conferences, concept reconstruction, script rewrites, etc. Little occurred.

I met with one of the Exec Prods. We discussed some ideas. Time passed. No scripts.

I took another Exec Prod to lunch. We discussed golf. He said he thought the series would be "fun." His main concern seemed to be that I had requested a motor home near the shooting stage.

More time passed. I discussed casting over the phone and looked at some audition tapes. First-draft scripts began to make unprepossessing appearances. They wriggled out into the sunlight like grubworms from beneath shadowed rocks.

I found them banal. Little more than kitchen comedics.

I met some Assoc Prods. Then I met some Asst Prods. More time passed. I had not yet met a Plain Prod. Shooting was scheduled for April. It now had been about nine months since I had agreed to this evocative adventure.

My father in Florida--he was 85 and very ill--phoned me about how eager he was to see me as President of the United States. We went into rehearsal for the first show. My father died on April 15. I said nothing and did not go to the funeral.

I reminded Sam that, out of concern over the mewling, inconsequential script drafts I had been reading, I had sent a memorandum to the Exec Prods in the early spring.

The memo read as follows:



If our thematic subjects are to be forever shackled to such earth-shaking issues as trade bills, maritime law discriminations, "Gidget Goes to the White House," ambassadorial appointments to Pago Pago

Subjects that are worthwhile and humanizing.

Subjects that are perplexing to, and controversial between, people have been dealt with successfully by television in the past. Why shouldn't we?

"MASH" did it.

"WKRP" did it.

"ALL IN THE FAMILY" did it, in spades.

Even "THE ODD COUPLE" and "THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW" ... although they did not feed us a steady diet of Beirut bombings ... frequently managed to be intelligent and contemplative, while at the same time they were warm and funny.

The subject or theme doesn't necessarily have to be amusing. The fun comes from the way human beings relate to it and deal with it.

RACISM ... in any direction, from any source.







GRAFT ... giving and receiving

ABORTION ... pros and cons










\f7 "And how many of those themes were tackled on the series?" Sam demanded. "One!"

"The rather innocuous little episode we did about your wife's nephews smoking a joint in the Lincoln bedroom," I said. "It was a well-meaning piece, albeit slow moving."

"Well," Sam said, quite seriously, "I always thought your portrayal of me in that one was ponderous, to say the best."

"Really?" I said. "Thanks so much."

We were silent for a while after that, each of us locked into our separate, yet shared thoughts. I lay supine on the narrow, cold table. Two doctors distracted me with news that the occluded artery was opening. An angioplasty would not be necessary.

As Sam began to fade from my consciousness, I heard him mumbling to himself. "One. Out of all these subjects . . . only that one!"

He didn't pop up again until late the following afternoon.

Ruby had been giving me a splendid back rub and we reminisced about old-fashioned remedies and practices. I was going to miss Ruby. She had a couple of days off coming and wouldn't be back until Saturday. By that time, I would be out of intensive care and convalescing in my own room.

"You're gonna be just fine!" Ruby grinned and waved when she left. "Now be a good boy . . . and I don't want to see you back here anymore."

Sam Tresch was standing at the threshold of the door, but again, Ruby seemed not to notice him. As a matter of fact, now that I was beginning to feel better, Sam's image was a little fainter to me.

But the raspy, obnoxious voice was as strong as ever. "Now I remember who she reminds me of."

"So do I."

As very often happened, we thought of the same things at exactly the same instant.

"The Lady Vice President!" we said in unison.

We were remembering a story line of mine. An accident vacates the Vice Presidency. In a crisis decision, the President opts to appoint a highly qualified black woman. Repercussions naturally ensue. It was a provocative idea. I had developed it myself, and paid a writer to do a first draft.

The whole concept had been rejected categorically. The Exec Prod had said, "I don't know how to do a story like that."

Apparently, it wasn't because the writer lacked talent--he was subsequently hired for another script that was completed, shot and aired. The devastatingly controversial thrust of that dealt with the President's paranoiac reaction to the chronic malfunction of the White House elevator.

For a time, Sam and I didn't seem to know what to say. Finally, he sat down on the edge of the bed, eyes downcast.

Obviously, he wanted to square things away with me but was having difficulty knowing how to begin. And for once, I wasn't sure what he was going to say before he said it. No way to learn those lines. We realized we were beginning to slip away from each other.

"Listen," I said, "you and I had a pretty long run together at that. Around nine months, wasn't it?"

The thought seemed to cheer him a little bit.

"Yeah," he grinned, "that's not so bad. Longer than a lot of other guys, right?"

"Damn right!"

Sam warmed to the subject. "Longer than Richard III or Shylock, right? Longer than Scrooge or that bleepin' Mussolini! Right?"

"Oh hell, yes," I laughed.

Sam Tresch seemed to relax perceptibly.

"You and me, we . . ." he swallowed several times. "We had a relationship, didn't we?"

"You bet," I said, hoping he wouldn't go sentimental on me.

"Longer even than both Pattons, am I right?"

"Yes, I suppose. Look, Sam. . . ."

"I know, I know," he grinned. "I'm not going to burst out crying. It's just nice to know we weren't some cheap one-night stand, that's all."

Then, for a few minutes, Sam and I reflected on a new genre of shows called "dramedies," as exemplified by "Frank's Place" and "The 'Slap' Maxwell Story." They are slowly proving successful, and gradually building a following, by treating serious themes with wit and sardonicism and irony. Evidently, the road to ratings isn't necessarily paved with skit gags, sexual innuendo and whoopee cushions.

"Dramedies," I mused. "Sounds like a new name for an old song we've been singing right along."

Then Sam looked directly at me for the first time. Both his gaze and his voice were very measured, very controlled.

"I'm sorry, G.C.," he said. "But I'm afraid self-pity won't cut it anymore. You let me down. You let us all down."

I was stunned. "I did my best."

"Did you? Then your best must not have been very good. Because we're off the air, right? You didn't stand up for what you believed in."

"I fought 'em," I protested. "I fought 'em as hard as I could for as long as I could!"

"My hero," Sam said, coldly. "What do you want, a Presidential Unit Citation? You were the star, man! You're supposed to fight them. Who else but you had the clout?"

"Who else but me," I said sullenly, "had the heart attack?"

"Oh, poor baby. Don't try to tell me you actually believed that malodorous mob of Prods and Christmas-help network executives had the show's best interests at heart?"

"I don't understand," I said. "All that time and energy and money expended. Why should they want it to fail?"

"They operate on a shotgun principle, pal. If you don't have the vision, or the acumen, or the determination to make a project succeed, you cut your losses, and the project, you move on to your next target. They're all playing Jed Clampett, hoping to strike oil on a coon hunt."

"Well, if you were aware of that," I submitted, "what are you so upset about? What else did you expect?"

"My friend," Sam said, "I expected more from you . You were the star and a part owner. I was a lousy fictitious character."

"I rejected a script early in the run. It shut the company down for a week. I wasn't very well liked after that."

"Whatta you . . . still playing Willy Loman, you have to be well liked? How many more scripts did you refuse to do?"

I tried to explain to him that out of over 20 other scripts we did, only four or five could be considered good. The rest ranged from barely adequate to trash.

The working situation was positively Byzantine. We were always chronically behind. In scripts, in time, most of all in quality. Had I habitually insisted on the unreality of perfection, the whole insane Chinese fire drill would have ground to a halt. They would have sued me.

"Probably," Sam agreed, with a cold smile. "Then you could have resigned with dignity."

"You're crazy."

"Why?" Sam spread out his hands. "One of your Exec Prods resigned rather early on. Nobody sued him."

"No. Politics, probably."

"Lots of other people resigned and got fired along the way. Nobody sued them."

"Because they weren't essential."

"Who was essential?"

"I was essential," I sighed.

Sam waggled a finger at me in triumph. "You wuz essential, right! And essentially, you let me down."

"Swell," I said, not trying to mask the fatigue in my voice. "Then you sue me."

I've seen Sam Tresch only once since. I had convalesced well and been given a clean bill of health. My wife, Trish, who had barely left my side for 10 days, was down making arrangements for my departure from the hospital. I was going home, finally, neither a totally well nor totally wise man, but reasonably glad to be alive.

I was standing at the window, fully dressed, gazing past the "Blue Whale" near Beverly Boulevard and up into the Hollywood Hills, musing, wondering quo vadis . I felt, ever so lightly, the comforting reassurance of a friendly arm around my shoulders.

"You know, Pal," Sam Tresch said, "I'm glad you had this heart attack."

"How nice," I said.

"From a practical standpoint, however, your untimely death might have been more advantageous."

"There are many who would agree," I observed.

"Maybe if you drop dead," Sam theorized, "people become a little more aware. Maybe a major network picks us up. We regroup. With a decent number of affiliates comes a competitive position in the ratings. First thing you know, they recast me with a really big-time actor and we're off to the races!"

"I like it," I said. "It has flair."

"No need to be sour about it. You're the one who was always harping about what was best for the series. I'm just trying to point out that your death, troublesome if not tragic, would have been a lot more beneficial to the project than me being stabbed in the back!"

I slipped on a sweat suit jacket that Trish had brought for me, walked out the door and down the hall. Tresch pursued me all the way to the elevators.

"You weren't stabbed anywhere, Sam," I told him calmly. "Let's try not to make a Ford's Theater or a Dealey Plaza out of this thing. Actually, it was more like something Paddy Chayefsky once said . . . you were simply ignored to death."

It was crowded going down in the elevator, but I seemed to be the only person who noticed Sam muttering to himself.

Out on the street, we paused for a moment, waiting for my car. Sam slumped against a concrete pillar and shook his head slowly. There was no question that his image was becoming paler and less distinct in the watery morning sunlight. In truth, I felt a little sorry for him.

"Look," I said, "we went down the tubes. No big deal. Just another little inconsequential sitcom. People aren't going to remember it or care about it any more than last week's rag mag."

"No, you're wrong." Sam's voice was faint, but insistent. "You're terribly wrong. We lost an opportunity that no series ever had . . . that'll probably never come again.

"For one whole presidential election year, maybe the most desperately confusing election year in decades, we could have helped crystallize with humor some of the vital problems that are shaking people to pieces in this country.

"We're working in the most powerful communications medium ever devised. And because we were dealing with the President and the White House and Capitol Hill, and issues of enormous scope and importance, we could have served as the conscience of the nation!"

"Yep," I grunted. "Right here on our stage, folks. Whoopi Goldberg plays Joan of Arc."

"It's OK. Go ahead," Sam said. "But you know I'm right."

"You mean we could have made a statesman out of Art Buchwald?"

"We could have done worse. As it is, we succeeded only in trivializing the presidency."

The car pulled up. I got in slowly. I smiled up at Sam Tresch through the window. For some reason, it was tough to say goodby.

"It wasn't a total loss," I said. "We also managed to insult what audience we did have and make fools of ourselves in the bargain."

A big grin broke over Sam's face.

"Cheer up," he waved. "Things'll get worse."

The car pulled out into traffic. It was an effort for me to turn to look back through the window. Sam disappeared. I haven't seen him since.

To my knowledge, neither has anyone else.

Here is George C. Scott's Obituary from The New York Times

George C. Scott, Celebrated for 'Patton' Role, Dies at 71
Published: September 24, 1999

George C. Scott, an actor of extraordinary range and daring, celebrated for his performances as Gen. George S. Patton Jr. in the movie ''Patton'' and as Shakespeare's Richard III (in Central Park) and for his roles in countless other films and plays, died on Wednesday in his office in Westlake Village, Calif., near Los Angeles. He was 71.

The cause was a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm, the Associated Press reported. Jim Mahoney, Mr. Scott's publicist and friend, said that the actor ''had never been treated properly'' for an aneurysm that he suffered in New York in 1996. Mr. Mahoney said that Mr. Scott, who lived in Malibu, Calif., with his wife, the actress Trish Van Devere, and also had a home in Greenwich, Conn., had been working on his memoirs.

With a clear, articulate understanding of character and an almost volcanic intensity, Mr. Scott created a gallery of indelible portraits on stage and screen. Often cast in sinister roles, he played killers and con men, gamblers and thieves. But he also played doctors and social workers and so many lawyers, for the defense and the prosecution, that he could have taken up law as an alternative profession.

In common with Marlon Brando he was a natural, intuitive actor, but unlike Mr. Brando he scorned the Actors Studio and its Method. Unpredictable in the extreme, Mr. Scott carried with him a threat of violence, which was one reason he was often cast as a villain. He came alive onstage, with a visceral awareness of the power of performance. Acting before an audience, he once said, was like ''riding a terrific roller coaster.''

Seldom did he play losers. Even when one of his characters seemed to fail, he would come out of the ordeal with inner resilience. Mr. Scott's force of personality was irrepressible: it was hard for him to play simple, ordinary men. Passion rather than tenderness was his forte, but he could project sensitivity, as he did as a vulnerable doctor in love in the 1968 film ''Petulia.''

Whether he was playing a leading or a supporting role he was generally the dominant figure. With equal ease, he portrayed characters of contrasting ethics and temperament. On screen in ''The Hustler'' (1961), appearing with Paul Newman, he was a high-stakes gambler with an allegiance only to himself. Onstage in ''The Andersonville Trial'' in 1959 he was a prosecuting attorney with a keen sense of moral purpose. Though he was most identified with dramatic roles, he was also adept at comedy, moving easily from Eugene O'Neill to Sir Noel Coward.

Both in theater and in movies, audiences were riveted by his magnetism. Tall and lithe as a young man, he became heavier as he grew older. He conveyed a sense of authority, as if to say, don't tread on me. His features, sharp and chiseled, could have been sculptured by Rodin. In his voice was a raspy rumble. He could be chilling, both in manner and in speech.

A perfectionist, Mr. Scott was as demanding of himself as he was of his colleagues. Because of his fiery temper, he acquired a reputation for being difficult. He had no time for career-building. Throughout his life, he remained independent, avoiding long-term contracts and sometimes changing his mind about playing a role at the last minute.

In Hollywood he was considered a renegade. He declined three straight nominations for Academy Awards, for his performances in ''Anatomy of a Murder,'' ''The Hustler'' and ''Patton,'' not for any doubts about his acting but because he reacted against the ''childish and damaging unnatural competitiveness'' of the awards. Despite his attitude, he won an Oscar in 1971 as best actor for ''Patton,'' a role for which he was also honored by the New York Film Critics Society and the National Society of Film Critics. The next year he won an Emmy for his work in Arthur Miller's play ''The Price'' on television. He refused that, too.

Patton became the defining role of his career. When he made a sequel for television in 1986, he said, ''After 35 years in the business, people still identify me more with Patton than any other character.'' No wonder: from the opening moment of the film he was Patton. An American flag fills the screen as Mr. Scott, all spit and polish, strides on and delivers a smart salute. ''All real Americans love the sting of battle,'' he says, adding, ''That's why Americans have never lost and never will lose a war.''

In 1964 he had played the flip side of the warrior soldier. In direct contrast to his highly dramatic Patton, he was equally memorable in the uproariously comic role of the bomb-happy Gen. Buck Turgidson in Stanley Kubrick's ''Dr. Strangelove.''

Of Mr. Scott's performance in a Broadway revival of ''Death of a Salesman,'' the director and critic Harold Clurman said: ''He is an actor of tremendous clout. He is always vivid, never less than arresting. He is one of the few American actors who create the impression of a mature manliness: most others strike me as grown-up boys.''

Offstage as well as in character, he projected a swaggering self-assurance. When he was in the Marines, he broke his nose five times: hence his craggy look. Then and later he made no secret about his drinking, describing himself as a ''functioning alcoholic.'' His life was marred and his career damaged by drunken tantrums and barroom brawls. He was married five times, twice to Colleen Dewhurst, with whom he often appeared on stage, and he had several well-publicized romances, including one with Ava Gardner, who starred with him in the film ''The Bible.'' Since 1972, he had been married to Ms. Van Devere.

Of Challenges And Health Problems

He made his New York debut as ''Richard III'' for the New York Shakespeare Festival in 1957, at the Hecksher Theater in Central Park. After that came several decades of prolific and rewarding work in theater and films, but increasingly he seemed to shy away from challenging himself. Although the natural progression would have been for him eventually to play King Lear, ''The Merchant of Venice'' was his last effort at Shakespeare. He also missed other titanic roles for which he was suited. When he went back to Broadway in 1991, it was as a cozy curmudgeon in ''On Borrowed Time,'' by Paul Osborn.

In 1996, he was on Broadway again in a revival of ''Inherit the Wind'' as a lawyer based on Clarence Darrow. It was the kind of flamboyant role that should have been the capstone of his career. But he became ill during rehearsal and the opening was postponed. When the play finally opened, Mr. Scott received favorable notices and was nominated for a Tony Award, an honor that had eluded him. Because of illness, he missed several performances. Once he left the stage in the middle of the show and was replaced by Tony Randall, who produced the play through his National Actors Theater. Subsequently, it was disclosed that Mr. Scott had an aortic aneurysm.

Further clouding his triumphant year, an actress who had been his personal assistant accused him of sexual harassment. Early in May he left ''Inherit the Wind'' and went to California for medical treatment.

Soon he recovered and returned to acting. In 1997 he was in a new television version of ''Twelve Angry Men'' (with Jack Lemmon and Hume Cronyn). For that performance he won an Emmy Award as best supporting actor in a mini-series or movie. Two years later he and Mr. Lemmon starred in a television movie of ''Inherit the Wind.''

Onstage, Mr. Scott had played Henry Drummond, the character based on Clarence Darrow, who defended John T. Scopes in the trial about the teaching of evolution. In the television film, Mr. Lemmon played Drummond and Mr. Scott switched to his opponent, Matthew Harrison Brady, based on William Jennings Bryan, the prosecutor in the case. Playing the proud and defiant Brady, Mr. Scott gave an impassioned performance, as he assailed ''this crime against man and God.'' As persuasive as he was as the Darrow character, he seemed even more comfortable as the supremely confident man on the attack.

Although Mr. Scott had said that acting became more difficult over the years, in a television interview after filming ''Inherit the Wind,'' he said, ''I've done 50 films and I don't know how many television shows and 150 plays. Why would I have pressure at my age?'' And he laughed.

An Athlete And Aspiring Writer

George Campbell Scott, the grandson of a coal miner, was born on Oct. 18, 1927, in the Appalachian coal town Wise, Va. Facing the Depression, his father moved his family to Detroit, where he worked on the Buick assembly line and later became a businessman. His mother, a semi-invalid, was an amateur poet and elocutionist who gave recitations; she died when he was 8, and he was brought up by his sister, Helen. At Redford High School in Detroit he was an athlete and aspiring fiction writer.

After he graduated in 1945, he joined the Marines. Missing combat duty, he spent four years at a desk job in Washington and on the graves detail at Arlington National Cemetery. Looking back on his military days, he said, ''I stayed drunk most of the time.'' After his discharge, he enrolled at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Casually he tried out for and won a role in a student production of Terence Rattigan's play ''The Winslow Boy.'' His pleasure in performance was immediate. ''I was hooked,'' he said.

''It's never been difficult to subjugate myself to a part because I don't like myself too well,'' he once told an interviewer. ''Acting was, in every sense, my means of survival.''

In search of a career, he played more than 125 roles in stock companies and moved to Washington, supporting himself as a construction worker. In 1956 he came to New York and worked nights operating a check-sorting machine in a bank while trying with increasing futility during the days to find acting jobs.

In 1957, having been an unsuccessful actor for seven years, he was about to give up on the theater. ''I had been failing that whole year,'' he said. ''I was as low as anyone could be.'' Then he heard about the forthcoming production of ''Richard III,'' for Joseph Papp's newly formed New York Shakespeare Festival. He managed to get an audition, was called back for a second try and by his own measure failed the test.

''I started to drink,'' he said. ''And I got very depressed. I said, 'I can't let this job go.' I called and begged for another chance.'' He was allowed to read again, and prepared by memorizing two soliloquies. ''After two or three days of agony, Joe called and said, 'You got the job.' I damned near died.''

Totally unknown and inexperienced in Shakespeare, he made his New York debut, outdoors, in one of the most demanding of classical roles, and he was mesmerizing. Critics soared into superlatives and four decades later Mr. Scott's Richard is remembered by those who saw it as the towering performance of Shakespeare in the park, the one that all others are measured against. Mr. Scott said years later that not a day went by that he did not think of his early Shakespearean performances. It was for him the best of times.

Partners Onstage And in Life

After ''Richard III'' his career took off. Two months later he played the melancholic Jacques in ''As You Like It,'' and quickly followed that as the diabolical Lord Wainwright in a revival of ''Children of Darkness'' at Circle in the Square. For all three roles played within the space of one year he won a series of acting awards. In ''Children of Darkness'' his co-star was Ms. Dewhurst. They were a tempestuous couple on and off stage. (They were married in 1960, divorced, married again and divorced.) As ''Antony and Cleopatra,'' they were, said Mr. Scott, in an emotional sense ''like two drunken lovers.''

He is survived by his wife, Ms. Van Devere; a daughter, Victoria, from his first marriage, to Carolyn Hughes; a son, Matthew, and another daughter, Devon Scott, from his second marriage, to Patricia Reed; and two other sons, Alexander and Campbell, an actor, from his marriage to Ms. Dewhurst.

In 1958, only a year after ''Richard III,'' he made his Broadway debut in ''Comes a Day,'' opposite Judith Anderson. Playing a psychopath, every evening he decapitated a pet bird onstage. On the strength of that malicious performance, he won his role as a prosecutor in Otto Preminger's ''Anatomy of a Murder'' (his second movie; his first was ''The Hanging Tree,''in which he played a villain).

''Anatomy of a Murder'' became a major turning point in his life. As Ms. Dewhurst said in her autobiography, at the preview of the film, ''as flashbulbs exploded throughout the night,'' she watched him go ''from being an actor to being a star.'' From then on, his twin career was in overdrive. He played a prosecutor in the Civil War drama ''The Andersonville Trial,'' a hero of the Warsaw ghetto in ''The Wall'' and he played three comic roles in Mr. Simon's ''Plaza Suite'' on Broadway, ''The Merchant of Venice'' for the New York Shakespeare Festival (he considered his performance as Shylock a high point of his career), O'Neill's ''Desire Under the Elms'' at Circle in the Square and Lillian Hellman's ''Little Foxes'' at Lincoln Center.

In films, he did ''The Hustler,'' ''The List of Adrian Messenger,'' ''Dr. Strangelove,'' ''The Flim Flam Man'' and ''Petulia.''

On television, he starred for several seasons as a social worker in ''East Side, West Side,'' and he and Ms. Dewhurst played the ill-fated Proctors in an adaptation of Mr. Miller's ''Crucible'' and also played husband and wife in ''The Price.''

The next turning point in his career was ''Patton.'' Searching for an actor to play the title role, Frank McCarthy, the producer of the film, sought the advice of Darryl F. Zanuck, the head of 20th Century Fox. Mr. Zanuck showed him ''The Bible,'' and said, ''There's your Patton.'' Hidden under the beard of Abraham was Mr. Scott.

Subsequently he acted in ''They Might Be Giants'' (as a lunatic judge who thinks he is Sherlock Holmes), ''The Hospital'' (as a suicidal doctor, Paddy Chayevsky's idea of a modern hero), ''Movie Movie'' (Larry Gelbart's spoof of Hollywood), ''The Formula'' (in which he acted with Mr. Brando), ''Taps'' and ''Malice.'' This year he was in ''Gloria,'' a remake of John Cassavetes's 1980 film. He also played Fagin, Scrooge and Mussolini on television.

Behind the Camera And the Curtain

He also began moving into directing. While his films ''Rage'' and ''The Savage Is Loose'' failed, he was successful as a director onstage (of ''Death of a Salesman'' and ''Present Laughter,'' among others). On Broadway he appeared in ''Uncle Vanya'' (as Dr. Astrov) and ''Sly Fox.'' In 1986, he and John Cullum starred in ''The Boys in Autumn.''

In honor of Mr. Scott, the lights of all Broadway theaters were dimmed for one minute last night.

Despite his frequent threats to stop acting onstage, Mr. Scott repeatedly returned. ''I'm too mean to quit,'' he said. For him, movies were ''a tedious, deadly, boring way to make a living,'' and he said he worked in the theater ''to stay sane.''

He said there were only two kinds of actors: ''risk actors and safe actors.

''Safe actors hold back, experiment not, dare not, change nothing and have no artistic courage,'' he said. ''I call them walkers. I may stagger a little now and then, but I have never been accused of walking.''

'Richard' and On


Richard III (1957)
As You Like It (1958)
Children of Darkness (1958)
Comes a Day (1958)
The Andersonville Trial (1959)
The Wall (1960)
The Merchant of Venice (1962)
The Little Foxes (1967)
Plaza Suite (1968)
Uncle Vanya (1973)
Death of a Salesman (1975)
Sly Fox (1976)
Present Laughter (1982)
On Borrowed Time (1991)
Inherit the Wind (1996)


Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
The Hustler (1961)
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
The Bible (1966)
The Flim Flam Man (1967)
Petulia (1968)
Patton (1970)
The Hospital (1971)
They Might Be Giants (1972)
The New Centurions (1972)
Movie Movie (1978)
Hardcore (1979)
Gloria (1999)

Correction: September 25, 1999, Saturday An obituary of the actor George C. Scott yesterday misspelled the name of the theater where he made his New York debut in ''Richard III'' in 1957 and misstated the location. The theater was the Heckscher, not Hecksher. It was at Fifth Avenue and 104th Street, not in Central Park.

To watch some clips from Mr. President go to

For more on Mr. President go to

For a website dedicated to George C. Scott go to

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Date: Tue August 15, 2006 � Filesize: 17.6kb � Dimensions: 320 x 400 �
Keywords: Mr. President: George C. Scott (Links Updated 7/20/18)


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